Specs, Testing Methodology and System Setup


I have a habit of translating Western Digital's marketing speak when we cover specs. I'll continue this trend here. Some of these are not specifically listed by WD, but we know they are in there, so we will keep them here for your education:  

  • NoTouch™ ramp load technology — Previously called "IntelliPark".  Drive heads take an 'exit ramp' off of the platters instead of landing on the platters when the drive is spun down.  You know how the most damage is done to your engine when you start it on a cold morning?  This means the drive heads do not have to break stiction each and every time the drive spins up.  The heads are able to leave the ramp and float onto the spinning disk.  
  • Native Command Queuing (NCQ) — The drive can reorder groups of reads/writes to minimize overall head movement, and therefore increase effective access time.  Beware – this is only effective with an AHCI-enabled SATA controller.  
  • Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) — Bits are aligned vertically instead of horizontally to get more packed onto each platter.  Think dominoes (the game, not the food).
  • 64MB cache — Basically standard across most current WD models, though this part is faster than those previous.  Increased cache speed helps boost random access performance.  
  • Dual processors — Introduced with the RE4-GP line, the additional core helps the drive keep track of the added cache and increased throughput streaming off of the head pack.
  • Advanced Format — Introduced back in late 2009, this increases storage efficiency and robustness by having the drive handle data as 4KB internal blocks. This means error correction routines are not limited to 512B segments. ECC works better on larger chunks of data, and this gives an ~50% improvement in that area. The trade-off is random access for blocks <4KB will suffer, but this is not much of an issue as the vast majority of file access is >= 4KB.

Now for the standouts:

  • RAID-specific time-limited error recovery (TLER) — The drive limits the 'hang' experienced on a read error in order to avoid a RAID controller considering the drive dead / offline.
  • 3D Active Balance Plus — Our enhanced dual-plane balance control technology significantly improves the overall drive performance and reliability. Hard drives that are not properly balanced may cause excessive vibration and noise in a multi-drive system, reduce the hard drive life span, and degrade the performance over time.

I used WD's blurb for that last one, but as a translation – this is HUGE. There is a system of movable counterbalances installed in the spindle motor hub assembly. These weights are free to shift, and with the drive at speed, those parts will settle in positions which act to actively counter vibrations.

WD had a video showing this, but I prefer a simpler automotive-related analogy, which I will present in the form of this video:

Western Digital's system is much more complex than the simple example above, as it functions both axially and radially. This is the equivalent to obtaining a continuous and automatic dynamic balance of the wheels on your car. While that would give you a smooth ride, WD's implementation gives you a silent and non-vibrating drive. This works so well that all I can hear from a running Red is the faintest sound of air turbulence across the spinning platters.

The load/unload spec (for the ramp load technology) remains at 600,000 cycles. 

Specific to this Review

Back in our Caviar Black WD1002FAEX (6Gb/sec SATA) review, we determined that the current Marvell 6Gb/sec controllers and drivers, while decent, fall a bit short of Intel's native controllers.  Luckily these days we have native 6Gb/sec from Intel and we are not stuck with these stop gap measures. My standing recommendation is to always use the native chipset when employing high speed storage. We've seen 15% drops in write speeds in some instances with the Marvell controller paired to high end HDDs (for some benches) – and that was comparing to a 3Gb/sec native controller!

Western Digital Red 3TB SATA SOHO NAS Drive - Full Review - Storage 2 
Marvell controllers and drivers are not sufficiently refined for comparative HDD testing.
Test System Setup

We are currently using a Sandy Bridge test bed. We are using only the Intel SATA 6Gb/sec ports or any unit under test. PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rig.  

Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i5-2500K
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V Pro
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Video Drivers Intel
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
DirectX Version DX9.0c
Operating System Windows 7 X64
  • PCMark05
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach *omitted due to incompatibility with 3TB devices*
  • HDTune
  • PCPer File Copy Test


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