Western Digital SE 4TB Hard Drive Review (Single and RAID)

Author: AkG
Date: July 7, 2013
Product Name: SE 4TB
Part Number: WD4000F9YZ-09Y3CLO
Warranty: 5 Years
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With ever increasing pressure being brought to bear on the Enterprise storage marketplace, even firmly entrenched manufacturers are being forced to innovate like never before. The new $295 SE 4TB shows that Western Digital up to the challenge and ready to take an even larger portion of the enterprise market share.

In previous generations most HDD manufacturers tended to take a ‘one size fits most’ approach to their entry level Enterprise clientele with a single model being expected to cover everyone’s needs. For Western Digital it was their Raid Edition (or RE) model. Last year, when the RED series was introduced they further split this category into two distinct groups: RAID and NAS.

The current generation continues this expansionist trend by changing from a single or even doubly category to a truly multilayered approach. Western Digitals’ new Datacenter / Enterprise lineup consists of a currently unannounced SSD alongside their XE HDD, followed by the ‘tier 2’ RE offering and the aforementioned SE. Supposedly, additional models filling out the lower price brackets will be announced in the coming months as well. All in their entire lineup will be one that offers a top-to-bottom solution for professional consumers.

As this new naming scheme suggests, the all new SE is not expected to be compete directly with the RE line. Rather than being direct competition for the RE, the SE is meant to fit into the wide gap between the enterprise grade RE series and the mass market RED products. Specifically, the SE is better suited to consumers who need an optimal blend of performance, capacity and value than other models can offer.

To accomplish this task the SE’s design philosophy is all about “HDD Scalability” and is meant for scenarios where final capacity levels have fluid and easily to adjustable as time goes on. In other words the Scalable Edition has been tailor-made for larger 6-24 bay Network Attached Storage devices, SQL Database servers and other tasks where sheer performance takes a back seat to flexibility and scalability.

To some, a 4TB Scalable Edition may make the more expensive RE look like an overpriced option but that isn’t necessarily the case. Western Digital’s goal here is to continue a strict market to market segmentation so products from one area don’t overlap those from another. With a 1.2 million hour MTBF rating, extended factory testing and many other features specifically target enterprise clients, the RE will remain the go-to option for datacenters and other mission critical environments. Meanwhile, the SE may have slightly more pedestrian runtime figures but it should still be the perfect option for entry level enterprise scenarios where six to a maximum of twenty four drives are all that’s needed.

As with the 4TB RE, Western Digital has once again foregone the use of 1TB platters for this massive drive. Rather than requiring a quartet of platters to hit the impressive 4TB mark, the 4TB S.E uses five 800GB platters to reach its capacity. This does have the unfortunate consequence of making it a touch more power hungry that it otherwise could be but according to Western Digital, the 5-platter design optimizes longevity.

From the exterior there is very little to differentiate the SE and RE versions other than the label. Both use the same 3.5” sform factor, both use silver with black highlights and both even use a similarly sized PCB. Internally, the SE and RE are also simp;ar as they both make use of Western Digital’s enterprise-centric hardware including StableTrac, RAFF, multi-axis shock sensors, and Dynamic Fly Height Technology which adjusts the read / write heads’ fly heights in real time for increased reliability and reduced risk of ‘cow belling’.

Western Digital may not have bestowed 1TB platters upon this drive but they have given it dual actuator technology, 64MB of cache, and a Marvell dual core controller. The 64MB of cache is present in the form of a single Samsung K4T51163QJ-BCE7, 64MB DDR2-800 IC which has 6-6-6 timings. There are also accelerometers and pressure sensors attached to the PCB, which –with some advanced algorithms- creates Western Digital’s Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF) technology. Much like on the more expensive RE series, this technology is able to sense and compensate in real time for rotational and linear vibrations which could otherwise result in a shortened lifespan or even catastrophic failure.


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