Which 4TB Hard Drive Should You Buy?

Desktop PC sales might be down, but our storage needs are increasing at a rather fast pace. When building a PC many experts often tell people to find out how much storage space they need now, then double that number for growth and then double that number again as you don't know what the future holds. Hard drive manufactures likely love that advice, but in all honesty it's not a bad way to ensure that you don't run out of space. So, if you have 1TB of data on your PC now, you might as well look at 3TB or 4TB hard drives for your next system build or secondary storage drive. The largest capacity 3.5" desktop hard drive that money can buy is 4TB. A 4TB hard drive offers a ton of storage space and is rather affordable ($180-$300) despite the fact that only HGST, Seagate and Western Digital (WD) make 4TB drives. We managed to get our hands on 4TB drives from WD and Seagate and will be comparing them against each other to see which has the best bang for the buck. The WD Black and Seagate Desktop HDD.15 are both 4TB drives with 64MB of cache, but we are going to put them to the test to see which one is right for you. 

The WD Black 4TB desktop hard drive that we are looking at today has part number WD4001FAEX, comes backed by a 5-year warranty and can be found for $290.63 shipped on Amazon. The Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB has part number ST4000DM000, a 2-year warranty and is $183.57 shipped on Amazon. Obviously, there is a pretty major price difference and warranty difference, but what about performance? Both 4TB internal 3.5" desktop hard drives use the SATA III 6Gb/s interface and have 64MB of cache, but the WD Black spins at 7200RPM and the Seagate Desktop HDD.15 spins at just 5900RPM. Our goal today is to show you the performance differences of these two drives, so let's start off by looking closer at the two drives we'll be comparing and then we will dive right into performance.

4tb-oem-hard-drives

Both Seagate and WD sent over the OEM 'bare' versions of their 4TB offerings for the internal 3.5" desktop storage devices. Currently just Hitachi, Seagate and Western Digital make 4TB 3.5" drives, so you really don't have too many devices to pick from at this capacity. Since the drives are OEM versions they came in static bags with nothing else. Actually that isn't exactly correct... You can jump online and download Seagate DiscWizard to guide you through the processes of creating and formatting partitions on your disc drive, transferring data, and backing up your data. Not to be out done, WD allows you to download a similar software applications that can do that and more; Acronis True Image WD Edition, Data Lifeguard Diagnostic and WD Align Windows. You'll likely not need these programs, but if you do they are available to you for free after you register your drive online with each respective company. 

wd-seagate-4tb-drives

Both drives are 4TB, but they differ internally on how they reach this large capacity. WD uses five 800GB platters and Seagate uses four 1TB platters to reach 4TB. Seagate informed us that the new 1TB per platter design significantly increases the hard drive’s performance over the competition. It also consumes 35 percent less power than comparable drives on the market with 4TB capacities, so this will be an interesting matchup. On paper the WD Black looks really good with the 7200RPM spindle speed, but it has more platters and that usually slows things down! Since both of these drives have different platter counts, you might be wondering about thickness. Both the WD Black 4TB and Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB are 26.11mm or 1.028" thick.

Technical Specifications

ManufacturerWestern DigitalSeagate
Family Black Desktop HDD.15
Model Number WD4001FAEX ST4000DM000
Form Factor 3.5" 3.5"
Capacity 4 TB 4 TB
Platters 5 @ 800 GB 4 @ 1 TB
RPM 7,200 5,900
Cache 64 MB 64 MB
Interface SATA 6Gb/s SATA 6Gb/s
Operating Temperature 0-55° C 0-55° C
Power Consumption at Idle (Spec) 8.1 W 5.0 W
Power Consumption in Use (Spec) 10.4 W 7.5 W
Maximum Allowable Shock Level (2 ms, read) 30 G 80 G
Street Price $290.63 $183.57
Price Per GB $0.073 $0.046
Warranty 5-Years 2-Years

As you can see from the specification table that we put together above there is also a power consumption difference.  This is due to the slower spindle speed and fewer numbers of platters on the Seagate drive. This usually translates over to lower temperatures and reduces sound, so we'll be looking at that when we get into benchmarking and testing the drives.

wd-seagate-4tb-hdds

Both of these 3.5" 4TB desktop hard drives use the SATA III 6Gbps data and power interface standards. Both drives have jumpers on them, but they don't come with any as they aren't needed on modern systems. The green circuit board designs are very different as you can see, but on the side that you can't see is 64MB of DDR memory for cache and a controller that makes sure everything works harmoniously.

wd-seagate-4terabyte

So, right off the bat you know the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB costs less, has fewer platters and uses less power, which should make it quieter and cooler. The WD Black 4TB has a faster spindle speed that should translate to higher performance and a longer warranty. Hopefully you've learned quite a bit and are on the way to picking the right 4TB hard drive for your system. Now we can show you the good stuff, which is the performance number we found on our Intel Z77 powered test platform.

