Introduction and Testbed Setup

The traditional market for hard drives (PCs and notebooks) is facing a decline due to the host of advantages provided by SSDs. However, the explosion in the amount of digital content generated by the households and businesses has resulted in the rapid growth of the SMB / SOHO / consumer NAS market. Hard drive vendors have jumped on to this opportunity by tweaking the firmware and manufacturing process of their drives to create lineups specifically suited for the NAS market.

We have already had comprehensive coverage of a number of 4 TB NAS drives and a few 6 TB ones. Earlier this month, Seagate also introduced their WD Red Pro competitor, the Enterprise NAS HDD. We reviewed the 6 TB version and it turned out to be a great performer, albeit a bit costly for regular consumers. HGST aims to fill that space with the 6 TB Deskstar NAS. It falls in the same market category as the WD Red. However, the HGST Deskstar NAS drives have a 7200 RPM rating and the 5 / 6 TB variants come with 128 MB of DRAM cache. This is expected to make them perform closer to the Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 and Enterprise NAS HDD drives. In the remainder of the review, we will try to determine whether that is the case.

The correct choice of hard drives for a NAS system is influenced by a number of factors. These include expected workloads, performance requirements and power consumption restrictions, amongst others. In this review, we will discuss some of these aspects while comparing the HGST Deskstar NAS against other drives targeting the NAS market. The list of drives that we will be looking at today is listed below.

  1. HGST Deskstar NAS (HDN726060ALE610)
  2. Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD 6 TB [ ST6000VN0001-1SF17Z ]
  3. Western Digital Red 6 TB [ WDC WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 ]
  4. Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6 TB [ ST6000NM0024-1HT17Z ]
  5. HGST Ultrastar He6 6 TB [ HUS726060ALA640 ]

Prior to proceeding with the actual review, it must be made clear that the above drives do not target the same specific market. For example, the WD Red and the HGST Deskstar NAS units are for 1- 8 bay NAS systems in the tower form factor. The Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD is meant for rackmount units up to 16 bays, but is not intended to be a replacement for drives such as the Enterprise Capacity v4. The Ultrastar He6 is targeted towards datacenters where its storage density and power efficiency lead to a lower overall TCO.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Our NAS drive evaluation methodology consists of putting the units to test under both DAS and NAS environments. We first start off with a feature set comparison of the various drives, followed by a look at the raw performance when connected directly to a SATA 6 Gbps port. In the same PC, we also evaluate the performance of the drive using some aspects of our direct attached storage (DAS) testing methodology. For evaluation in a NAS environment, we configure three drives of each model in a RAID-5 volume and process selected benchmarks from our standard NAS review methodology. Since our NAS drive testbed supports both SATA and SAS drives, but our DAS testbed doesn't, only SATA drives are subject to the DAS benchmarks.

We used two testbeds in our evaluation, one for benchmarking the raw drive and DAS performance and the other for evaluating performance when placed in a NAS unit.

AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Wi-Fi ac ATX
CPU Intel Core i7-4790
Memory Corsair Vengeance Pro CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
32 GB (4x 8GB)
DDR3-2133 @ 11-11-11-27
OS Drive Seagate 600 Pro 400 GB
Optical Drive Asus BW-16D1HT 16x Blu-ray Write (w/ M-Disc Support)
Add-on Card Asus Thunderbolt EX II
Chassis Corsair Air 540
PSU Corsair AX760i 760 W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Thanks to Asus and Corsair for the build components

In the above testbed, the hot swap bays of the Corsair Air 540 have to be singled out for special mention.
They were quite helpful in getting the drives processed in a fast and efficient manner for benchmarking. For NAS evaluation, we used the QNAP TS-EC1279U-SAS-RP. This is very similar to the unit we reviewed last year, except that we have a slightly faster CPU, more RAM and support for both SATA and SAS drives.

The NAS setup itself was subjected to benchmarking using our standard NAS testbed.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Specifications and Feature Set Comparison
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  • MamiyaOtaru - Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - link

    it's mostly the "our" that immediately precedes it. Seems like it could be interpreted a couple ways. seems like it's a molehill though heh
  • jardows2 - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    Great. Now every article comments section will be descending into a "anandtech is a horrible site now that they were bought by Purch." If this is such a horrible thing, just leave. Let those of us who still enjoy Anandtech be a part of the community, and make our own decisions if the quality changes over the next couple of years.

    I don't look to the comments section of an article to see the bickering of the business policies of the site. I want to see comments about the product being reviewed or the news being reported.
  • edzieba - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    Nope. Western Digital acquired Hitachi's 2.5" drive division. Toshiba acquired Hitachi's 3.5" drive division.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, December 25, 2014 - link

    HGST is a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital, not Toshiba. While HGST did divest some assets to Toshiba relating to 3.5" drives, the company itself went to Western Digital, and never stopped making 3.5" drives.
  • Nocturnal - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    I do have a question, how much does that server run if someone was to purchase it put together like that?
  • akula2 - Saturday, January 3, 2015 - link

    The expensive component would be buying HDDs. E.g., for the latest requirement I should go for at least 12 HDDs (RAID 6, so I get 10). Now, each HDD will cost not less than $400 for sure.

    You can building you own custom NAS Server once you get a solid case with many HDD drive mounts. E.g., Cooler Master got Stacker 935. One can easily stuff 16 HDDs (RAID 6 max. limit) in that case by buying additional caddies. Not expensive at all.

    Mobo? Go only for Server-grade model like Asrock C226M WS micro ATX board + DDR3 16GB 1600 MHz ECC (unbuffered) RAM.

    CPU? For that HDD volume, I can go for Core i3-4360T or Xeon E3 V3 processor. Both support ECC RAM.
  • akula2 - Saturday, January 3, 2015 - link

    I forgot to add -- you'll need to buy a PCIe RAID card too.

    It will cost $300 for a good model, say a LSI 12Gb/s MegaRAID SATA+SAS RAID controller card.

    Note that 4360T has low TDP of 35W only.
  • iAPX - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    I like to see the NAS performances in RAID-5, they are just lulz!

    When will NAS performance be checked with 10Gb Ethernet link?!?
    100MB/s or 120MB/s is what I expect from a single 2.5inch USB3 drive, not on a NAS that cost many grands!

    Maybe it would be interesting to benchmark them on a Promise Pegasus2 R4, where you could obtain 5X to 6X more performances on the same hard drive through thunderbolt, to show their real potential???
  • Integr8d - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    It just depends on the model of NAS they use for review. Synology, QNAP, etc all have models w/ 10Gig-E or slots for 10gig nics. Some have dual slots.

    The Promise R4 is a different class of product. And Thunderbolt is irrelevant. All of these tests could've been done on a single SATA3 interconnect. 6Gbps is well-more than a single one of these drives will make use of (or, if we're talking external, the 5Gbps of USB3).
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    The whole point of a NAS is simultaneous multi-client access. A Thunderbolt peripheral or a 2.5" USB 3 drive is not geared for that purpose.

    Home and power users run NAS units with two GbE ports link-aggregated.

    As mentioned in the review, the main difference between the drives start to appear in the form of differing average response times as the number of clients increase. Please check the multi-client CIFS access section.

    10 GbE is yet to go mainstream outside of SME environments. But, rest assured, we are looking at 10 GbE for our SSDs in NAS units evaluation.

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