The WD RE 4TB drive is specifically meant to handle an enterprise workload, but don’t let that scare you off, as it includes a desktop-friendly SATA 6Gb/s interface. As long as you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should be able to format it into one partition somewhat easily, though you could use it as a boot drive if you’re insane. Its enterprise pedigree is evident not only in its RE branding but in its 1.2 million-hour MTBF, or mean time between failure. This means you should be using this drive at least until Apple Maps for iOS has caught up to Google Maps.
Western Digital’s first 4TB SATA hard drive is the one to get if you have a lot of data (and money).
Though we appreciate the nod to reliability and certainly abhor flaky hard drives, our primary concern in storage affairs is speed. WD designed the RE 4TB to offer the highest specs possible for a drive of this type, fitting it with a large 64MB buffer and five 800GB platters. Now, this isn't a perfect scenario—we'd prefer a drive with 1TB platters, as is the case with some 3TB drives, such as the Seagate Barracuda 3TB, but right now if you want 4TB and 7,200rpm you get five-platters, so make your peace with it.
In terms of real-world performance, you won't miss that extra platter too much, as this 4TB drive is just a bit slower than the 3TB Barracuda but also slightly faster than several of its 3TB competitors. In sequential-read tests, we saw the WD drive run neck-and-neck with its Hitachi counterpart, with both of them averaging 132MB/s, while the 1TB-per-platter Seagate averaged 155MB/s. The WD Caviar Green 3TB can't hold a candle to these speeds, though, and neither can the 5,400rpm 4TB Hitachi 5K4000, which is not surprising.
Our current Adobe Premiere encoding test writes a 20GB raw AVI file to the drive being tested. The WD RE ran right alongside SSDs in this test, which means our test is past its prime and is gated by CPU and application performance these days. However, it was a tad faster than the Hitachi drive in this test despite their similar write speeds. In our "real-world" PCMark Vantage hard drive test, the WD RE 4TB placed third overall compared to other 3- and 4TB drives. Its performance makes it one of the fastest high-capacity drives we’ve tested and the fastest 4TB model we’ve seen thus far.
So it’s fast, and it’s huge. That must mean the price is equally massive, right? Yes, that is correct! It is hugely expensive at $460, which seems ludicrous. That will be a deal-breaker for many, plain and simple. A data center manager looking to reduce the storage footprint by 33 percent may see value here, but the average desktop user is better served with smaller drives. You can buy 2TB drives for roughly $110, so if you're just looking for fast storage, they'll work just fine. If you need maximum capacity per SATA port, we have no problem recommending the WD RE 4TB, but like any new technology, it's prohibitively expensive at this time.
Note: This review appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Western Digital 4TB RE
Lots of storage; semi-affordable; fast.
Not 1TB per platter; 3x cost of 3TB drive.
WD RE 4TB
WD Caviar Green 3TB
Avg Read (MB/s)
Random-Access Read (ms)
Burst Read (MB/s)
Avg Write (MB/s)
Random-Access Write (ms)
Burst Write (MB/s)
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
Best scores are bolded.All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel Core i3-2100 CPU on an Asus P8P67 Pro (Rev 3.1) motherboard with 4GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.All tests performed using native Intel 6Gb/s SATA chipset with IRST version 10.1 drivers.