Introduction and Testbed Setup

The SMB / SOHO / consumer NAS market has been experiencing rapid growth over the last few years. With declining PC sales and increase in affordability of SSDs, hard drive vendors have scrambled to make up for the deficit and increase revenue by targeting the NAS market. The good news is that the growth is expected to accelerate in the near future (thanks to increasing amounts of user-generated data through the usage of mobile devices).

Back in July 2012, Western Digital began the trend of hard drive manufacturers bringing out dedicated units for the burgeoning SOHO / consumer NAS market with the 3.5" Red hard drive lineup. The firmware was tuned for 24x7 operation in SOHO and consumer NAS units. 1 TB, 2 TB and 3 TB versions were made available at launch. Later, Seagate also jumped into the fray with a hard drive series carrying similar firmware features. Over the last two years, the vendors have been optimizing the firmware features as well as increasing the capacities. On the enterprise side, hard drive vendors have been supplying different models for different applications, but all of them are quite suitable for 24x7 NAS usage. For example, the WD Re and Seagate Constellation ES are tuned for durability under heavy workloads, while the WD Se and Seagate Terascale units are targeted towards applications where scalability and capacity are important.

Usually, the enterprise segment is quite conservative when it comes to capacity, but datacenter / cloud computing requirements have resulted in capacity becoming a primary factor to ward off all-flash solutions. HGST, a Western Digital subsidiary, was the first vendor to bring a 6 TB hard drive to the market. The sealed Helium-filled HDDs could support up to seven disks (instead of the five usually possible in air-filled units), resulting in a bump up to 6 TB in the same height as traditional 3.5" drives. Seagate adopted a six-platter design for the Enterprise Capacity v4 6 TB version. Today, Western Digital launched the first NAS-specific 6 TB drive targeting SOHO / home consumers, the WD Red 6 TB. In expanding their Red portfolio, WD provides us an opportunity to see how the 6 TB version stacks up against other offerings targeting the NAS market.

The correct choice of hard drives for a NAS system is influenced by a number of factors. These include expected workloads, performance requirements and power consumption restrictions, amongst others. In this review, we will discuss some of these aspects while evaluating three different hard drives targeting the NAS market:

  • Western Digital Red 6 TB [ WDC WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 ]
  • Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6 TB [ ST6000NM0024-1HT17Z ]
  • HGST Ultrastar He6 6 TB [ HUS726060ALA640 ]

Each of these drives target slightly different markets. While the WD Red is mainly for SOHO and home consumers, the Seagate Enterprise Capacity targets ruggedness for heavy workloads while the HGST Ultrastar aims for data centers and cloud storage applications with a balance of performance and power efficiency.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Unlike our previous evaluation of 4 TB drives, we managed to obtain enough samples of the new drives to test them in a proper NAS environment. As usual, we will start off with a feature set comparison of the three drives, followed by a look at the raw performance when connected directly to a SATA 6 Gbps port. In the same PC, we also evaluate the performance of the drive using some aspects of our direct attached storage (DAS) testing methodology. For evaluation in a NAS environment, we configured three drives in a RAID-5 volume and processed selected benchmarks from our standard NAS review methodology.

We used two testbeds in our evaluation, one for benchmarking the raw drive and DAS performance and the other for evaluating performance when placed in a NAS unit.

AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Wi-Fi ac ATX
CPU Intel Core i7-4790
Memory Corsair Vengeance Pro CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
32 GB (4x 8GB)
DDR3-2133 @ 11-11-11-27
OS Drive Seagate 600 Pro 400 GB
Optical Drive Asus BW-16D1HT 16x Blu-ray Write (w/ M-Disc Support)
Add-on Card Asus Thunderbolt EX II
Chassis Corsair Air 540
PSU Corsair AX760i 760 W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Thanks to Asus and Corsair for the build components

In the above testbed, the hot swap bays of the Corsair Air 540 have to be singled out for special mention.
They were quite helpful in getting the drives processed in a fast and efficient manner for benchmarking. For NAS evaluation, we used the QNAP TS-EC1279U-SAS-RP. This is very similar to the unit we reviewed last year, except that we have a slightly faster CPU, more RAM and support for both SATA and SAS drives.

