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Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB Review: The Best NAS Drive?

Conclusion

The Seagate IronWolf Pro got lost in the shuffle after the company elevated the basic IronWolf series to 7,200-RPM. The two models have nearly identical performance, but the Pro model has features that justify the extra expense. 

To some degree, Seagate has dissuaded performance enthusiasts from buying the IronWolf Pro. For decades a number of us would gladly pay more for a 7,200-RPM drive, but now we get high performance at 5,400-RPM prices. But in the grand scheme of things, enthusiasts are a sliver of the market compared to the number of drives bought by businesses and enterprises. We certainly won't complain about the IronWolf's dominant position, either. Seagate made the series more attractive than the HGST, Toshiba, and Western Digital NAS-focused products.

Seagate's updated IronWolf series pushes the IronWolf Pro exclusively to systems with a plethora of drives. There are very few desktop NAS or DAS that use more than eight drives. As a result, the Pro model targets rackmount NAS and one-off specialty devices like the LaCie 12big Thunderbolt 3 system that's designed for professional users.

The IronWolf Pro has a few exclusive features. The drives have a 300TB-per-year rating that comes with an increased load/unload rating of 600,000 cycles. You also get a five-year warranty and a two-year data rescue plan that increases the overall value even if you are lucky enough never to need it.

Seagate's changes to its product line make it less likely that you'll use the recovery service. Low-quality products hurt the reputation of many of the HDD manufacturers, so Seagate had largely moved away from making low-cost HDDs. Quality disk drives are back, but you get what you pay for. Expect to pay quite a bit for a high-capacity drive like the one we tested today. You can find this type of quality for much less, but you'll also get much less capacity in the $200 range.

Disk drives have never been faster. Seagate's new enterprise 7,200-RPM drive delivers 261 MB/s of throughput, which is just 11 MB/s more than the 12TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro. Random performance is still much lower than flash-based products, but advanced technologies and improvements to the drive cache have increased performance, and as an extension, the user experience. These products work best as a large secondary storage volume, and SSDs are still far too expensive to fulfill that role.


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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.