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Sometimes, benchmark results frame a product as decidedly average. After looking at all of our numbers, Western Digital's WD4001FAEX certainly seems to qualify as just another 4 TB drive; nothing particularly noteworthy. But it's important to consider the Black drive's intended usage before jumping to a final decision on it.
We've already seen that the WD4001FAEX's performance is generally middle-of-the-road. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. It simply means no one attribute stands out compared to the other 3 and 4 TB drives out there. The Black drive manages to place third in our desktop performance suite, which is weighted most heavily to throughput, but also includes PCMark and I/O results. Only Seagate's Barracuda and Hitachi's Deskstar 7K4000 finish higher, and only one of those two drives is a 4 TB model.
So, who should buy Western Digital's WD4001FAEX? The company says its drive is meant for PC enthusiasts and professionals. But we can’t quite agree because Seagate's Barracuda is, quite simply, faster.
However, Western Digital’s five-year warranty coverage tells us a slightly different story. Priced at $330, the 4 TB Black drive is a good deal for companies that want to put as many terabytes as possible into a server for data storage (rather than high accessibility). It should work well in that type of environment, in spite of fairly high operating temperatures and power consumption. If you're a home user with a five- or seven-bay NAS, we'd be inclined to stick with Western Digital's Red family instead.
While we were running benchmarks on Western Digital's WD4001FAEX and eating the chocolate in our review kit, we started thinking about what it'd take to make a hard drive more exciting in 2013. A combination of 4 TB on four platters, for example, would probably be better for power consumption (fewer platters to spin), temperatures (less friction), and performance (higher areal density), endearing itself to home use. Or maybe Western Digital could make a 4 TB version of its Red family for networked appliances?
Even more interesting would be a big leap in technology that'd enable a 4 TB drive using three platters. Will it happen? Some day, almost assuredly. Only time and the hard drive industry can tell us when. It has been a long time since we've seen anything to get excited about in the hard drive space, though, especially when it comes to per-platter capacity.