Hard disk drives have become specialized products designed for specific needs. The manufacturers use both hardware and software to tune the drives' parameters for specific workloads. For instance, a digital video recorder will rarely read or write random data, but it writes sequential data twenty-four hours a day. On the other end of the spectrum, products designed for databases will read and write random data with variable frequency. There are almost as many special applications as there are colors in a basic set of Crayons. Maybe that's why Western Digital chose colors to help differentiate its specialty products.
Western Digital's Red series was the first true specialty HDD for the consumer market. Before the Red series, Western Digital offered the high-performance Black, the general-purpose Blue, and the budget-friendly (and power efficient) Green disk drives. None were designed for, or had the specialized components or features required, to run efficiently in a NAS appliance. Before the Red series came to market, forums were littered with questions about which drives were the best to use in a NAS. There was a great deal of confusion in the NAS space, but Western Digital's Red series lit the path.
Hard drives benefit from trickle-down technology. The new Western Digital Red 10TB and 8TB drives use Helium in a sealed chamber to reduce friction on the platters. HGST developed the technology for very expensive enterprise-focused drives just a few years ago. Western Digital gained a turnkey Helium-filled product when it purchased HGST. The technology has now come to the consumer space relatively unchanged, but at roughly a fifth of the cost.
Western Digital released the Red series in mid-2012 in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB capacities. The early drives were based on Caviar Green models but included a new feature called NASware technology. The early products have changed slightly over the years, so the original 1TB Red is different than the models shipping today. NASware is now in its third generation and supports up to eight drives in a single system instead of five. Western Digital recommends the Red Pro series for systems with more than eight disk drives.
I own several eight-bay NAS appliances, and I wouldn't call them consumer models. The Red product line has grown into a solution for both consumers and most small-to-medium sized offices. The 8TB and 10TB Reds differ from the rest of the series. These two models appear to be nearly identical to HGST's products. Not all Red 8TB drives ship with Helium. Western Digital released several 8TB drives that use the traditional vented air chamber design.
You might not expect much of a difference between the two highest-capacity Red products, but the 10TB and 8TB models are physically different. The 10TB has twice the amount of DRAM (256MB) and increased sequential performance of 210 MB/s. That's much higher than the 8TB's 178 MB/s. Western Digital doesn't publish performance for the four-corner specifications (random and sequential read/write) like we see with solid-state drives. The company only lists a single sequential rating and no random performance specifications.
Pricing, Warranty & Endurance
Price differences are much greater in the premium segment. At Amazon, the 10TB Red sells for $370 and the 8TB for $247. When it comes to hard disk drives, the highest capacity available always comes with a heavy premium due to demand from both home users and business owners.
All Red series HDDs ship with a factory three-year warranty. Endurance, reliability, and data integrity are all separate specifications. All Red series products come with the same ratings. The drives are rated for 600,000 load/unload cycles and carry a 180 TB-a-year workload rating. The MTBF weighs in at 1,000,000 hours and the non-recoverable read errors per bits read rating is 1 in 1014.
NASware is a collection of technologies, components, and features that increase the reliability and performance of the Red and Red Pro product series. Essentially, it's a trademark name for these features.
The latest NASware 3.0 came to market with the introduction of the 5TB and 6TB models in July 2014. WD improved the firmware and RV sensors to deliver more accurate vibration compensation. That allows you to use the series in systems with up to eight drives. The previous NASware and NASware 2.0 only officially supported up to five drives per system.
- Streaming Support - NASware provides built-in compatibility with the ATA Streaming Feature Set, which is important for AV storage applications such as Windows Media Center.
- SMART Command Transport (SCT) Support - NASware allows monitoring and measuring of drive performance via the SMART command set. SMART can return data like thermal profiles and drive access statistics, among others. NASware also delivers temperature accuracy within 1°C.
- Power Management Support - Enables optimized power usage within the NAS and protects your data in the event of a power loss or disruption.
- Performance - Optimized seek to boost performance while reducing power and acoustics.
The drives come with two software applications: Data Lifeguard Diagnostic and a custom Western Digital version of Acronis True Image, which is a disk cloning application.
A Closer Look
On the surface, the new Helium-filled Red looks like an HGST drive with a new label. The two share a similar design, but different firmware.
The 8TB model is identical to the higher-capacity version. The printed circuit board has an Avago-branded controller. We also spot two RV sensors, one on each corner of the PCB, that measure vibration.
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