Friday, December 21, 2012

Western Digital Black 4TB WD4001FAEX Hard Drive:Initial Review


"Houston, we have a problem"

This isn't a complete and final review and the reason being that the drive developed a bad sector just as I had started my benchmarking of it.Without much thought I went through the painless Newegg RMA process and have since shipped the drive off for a replacement.Surprisingly this isn't my fist Black hard drive to have a problem.My first 2tb Caviar Black failed after only months of ownership.However the replacement has been going very strong since.Even with two Black drives being faulty I still stick by the Black line and Western Digital as a whole.I own or have owned over a dozen Western Digital hard drives with only two giving fault and the rest performing admirably in a range of usage scenarios like gaming,video recording and editing,24/7 file serving,and with multiple types of RAID levels involved.Even with my limited time with the drive I was able to gain some sense of it's performance capabilities, how it stacks up with competitors hard drives on the market,and whether it is a viable storage solution.

To abruptly end confusion and questions about this drive being a totally new Black hard drive with new and different features I will answer with a resounding NO This drive does not bring any new technologies to the table.It carries the FAEX designation and is a continuation of that series of Black hard drives.It has all the features and technologies of the FAEX series inside.The massive 4 terabyte capacity is created by five disk platters with a 800gb capacity each and sectors are still 512 bytes.Many and myself included expected Western Digital to release new Black hard drives with Advanced Formatting and high density 1tb platters to compete against Seagate's popular 1tb platter hard drives.Strange in WD not doing so considering they do have 1tb platter drives for their Blue,Green,and Red series of consumer drives.It may be just that considering all the time and resources spent this year in revising and releasing the other series of hard drives that they couldn't do so with the Black series in 2012 without rushing an immature product to the market.I firmly expect updated Black drives in 2013.I wonder why would they release a new FAEX in 4tb capacity if new drives are coming next year?Lets take note that most black drives have typically been RE series drives with different firmware and WD just recently released an updated RE series with drives in capacities of 3 and 4 terabyte capacities.So one can assume that WD is selling off excess RE 4tb stock as Black drives.It makes perfect since considering it would maximize sells of a rare 4tb capacity drive across a multi-segmented market interested in high capacity drives for various applications.Now it makes sense.Well to me it does.


The FAEX series has proven performance and reliability.My personal experience wouldn't necessarily be a great indicator of reliability but overall I've have seen far less reports of problems with these drives than any other major brand of hard drives and countless positive reviews can attest to this.Even though this drive features the same technologies and features of it's smaller brothers this particular drive refines them and in my limited testing is the best performing Black hard drive yet.In my brief usage I found the drive capable of sustained reads and writes up to 154 mb/s on the outermost data tracks.I also found the drive to be surprisingly quiet.Yes this huge 4tb drive with all its platters and mechanisms is very quiet.I installed this drive in a cage with two other hard drives which both where 3tb WD Red hard drives,which are themselves very quiet.I literally could not tell whether or not the 4tb black was louder.By comparison my 2tb Black is the loudest hard drive I own.It makes a loud grinding noise when under heavy loads.My velociraptors spinning at 10,000 rpm seem quiet next to the 2tb black.Below I'm going to post a couple benchmarks for some perspective on what this new Black is capable of.More benchmarks will come when the replacement comes and hopefully that one will be problem free.

In looking at the results.This 4tb Black has a very good sequential throughput breaking 150 mb/s.512k results are good with reads of 50 mb/s and writes just over 70 mb/s.4k and 4kQD32 should never be taken into much consideration when benching hard drives though.The minute numbers are reflection of the limitations of hard drive technology.Overall the drives performance is comparable to a 3tb Red which in itself is a fantastic hard drive.

This is where I realized something was wrong with the hard drive.The reading fell off dramatically early in the benchmark and that didn't seem right to me.Not much later I got read errors with more benchmarking and checked the health status and saw a bad sector had reared it's ugly head.Looking at the numbers performance is good throughout and should be better with a healthy drive.Looking at the read transfer the drive posted a minimum read of 57 mb/s, a maximum read of 148 mb/s and a average read of 127 mb/s.It's 16 ms access time isn't quick but this drive isn't trying to be a quick access 15,000 SAS drive for server applications.With read results like this the behemoth Black will deliver large amounts of data fast from it's massive 4tb capacity.It has the size and read speed to be a great media server disk or game storage drive. 

The write benchmark had a good showing.It's minimum write of 80 mb/s is a good bit more than the minimum read of 57 mb/s.Maximum writes were even with the reads at 148 mb.s and the average writes were nearly even to the read average with a 128 mb/s mark.Looking at the access time for writes the 4tb Black is very quick putting it in the realm of 10,000 rpm drives.With this kinda of write performance the massive Black drive is perfect for long sequential writes and constant write applications.With fast writes and a quick access time this drive would excel as a PC game recording drive devouring countless hours of 1080p game play or for any high definition video recording in general.  



I am disappointed in the bad sector.I feel that hard drive quality has been slipping in recent years basically coinciding with  all the major changes in the industry.As reliability in the hard drive market seem suspect sometimes performance of this drive and hard drives in general haven't.We've seen hard drives this year reach record performance and capacity levels.This 4tb behemoth is no exception.It is the largest and highest performing of the Black series so far.It can handle most storage tasks with ease.I personally purchased this drive for my own system.I need a huge capacity drive for ripping my bluray collection,encoding and compressing those rips for my media server and weekly Acronis back ups of other system data.With a 4tb capacity,solid throughput speed,brand specific Black series features, and a long 5 year warranty there is a lot to like about this drive.What most potential buyers will not like is the associated price tag this drive has.At a msrp of $339 it will take a chunk out of your wallet.I've seen prices as high as $400 at several online retailers.I purchased this drive with a discount coupon that brought the price down a bit.I suggest buyers do the same or wait as the price will fall in time and as competitor drives come to market.I recommend this hard drive but not as enthusiastically as I would have if not for the bad sector ruining my day.If this drive meets your storage needs then this is a no-brainer, especially for fellow Black owners.

  • 4tb capacity
  • Solid transfer speed
  • very quiet
  • 5-year warranty 
  • Price 
  • Bad sector out the gate.
 *Bad sector con is a personal con and isn't a general con about the drive unless mass quantities have the issue.Price is the only con that should be considered.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. Just wondering have you had the issue when formatting the drive it turns into a 1.8TB? Any ideas?