Western Digital was recently under fire for not disclosing that certain drives use slower SMR tech, and now there's another issue uncovered by the community. As it turns out, the company's 5400 RPM drives may not necessarily spin at 5400 RPM, as discovered by Amoroko on Reddit.
The Redditor ran tests with various WD drives, and found that 5400 RPM drives often spin much faster, at 7200 RPM, based on acoustic testing. The drives affected include a range of WD Red drives and WD elements drives, though the test sample wasn't exactly wide.
As it turns out, WD isn't labeling the drives as 5400 RPM either, but rather "5400 RPM Performance Class." But what does that really mean?
In short, it means that the drives labelled as 5400 RPM Performance Class drives perform acoustically, thermally, and with regards to power consumption like 5400 RPM drives, even if they spin at 7200 RPM -- at least according to WD.
The following is the statement we received from WD:
"For select products, Western Digital has published RPM speed within a “class” or “performance class” for numerous years rather than publishing specific spindle speeds. We also fine-tune select hard drive platforms and the related HDD characteristics to create several different variations of such platforms to meet different market or application needs. By doing so, we are able to leverage our economies of scale and pass along those savings to our customers. As with every Western Digital product, our product details, which include power, acoustics and performance (data transfer rate), are tested to meet the specifications provided on the product’s data sheet and marketing collateral.”
Arstechnica studied the datasheets of WD's "5400 RPM Performance Class" drives and compared them to actual 5400 RPM drives. They found stark differences in power consumption and noise levels, which naturally also leads to more heat output. This begs the question, from which era is WD defining the power consumption and noise levels of "5400 RPM Performance Class?"
Whether this practice is to pump up the performance figures and specs or cut costs in production (or both) is unclear. We also reached out to Seagate and Toshiba for comment on the matter.