Test System and CrystalDiskInfo

Test System and Drive Info

Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Intel Z77 Test Platform

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

The Intel Z77 platform that we used to test the ADATA HE720 was running the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0902 that came out on 03/06/2013. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 2T memory timings.

Intel Z77 System Settings



Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i7-3770K

Motherboard

ASUS P8Z77-I Click Here

Memory

16GB Corsair Vengeance Click Here

Video Card

Intel HD 4000

Click Here

Hard Drive

Kingston HyperX 480GB

Click Here

Cooling

CoolIt Eco II 140mm

Click Here

Power Supply

Corsair AX650 Gold

Click Here

Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

Click Here

Detailed Information with CrystalDiskInfo 5.6.2:

wd-CDI

seagate-4tb-cdi

The WD Black 4TB desktop hard drive that we will be looking at today is running firmware version 01.01L01 and has a 64MB cache. The Seagate 4TB desktop hard drive is running firmware CC52 and also has 64MB of cache. It appears that the Seagate 4TB drive has Advanced Power Management (APM) enabled according to CrystalDiskInfo.

HD Tune v5.50

HD Tune Pro 5.50 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Read Performance Testing

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

WD HD Tune Read Benchmark

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

Seagate HD Tune Read Benchmark

 

Write Performance Testing

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

WD HD Tune Write Benchmark 

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

 Seagate HD Tune Write Benchmark

Benchmark Results: These are pretty interesting benchmark results! The Seagate 4TB 5900RPM hard drive has higher read and write average transfer rates, but the WD Black 4TB drive has lower access times and much higher burst rates.  Both drives were right around 130 MB/s for the read and write speeds, which is really moving for a hard drive of such a large capacity.

HD Tune 64MB File Test

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

wdhdtunefile_550

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

seagatehdtune_550

 

Benchmark Results: Running the built-in file benchmark test in HD Tune v5.50 shows how the drive performs with various file sizes. The WD Black 4TB 3.5" desktop hard drive had higher sequential transfer speeds and higher IOPS in the 4K write tests.

HD Tune v5.50 - Random Access

The random access read and write test is a very important performance area to look at on solid state drives and hard drives as some controllers have problems with random writes. In recent years the controllers have improved and the firmware has been better optimized for random read and write performance.

Random Access Read Test Results

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

wd-hdtune-random-read

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

  seagate-hdtune-racc

Benchmark Results: When it comes to the random access read performance test the WD Black 4TB 3.5" desktop hard drive was in the lead when it came to IOPS, average access times, maximum access times and average speed. The Seagate 4TB desktop hard drive wasn't too far behind though.

Random Access Write Test Results:

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

wd-hdtune-random-write

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

seagate-hdtune-wacc

 

Benchmark Results: The write performance test results of the Western Digital Black 4TB hard drive had a much higher IOPS and a higher overall average speed in the random access performance test in HD Tune Pro v5.50. At the 4KB file size you are talking about 223 IOPS on the WD Black 4TB versus 96 IOPS on the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB.  That puts the WD Black 4TB at more than double the performance in pretty much all of the random access tests!

CrystalDiskMark v3.0.2f

CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD benchmark utility for your hard drive that enables you to rapidly measure sequential and random read/write speeds.

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

WD 4TB CrystalDiskMark

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

Seagate 4TB CrystalDiskMark

Benchmark Results: With Crystal Mark v3.0.2f run with a file size of 1000MB the WD Black 4TB hard drive has impressive sequential read and write speeds of just over 150MB/s. Not to be outdone the Seagate 4TB desktop hard drive also ran at speeds just over 150MB/s on the sequential read and write benchmarks. The two 4TB drives also have similar performance at both 512K and 4K file sizes.

ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.47

ATTO is one of the oldest hard drive benchmarks that is still used today. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that you can easily interpret. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes with the total length being 256mb.

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

WD 4TB ATTO Benchmark

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

Seagate 4TB ATTO Benchmark

 

Benchmark Results:  The WD Black 4TB hard drive reached 161MB/s read and 154MB/s write, while the Seagate 4TB drive reached 152MB/s read and 149MB/s write in ATTO.

Futuremark PCMark7 v1.4.0

PCMark 7 Benchmarking

This is our first use of Futuremark PCMark 7 for a processor review. PCMark 7 which is specifically designed for Windows 7. It measures the performance of the latest PC hardware across a variety of common scenarios. PCMark Vantage 7 supports both system level and component level benchmarking and comprises several different test suites but for the purposes of this review, we employed the secondary storage suite. The nice thing about it is that you can submit your scores online and compare against others.

