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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

While SSDs are the best choice in roles that need high speed (mostly boot drives for the home user), many people need large amounts of storage space, and traditional hard drives still give the best value per gigabyte. Four-terabyte drives are the biggest drives available today, and today we will test two of them: the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB and the Western Digital WD Black 4 TB.

Both tested drives have an actual capacity of 3,726 GB (read our “Hard Disk Drive Capacity Limits” tutorial to understand why), which should provide more than enough space even for high-demanding applications.

The Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB (ST4000DM000) spins at 5,900 rpm, has 64 MiB of cache and uses a SATA-600 interface.

4 TB hard disk drive battleFigure 1: Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB (top)

4 TB hard disk drive battleFigure 2: Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB (bottom)

The Western Digital WD Black 4 TB (WD4003FZEX) also has 64 MiB of cache and uses a SATA-600 interface, but spins at 7,200 rpm.

4 TB hard disk drive battleFigure 3: Western Digital WD Black 4 TB (top)

4 TB hard disk drive battleFigure 4: Western Digital WD Black 4 TB (bottom)

Despite the high capacity, the drives look aesthetically identical to any other hard drive occupying a 3.5” form factor.

In our tests, we will be comparing the performance of the drives, in order to see which one is the fastest.

In the table below, we will compare the basic specifications of these products.

Manufacturer Model Model # Rotational Speed Interface Buffer Capacity Price*
Seagate Desktop HDD ST4000DM000 5,900 rpm SATA-600 64 MiB 4 TB USD 165
Wester Digital WD Black WD4003FZEX 7,200 rpm SATA-600 64 MiB 4 TB USD 260

* All prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our testing procedures, we used the configuration listed below. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the hard disk drive being tested.

Hardware Configuration

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K
  • Motherboard: ASRock Z87 Killer
  • Memory: 16 GB G.Skill Sniper (DDR3-1600/PC3-12800), configured at 1,600 MHz
  • Video Card: GeForce GT 630 1 GB
  • Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Video Monitor: Philips 236VL
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX500M
  • Boot Drive: Kingston HyperX 3K 480 GB

Operating System Configuration                      

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit using NTFS file system

Benchmarking Software

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences of less than 3% cannot be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.

[nextpage title=”CrystalDiskMark”]

We used CrystalDiskMark’s default configuration for our tests, which benchmarked each hard drive using a file size of 1,000 MB with five test runs. You can see the results below.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In the sequential read test, the WD Black 4 TB drive exhibited the best performance, beating the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB by 14 percent.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

The WD Black 4 TB also came out on top on the sequential write test, outperforming the Desktop HDD 4 TB by 12%.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In the random read test using 512 kiB blocks, the WD Black 4 TB also came out on top, beating the Desktop HDD 4 TB by 16%.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

Moving on to the random write test using 512 kiB blocks, the WD Black 4 TB was 28% faster than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In the random read test using 4 kiB blocks, the WB Black outperformed the Desktop HDD by 32%.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In the random write test using 4 kiB blocks, the WD Black 4 TB was 43% faster than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB.

[nextpage title=”HD Tune”]

Now we will look at the results recorded using HD Tune.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In the burst transfer rate test, the WD Black 4 TB was 42% faster than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

Moving on to the average transfer rate test, both drives achieved the same level of performance.

[nextpage title=”Access Time”]

Access time is another important measurement. It measures the time the storage device delays to start delivering data after the computer has asked for given data. It is measured in the order of milliseconds (ms, which are equal to 0.001 s); the lower this value, the better.

4 TB hard disk drive battle

In this test, the WD Black 4 TB recorded the shortest access time, which was 26% quicker than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The WD Black 4 TB and the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB are not direct competitors, since the first spins at 7,200 rpm and the latter, at 5,900 rpm. The model from WD is also significantly more expensive than the model from Seagate. Another important information to be aware of is warranty: Wester Digital offers a five-year warranty, while Seagate offers only a two-year warranty. Nevertheless, this review is a good opportunity to fully understand what you get by buying a more expensive product.

Throughout our tests, the Western Digital WD Black 4 TB exhibited a very good level of performance, beating the Seagate Desktop HDD in the tests using the CrystalDiskMark.

However, in HD Tune, both drives achieved the same performance level in the average speed test. This means that, while the WD Black 4 TB is faster in random writes and reads (which is expected, due to its higher rotational speed and lower access time), this superiority is smaller in sequential access of large files.

We should recommend the WD Black 4 TB drive, but it is significantly more expensive than the Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB. So, the latter can be a better buy for those who are looking for the best value in a 4 TB hard disk drive, especially if it will not be used as a boot drive.