Western Digital Red 4TB & Se 4TB Hard Drives

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Western Digital Red 4TB & Se 4TB Hard Drives

October 21, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

4TB 3.5" HDD
WD Se WD4000F9YZ
4TB 3.5" HDD
Street Price
US$200 US$260

While the PC market continues expanding and migrating to mobile platforms, one desktop computer component continues to sell well. Sales of storage devices are increasing, with considerable growth in the home server and NAS markets. While people are computing on lighter and smaller devices, we still need some place to store all the ever increasing digital content. Though hard drives are arguably the most antiquated technology left in our PCs, they buck the trend, and continue to grow steadily in capacity.

In this article, we have a pair of 4TB drives from Western Digital, the WD Red and WD Se. If you look at the spec sheet, they seem to be from very distinct classes but they're actually two sides of the same coin.

The WD Se 4TB (left) and WD Red 4TB (right).

The Red series is a upscale version of the eco-friendly WD Green, upgraded with a 3 year warranty, around the clock support, and NASware — firmware designed specifically for operation in multi-drive RAID configurations used in consumer NAS devices. The main difference is support for TLER (Time-Limited Error Recovery) which limits the time a drive will spend attempting to remap a bad sector. If the drive takes too long, the RAID controller interprets this unresponsiveness as drive failure and drops it from the array. The Red series is unique in that WD tests it for compatibility with many of the popular NAS models on the market.

The Se is an enterprise drive less concerned about user experience and more about raw performance and reliability, qualities vital in more professional settings. It's also optimized for RAID but it's the type of drive you'd use in a data center where time and money are at stake, rather than storing your home theater library and sitting on its butt most of the time. It's like a WD Black in that it has a 5 year warranty, a 7,200 RPM motor, dual processors, and dual actuators. However, each drive goes through an extended burn-in process for better quality control and is outfitted with a multi-axis shock sensor.

Underside. Once again, Se on the left, Red on the right.

The underside of the Red 4TB lacks the ribs extending from the motor to the outer shell found on the 3TB and 1TB versions, using a more all-encapsulating casing. The Se 4TB has a larger PCB than the Red but it also seems to have fewer exposed solder points suggesting more of the electronics is imbedded inside. The portion where the board resides is also sunk in deeper on the Red. This combined with the weight difference (our Se samples weighed 760 grams to the Reds' 680 grams) suggests the Se has a more substantial housing, perhaps to help limit the increased vibration caused by the higher rotational speed.

WD Red 4TB & Se 4TB Specifications
(from their respective product web pages here and here)
Model number Red WD40EFRX Se WD4000F9YZ
Capacity 4 TB 4 TB
User Sectors Per Drive 7,814,037,168 7,814,037,168
Interface SATA 6 Gb/s SATA 6 Gb/s
Rotational Speed IntelliPower * 7,200 RPM (nominal)
Buffer Size 64 MB 64 MB
Data Transfer Rate (sustained maximum host to/from drive) 150 MB/s 171 MB/s
Average Acoustics Idle Mode: 25 dBA
Seek Mode 0: 28 dBA
Idle Mode: 31 dBA
Seek Mode 0: 34 dBA
Power Dissipation Read/Write: 4.50 Watts
Idle: 3.30 Watts
Read/Write: 9.50 Watts
Idle: 8.10 Watts
Weight 0.68 kg 0.75 kg
Load/unload Cycles 600,000 300,000
MTBF 1,000,000 hours 800,000 hours
1,200,000 hours (1-5 Bay NAS)
Limited Warranty 3 years 5 years

The differences in the specifications are classic for a low power vs. a high performance model. The Se is spec'd considerably louder and for double the power usage. It's hard to judge reliability purely from these numbers. The Red has double the load/unload cycle limit but the 4TB version head-parks to save power, so it likely will reach its limit sooner. Its mean time before failure is 200,000 hours longer, but the Se's 800,000 hours is still much longer than the average human lifespan.

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