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

wd-pcmark7

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 ST4000DM000 4TB:

 seagate-pcmark7

 

Benchmark Results: Looking at the PCMark 7 secondary storage test the WD Black 4TB drive scored 2196 points versus the 2027 points scored on the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB. This is an 8.3% performance advantage to the WD Black 4TB drive. In the 'Raw' secondary storage test we found that the WD Black 4TB was 19.3% faster than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB, which is one of the performance gaps shown in our testing.

Real World Testing w/ TeraCopy

TeraCopy

TeraCopy is a compact program designed to copy and move files at the maximum possible speed and features a timer that works great for review purposes as we can easily show you time differences between different file transfer scenarios. TeraCopy also uses dynamically adjusted buffers to reduce seek times and has asynchronous copy speeds for file transfer between two physical hard drives. Let's see how these two 4TB desktop hard drives do when moving around a 4.3GB file folder that contains a wide variety of file types.

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

write-to-wd-copy

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

seagate-moveto

The very first test that we ran was to see how long it took to copy the 4.32GB file directory from the desktop to the 4TB drive using a SATA III 6Gbps port on the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H motherboard. The WD Black 4TB drive completed the task in less than 55 seconds at an average speed of 81MB/s. The Seagate 4TB drive finished in just under 62 seconds at an average speed of 72MB/s. 

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

write-from-wd

Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB:

seagate-move

The next test we ran was to move the same directory back to the desktop from the 4TB desktop hard drive to take a look at the drives performance when doing transfers this direction. We were a bit shocked to see the Seagate 4TB hard drive was able to complete the task in under 62 seconds at an average speed of 72MB/s. The WD Black 4TB hard drive took just under 67 seconds to complete the same task at an average speed of 66MB/s. As you can see the 'real world' performance on these drives is closer than we ever imagined as the WD drive was faster in the write test scenario while the Seagate prevailed in the read test scenario.

Temps & Final Thoughts

Idle Temperature Test Results

WD Black WD4001FAEX 4TB:

wd-temp

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 ST4000DM000 4TB:

seagate-4tb-temp

As you can see from the temperatures above the WD Black 4TB idles around 35C and the Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB idles around 29C. Not a huge difference, but it's still six degrees Celsius and worth pointing out. Both hard drives are fairly quiet and were not audible inside our desktop system over the fans and the water cooler pump running.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

Companies love it when we do standalone reviews, but we wanted to try something different and do more of a versus style article. We always start a review without any favorites, but after looking at the specifications and writing the introduction the WD Black 4TB hard drive looked like it would be performance winner. Overall we did find that the WD Black 4TB desktop hard drive (part number WD4001FAEX) was in the lead more times than not, but it wasn't that far ahead of the competition. Seeing that the WD Black 4TB hard drive was a 7200RPM product makes you think that it would destroy any comparable 5900RPM drive, but there is more to it than that.  The Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB (part number ST4000DM000) performed exceptionally well not due to the spindle speed per say, but due to the fact that it has less platters. Hard drive makers often don't say how many platters a drive has, so that is where we come in and we found that Seagate makes up for the lower rotational speeds by having less platters. The performance between the drives was therefore very close, so close that we are willing to call it a toss-up. That is something we don't often do and certainly something we didn't expect when looking at the price tag and specifications of these drives.

wd-seagate-4terabyte

With performance being too close to call a clear winner, you need to look at other metrics when making a decision as to which drive is right for you. The strongest thing the WD Black 4TB drive has going for it is the peace of mind that a rather long 5-year warranty. The Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB runs cooler, uses less power and costs 58% less. When it comes to pricing the WD Black 4TB can be found for $290.63 shipped on Amazon and the Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB is $183.57 shipped on Amazon. This breaks down to $0.047 per GB on the Seagate drive and $0.073 per GB on the WD drive. Being $110 less expensive alone makes the Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB stand out from the crowd, but by the time you factor everything else in, it paints a compelling picture as to why it should be the best overall drive for the buck.

The WD Black 4TB hard drive had solid performance and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but at the end of a versus article there must be one winner. That winner, on this particular pair of drives has to be the Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB hard drive. You just can't beat the price versus performance found on this drive. Sure it isn't the performance king and has just a two year warranty, but it costs 58% less and feels just as snappy in your system as a secondary drive. A solid-state drive (SSD) solution should be the primary drive in any desktop system these days and rotational media is still the way to go for mass storage. The differences between these two 4TB drives in a system configured like that can't be felt, so case closed. WD needs to come out with a price competitive WD Blue 4TB drive to compete with the Seagate Desktop HDD.15, because they aren't even on the same playing field when it comes to price. 

 

ASRock Z77 Pro3 Legit Reviews Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: If you are looking for a 4TB hard drive for secondary storage, the Seagate Desktop HDD.15 offers the right mix of value and performance!