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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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I have seen graphs in preparation where some set of values are just dwarfed by the higher values from other result sets. What you see is basically a set of clustered points at the base (very close to the X axis), while there is a nicer graph with clearly spaced out values for the other result set in the middle of the graph. Trust me, I have done this and it doesn't look nice or present meaningful information to the readers.
  • Fjodor2000 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Are there any measurements and comparison of the noise levels for these new WD HDDs?

    Particularly for the WD Red 5 and 6 TB HDDs this would be interesting to know, and how they compare to the 4 platter WD Red 4 TB HDD.
  • stevenrix - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Any kind of hard-drive will fail sooner or later, but the quality of hard-drives has been horrible for the last 5 years or maybe more, which is unfortunately expected since bigger hard-drives increase MTBF. The professional drives seem to fail faster than consumer drives from what I've seen: a 1 tb SAS drive 3.5 inch 15K speed can fail just about 2 months after purchasing it, because the platters spin faster and they are no other additional technical enhancements on these drives compared to consumer drives.
    Out of probably 200 drives I've used over the last 2 decades, only one never failed and it is a WD 73 Gb in EIDE. After seeing so many failures, I decided to use RAID levels and backup my data on backup tapes.
    There is also one important point: the replaced drives in the US is refurbished most of the time, while that's not the case in Europe, unless this has changed. Once you get a replacement, you can be sure that the drives will fail in less than 1 year, so those companies are defeating the purpose, replacing a drive by an old hard-drive that has been refurbished to meet satisfactory criterias, that is not good customer service without mentioning those monopolistic companies. A little bit more competition should be good for us consumers.
    The only company so far I've been satisfied is with HGST.

  • jabber - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    I live in Europe. Had a WD 75GB Raptor fail on me after a couple of years. The replacement was marked as 'Recertified'.

    That replacement is still going nearly 7 years later as one of my stunt drives. You know the one or two drives you have laying around that get tossed into all sorts of projects. Just keeps on trucking.
  • Jorsher - Thursday, July 24, 2014 - link

    A lot of people seem to assume that new is better than "refurbished."

    What they don't realize is that refurbished products tend to go through a much more thorough testing process than brand new products. This is just based on a couple consumer electronics companies I've worked at, with the largest being LG. New products go through a relatively quick test, and in many cases they only test a few out of each batch. Products that are sent back due to warranty are first put through a thorough test to determine what problems it has, then it's decided if it's worth repairing or not, then it's repaired, then it's put through another test -- for every one.

    Since those experiences, I now buy factory-refurbished when possible.
  • hwnmafia02 - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    Man those companies provided you with such wonderful hardware and you can't even include the logos for each in the thank you section? Come on, now...
  • Elmeransa - Saturday, July 26, 2014 - link

    Running 8*3TB WD Red since 2 years back, no issues at all in raid5
  • Haravikk - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    One thing that wasn't mentioned was noise; while there were several reasons for my choosing WD Reds for my Synology NAS (a DS212j with two 3tb disks simply concatenated for capacity since it's already a redundant backup). My main decision factors were that the WD Reds were a reasonable price (not too far above greens), but are also exceptionally quiet; except for when they're initially spinning up or spinning down I can't even hear them over the sound of the NAS' fan, and the fan is barely audible to begin with. Meanwhile I've known enterprise drives that are very noisy, as well as various desktop disks that sound like someone pouring gravel (during normal operation).
  • swansearecovery - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    This post includes a great article on hard drives, truly brilliant. After reading the information given I have no second thought on that you people are also very good experts in handling the cases of Data Recovery from Hard Drive as well.
  • intiims - Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - link

    Great topic with a lot of usefull information,
    If You want To Read More About External Hard Drives just visit

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