Western Digital [NASDAQ:WDC] already has a line of Black, Blue and Green drives for a wide array of purposes. Back in July they announced their new Red line of 3.5" hard drives. These drives are specifically designed to be used in NAS scenarios in configurations ranging from 2 to 5 per array. The reason that Western Digital has decided to create this line of products is primarily because Western Digital has seen far too many consumers going for the large capacity Green drives and using them for NAS and RAID. As a result, some of these Green drives have been failing or the RAID controllers are unable to cope. The Green line of hard drives are inexpensive and low power as well as cool in terms of temperature, but they are not designed for being put with each other in RAID.

The Western Digital Red line of hard drives are specifically designed for being used in a NAS box or put into a RAID array of any sort with their NASware. The Red line of drives comes in 1TB, 2TB and 3TB capacities and is specifically geared towards users that need lots of storage space but also the security and performance of RAID.

These drives are also a bit faster than their Green counterparts with the 1TB being rated at 150MB/s reads and the 3TB and 2TB being rated at 145MB/s reads which should also make them a bit faster than the Green drives as well since the Green drives did 138MB/s in our testing. All three sizes, however, will still be fitted with 64MB of cache and SATA 6Gb/s and have a mean time between failures of 1,000,000 hours. These drives are also supposed to consume less power than the 3TB green drive that we had tested back in 2010.

Furthermore, Western Digital has partnered up with NAS companies like Thecus, QNAP and Synology in order to qualify their drives with these NAS companies and to verify that their Red drives with NASware technology. Western Digital has also qualified their Red line of hard drives for their own NAS device, the Sentinel DX4000. In addition to partnering with NAS manufacturers to qualify these drives, Western Digital will be offering free premium 24×7 dedicated support and a three year warranty to these drives.

Western Digital was kind enough to provide us with four of the 3TB drives last week and we have been working on testing these drives individually against other large capacity drives as well as in RAID 0 and RAID 5 to see how they perform on our LSI 9265-8i MEGARAID RAID controller.

The Red drives are already be available with online retailers and retail for $109 for the 1TB, $139 for the 2TB and $189 for the 3TB. These drives should be perfect for most people trying to run a home or small office NAS that they want to be sure will have the best uptime and the best performance possible. Also, as you’ll notice, WD has begun to put QR codes on their hard drives so you can more easily find out information about your drive and get support more quickly from your smartphone.

Performance Testing

In our performance testing, we decided that we would both benchmark the hard drive individually and we would also benchmark it in RAID0 and RAID5 with the latter being the most common configuration. Since Western Digital sent us four drives, we will be using all four drives in our RAID0 and RAID5 configurations.

For those curious, we also wanted to add the formatted capacities of the drives in RAID 0 and RAID 5, which are 10.9TB for RAID0 and 8.18TB for RAID5. This is keeping in mind that these drives combined without any formatting are technically rated at 12TB (3TB X 4 drives).

Single Drive Performance and Temps

AIDA64 – Read Test Suite



In our testing of AIDA64, we were able to evaluate the speed of the WD Red 3TB drive compared to other hard drives and some of WD’s competitors and even their own 3TB green drive. Looking at our results, the WD Red 3TB managed a Linear read speed of 153.8 MB/s, which is higher than the 145 MB/s that Western Digital rates the drive at. This actually makes it faster than the Velociraptor 600GB, but slower than Seagate’s 3TB XT drive. In all but one case, the WD Red 3TB performed as well as or better than most of its large capacity, higher power competitors. That one exception was the average read access test, where the WD Red 3TB was actually the slowest to respond with a response time of 19.92ms.

CrystalDiskMark – Read and Write

In CrystalDiskMark, we did more of the same with this drive. Comparing it against more of the same competitors including Seagate’s 4TB HDD. In CrystalDiskMark we saw the WD Red 3TB reporting a sequential read of 161.9 MB/s which is well beyond the 145 MB/s that WD claimed on their spec sheet. In this test, it actually slightly out performs Seagate’s Barracuda XT 3TB high performance drive, while being slightly slower than the Velociraptor 600GB (165.66 MB/s). The writes were effectively the same result with the WD Red 3TB reporting 158.9 MB/s while the Barracuda XT 3TB got 155.1 MB/s. Interestingly, the WD Red 3TB fell far behind the competition in 512K read/writes with a 53.59 MB/s read and 95.23 MB/s write. Much lower than the WD Green 3TB and Barracuda XT 3TB.

SiSoftSandra 2012 – Storage Benchmark

In this test, we simply decided to compare the WD Red 3TB against Western Digital’s two fastest drives. Looking at our results, we can see that the WD Red 3TB reports 117.437 MB/s in the benchmark, while the WD Velociraptor 600GB reports 122.34 MB/s. This indicates that even though the WD Red 3TB is five times the capacity of the Velociraptor 600GB (previous generation) it is still quite close in terms of speed. However, when you look at the access times, there is no comparison as the WD Red 3TB gets an access time of 14.08 ms compared to 3.56 ms with the 600GB Velociraptor. In addition to that, the current generation Velociraptor 1TB got a speed of 160.3 MB/s and a random access time of 4.12, leaving both drives in the dust in terms of performance.

