Following Western Digital's example, Seagate has introduced a special series of hard disk drives optimized for entry-level and midrange network attached storage devices. These are home and SMB-oriented NASes that can accommodate one to five HDDs. Seagate seems to be optimistic about the NAS market as users switch from desktop PCs to mobile devices while the amounts of data, especially multimedia data, get larger and larger. There are certain specifics to using HDDs in a NAS such as nonstop operation, installation of several HDDs into a single case, RAID configurations.
Unfortunately, quite a lot of technical parameters are hard to evaluate in practice, especially when it comes to market positioning and optimizations. Seagate talks about 24/7 operation and NASWorks technology which is targeted at typical NAS applications by making the HDD more efficient in fault-tolerant RAIDs (the time for data recovery attempts by the HDD’s own means is reduced), lowering vibrations and featuring a power management system. On the other hand, Seagate says that its desktop HDDs can be used for NASes as well.
The new series consists of three models with capacities of 2, 3 and 4 terabytes (ST2000VN000, ST3000VN000, and ST4000VN000), so Seagate can claim that its NAS-optimized HDDs are 30% larger than competitor products. Indeed, Western Digital's Red series doesn't yet include 4TB models. Still, there are several 4-terabyte HDD models available on the market, which are perfectly compatible with NASes.
The new models all share a few common traits: SATA 6 Gbit/s interface, 64MB cache, power consumption of less than 5 watts at work and 0.5 watts in standby mode, noise level of 25 dB or lower, 70°C max temperature of the drive case, 600,000 heads load/unload cycles, MTBF of 1,000,000 hours, and up to 1 year of power-on hours. Interestingly, some of these numbers coincide with the WD Red’s (load/unload, MTBF, temperature). The series comes with a 3-year warranty, which is 1 year longer than the desktop series. Seagate only offers a 5-year warranty for some of its enterprise product series.
Talking about the warranty, Seagate’s website offers a simple form for you to type in your HDD's serial number, model name and region to learn when its warranty period expires. On the other hand, if you are choosing a new HDD, it is next to impossible to know its warranty term. Moreover, the warranty may vary depending on your HDD acquisition method (e.g. a part of a desktop PC or a third-party NAS).
It is generally recommended to check out the NAS maker's compatibility list when choosing HDDs for your NAS. Of course, it may be possible to use models not listed there, but there's no reason to run the risk of incompatibility. Seagate is good from this aspect. Almost immediately after the introduction of the new HDD series Seagate announced its compatibility with products from all the leading NAS makers including ASUS, LaCie, QNAP, Synology and Thecus. It must be noted, however, that the new HDDs are not on some of the compatibility lists as of the time of our writing this review.
It must be mentioned that Seagate also offers Constellation CS and Constellation ES.3 drives. They feature additional technologies that make them perfect for large storage systems.
Performance, power consumption and temperature are the parameters of NASes that we can test in our labs. Noise might also be measured, yet it is not clear how the test conditions should be organized since measuring the noise produced by a single HDD wouldn't be useful in practical terms. Subjectively, the new HDDs are rather quiet for a home environment but much will depend on the NAS design and its cooling system.
Seagate’s new series is represented by the highest-capacity model ST4000VN000. We will compare it with 2TB WD20EFRX drives because we can’t take one same-capacity WD drive for this test. Anyway, we guess the more important factor is that the WD Red series was introduced about a year ago, so the newer HDDs should have progressed since then.
We will benchmark performance using an x86-based ASUSTOR AS-604T NAS with firmware 1.0.9.R4U1. The client PC is based on an Intel Core i5 and Windows 8. It is connected to the NAS directly via an Intel Gigabit Ethernet controller. Jumbo Frames are enabled.