The NAS setup itself was subjected to benchmarking using our standard NAS testbed.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:


6 TB Face-Off: The Contenders
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  • Wixman666 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    The WD Green and other drives fail more often because they are not intended for NAS use. They lack the anti-vibration mechanism, so they shake apart.
  • anandtech_user01 - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Given my own previous experiences, I wouldn't trust high density 3.5" drives from any manufacturer period. Of course, lots of other people do (or somehow feel forced to). As for WD RED, they can be better than the competition in respect to being able to switch off the head-parking every 10 seconds (with wdidle3.exe DOS utility). Wheras I've got 2 Seagate Momentus 7200.2/4 and that's impossible with them. Looking at the specs for the 2.5" RED it's pretty much just a re-branded WD Black from the previous year. And those ones have been out for a few years, and are reliable / do have a good reputation. Wheras I've heard that the 3.5" RED something more like a re-worked / tweaked 3.5" WD Green. Not so sure about those ones.
  • kmi187 - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Anecdotal evidence, while it should not be discarded, is rather irrelevant since the scale is rather low. Now if you look at some statistics from data-centers it shows seagate as a clear winner when it come to failure rates. In other words, they aren't doing too well.

    This data is much more reliable since it's data from a lot of hard drives, so it paints a much clearer picture.

    I build custom pc's for a computer store and it's just not fun when you have kickass system that went out the door and 2 months later you have to tell the client, yeah sorry man but the drive died, we are going to have to reinstall your pc. If that starts to happen on regular basis, you know you have to look for alternatives.
  • romrunning - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Why wouldn't you build w/SSDs as your base drive, and only use spinning disks as secondary storage? It would seem that you would have better reliability that way.
  • asmian - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Agree! It clearly isn't a "kickass" custom system if there's no SSD as boot drive. I pity these customers if they are being sold something as "special" without that as a basic building block these days. :( Please tell us where you work so we can avoid your store.
  • erple2 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Because managing two disks is a total waste of time and resources. If you're already going to a shop to have a machine built for you, then you've realized that your time is worth more to you than the inconvenience or rolling your own machine. Therefore, it stands to reason that you would also not want to be bothered with having to juggle installations to ssd vs. HDD. I have a setup like that in a laptop, and I hate having to figure out what applications I should put on the ssd vs the HDD. Just give me something that works. That and my time is worth far more than the cost spent trying to juggle applications on and off the ssd when it fills up.

    That having been said, ssd is pretty cheap now, so I'm not sure why you wouldn't put in a 500 gb to 1 tb ssd in a higher end build.
  • Samus - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    I actually haven't had a drive from Seagate, WD or Hitachi fail in years. The last one was a 7200.10 1.5TB (~2008)

    I have more WD Red's in deployment than any other drive and they've all been great. However, the largest capacity I've rolled out are 2TB models.
  • iLovefloss - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Their older Barracuda drivers sure did.

    Of course, they gotten better.

    Still, no matter how you look at it, those "Green" drives tend to fail more often than their other counterparts.
  • cm2187 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Same here. A bunch of 4TB Red and never managed to make them work in a hardware RAID array (LSI and Adaptec). Same symptoms as in the article. Drive marked as failed in the array but works well as standalone. Still had some problems though much less in a soft array (synology). Hitachi desktop drives behave much better in a hardware RAID.
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    I've been running Reds (mix of 2TB and 3TB, as I'm slowly migrating capacity) in an HP SmartArray P222 in an HP Microserver Gen8 for some time now. 6TB RAID-5 array and no failures.

    I will admit, I haven't tried the 4TB models for RAID, but do have one in a USB3 MacAlly external enclosure for backing up the box (Server 2012R2 Standard).

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