Looking at these preliminary drive results, comparing them against other drives you can really see that the Western Digital 3TB Red is really tuned for the best NAS performance. The drives are clearly designed to be run for larger file sizes (media files) and to be left constantly running. When you consider the overall speed of these drives, you can understand that having slightly lower random access times won’t affect performance in a NAS as much since there is already some lag time between the NAS and devices accessing it through the network. Having a good RAID controller should help a bit with access times as well.

Average Temperature
With average temperature, we are simply taking the average temperature of a single drive while running idle and under load. The graph below illustrates the temperatures that we experienced with the drives during the average temperature test, which was done by running the above benchmarks repeatedly..

As you can see from our graph, the WD Red 3TB falls somewhere in between all of our 3.5" drives. THis drive runs cooler than the Green 3TB and the Velociraptor 600GB (with IcePak), however hotter than the Barracuda green 2TB and Velociraptor 1TB (with IcePak).

Multi-Drive Performance in RAID 0 and RAID 5

Since this is a NAS drive we found ourselves obligated to run this drive in a NAS configuration. For those of you that like to live dangerously, we have decided to run a RAID 0 configuration, which will be much faster but also has a much higher risk of data loss. For those of you doing more traditional NAS configurations, we have also run these drives in RAID 5 on our LSI 9265-8i RAID controller to show you the absolute best case scenario for NAS performance with these drives. Some people, after all, prefer to build their own NAS boxes rather than go with prefabricated ones in order to get the best performance possible.

AIDA64 – Read Test Suite – Single Drive vs RAID 5 vs RAID 0

Looking at our results for AIDA64, we can see that a single drive gets about 153.8 MB/s while RAID 5 gets 377.7 MB/s and RAID 0 gets 587.6 MB/s. In terms of scaling, RAID5 obviously shows very poor scaling compared to RAID 0, however, the promise of data security at speeds of 377.7 MB/s is more than enough for most users to bite. Western Digital generally recommends configurations of upto 5 drives, as they recommend enterprise drives for anything above such a threshold, but we see no reason why you couldn’t use 8 of these drives in a RAID 5 configuration for speed, capacity and data security. The Random read speeds for a single drive were 114.6 MB/s while RAID 5 was 263.1 and RAID 0 at 459.3 showing a similar ratio that we saw with the linear reads.

CrystalDiskMark – Single Drive vs RAID 0 vs RAID 5

In CrystalDiskMark, we got some interesting results when comparing the single drive against RAID 0 and RAID 5. Looking at our results you can see that a single drive got a sequential read of 162.7 MB/s and write of 158.9 which is in line with some of our other benchmarks. Looking at our RAID 0 and RAID 5 performance, we can definitely see a speed boost from our RAID controller in sequential reads and writes with RAID 0 reporting a read of 1622 MB/s and a write of 592 MB/s with the reads clearly being boosted by the drive’s 1GB of DDR3 cache. The story is similar with RAID 5 performance with the reads coming in at 1083 MB/s and writes at 456 MB/s. Once again, the reads are being boosted by the RAID controller while the writes remain untouched at native performance. One interesting spot is the 4K performance of these drives in RAID 0 where the drives do 7.6 MB/s read and 15.81 MB/s write while RAID 5 also enjoys a nice performance boost of 1.2 MB/s and 3.8 MB/s. Unfortunately, this performance still isn’t as good as current generation SSDs, but most NAS devices are more interested in large size sequential reads and writes anyways.

SiSoft Sandra 2012- Disk Benchmark

SiSoft Sandra 2012’s benchmark mostly tests drive read performance as a metric of both drive speed and access time. For a single drive, SiSoft Sandra 2012 reported a much slower read speed of 116 MB/s and an access time of 13.9 ms. For RAID 0, it reported a read speed of 417 MB/s and an access time of 6.33 MB/s. Finally, in RAID 5, the drives reported a read speed of 259 MB/s and an access time of 6.35 ms, barely noticeable compared to RAID 0 in terms of access time thanks to the RAID controller.

Conclusion
If you want to build a NAS with a ton of storage space and speed, the Western Digital Red 3TB drives are without a doubt one of the best options out there. As we stated earlier, each of these drives will run you about $189 MSRP and on average will run you about the same with Newegg being $209, BLT being $178 and Amazon being $185. The WD Green 3TB drives, however, will run you $139 on sites like Newegg. So, for a $40 premium you are getting better performance, reliability, temperatures, power consumption and support. Western Digital specifically recommends that you not use their green drives for RAID situations because of the way that the drives’ controllers are designed. In many cases they result in failed RAID arrays and customer complaints. As such, to relieve yourself the headache and to get better performance and reliability, the WD Red series of drives really does seem like the right choice for small scale, large capacity RAID configurations.

Based on our performance findings and temperature measurements of this drive, we can definitely recommend this drive and give it our editor’s choice award for prosumer.