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Western Digital RE RAID Edition 4TB SATA Enterprise Drive - Full Review

Subject: Storage

Specs, Testing Methodology and System Setup

Specifications  

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.

Enterprise features:

  • 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.
  • Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF™) — I've got nothing.  Just kidding.  More on this near the end of the article.

The load/unload spec (for the ramp load technology) remains at 600,000 cycles. Shouldn't be an issue for an enterprise unit under 24/7 operation.

Specific to this Review

Today we will be comparing the RE to the rest of the pack tested in the WD Red review:

View Full Size

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!
 
 
Marvell controllers and drivers are not sufficiently refined for comparative HDD testing.
 
Test System Setup

For this piece we stuck with the native 6Gb SATA controller on the Sandy Bridge test bed. We are using only the Intel SATA 6Gb/sec ports for 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

 

October 10, 2012 | 08:21 PM - Posted by wujj123456

It's RAID edition review without RAID benchmarks, right? Did I miss something or maybe you are not provided enough drives for RAID testing?

October 28, 2012 | 06:17 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

All of these drive tend to scale similarly when in a RAID, depending more on the RAID controller than the drive itself. WD had a very limited number of samples for the new RE.

October 11, 2012 | 07:47 AM - Posted by fourpixel

Me gusta! :3

October 12, 2012 | 06:36 PM - Posted by James (not verified)

To answer the first fellow's question. That is simply the name of the drive not what the review entails. RE is short for Raid Edition.

October 16, 2012 | 11:58 AM - Posted by EVOTiVO

I have always wanted a SSD....Now i want 4 terabyte of hard drive space....

October 29, 2012 | 09:14 AM - Posted by Nerun (not verified)

I am curious, do you think the 2TB and 3TB would perform the same as the 4TB version? Will the lower amount of platters and heads cost some performance to the lower capactiy drives?

What I also wonder about is the new line of specific SAS models. Aou can plug a SATA drive in a SAS controller without any problems, so why the specific SAS line?

Thanks!

January 10, 2013 | 07:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You can plug a SAS device into a SATA controller but NOT a SATA device into a SAS controller.

September 3, 2013 | 04:00 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You're backwards on that :). Most SAS RAID controllers can handle SATA.

September 5, 2013 | 03:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

In fact, it's exactly the other way around.

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