WD 6TB Black Review – A wealth of storage
When you get right down to it, buying a hard drive comes down to three considerations: brand, size and speed.
Lately, WD (you may know them as Western Digital) has been making a lot of noise about its differently-coloured hard drives, ostensibly to so they’ll spring to mind when consumers are considering an upgrade.
These upgrades are needed, because the games, media files and photographs that form part of our daily digital lives take up more storage space now than ever before, and having a “mere” 1-2TB of storage in a home PC is no longer quite good enough.
So it was with much interest that I installed this 6TB Black drive into my gaming PC at home, and moved all of my Steam games onto it. The installation was easy enough – I simply slid it into an available drive bay, powered it up and my motherboard formatted it with a free partition management program I downloaded, gave it a name and voila, it was ready to go.
Copy speeds are rather good – I consistently saw over 100MB/s between my two WD drives (I also had a 3TB Black drive in my system at the time of testing), and the drives barely made any noise at all. They didn’t heat up much, either – I removed one immediately after a 400GB copy and it was still cool to the touch.
Performance on other fronts was good, too: CrystalDiskMark saw impressive 2MB sequential read and write speeds of 213.8MB/s and 214.1MB/s respectively, and random 2MB reads and writes of 78.1MB/s and 106.58MB/s. On the more intensive 4K random transfer reads and writes, I saw 0.322MB/s and 0.805MB/s. While those 4K read/write scores look low, compared to other high-capacity drives the 6TB Black is at the front of the pack.
There was no way the drive’s performance would compete with an SSD, of course, but for a mechanical drive, this was excellent. If I were to guess, I’d say it’s probably thanks to the 128MB of cache WD went with that helps to prevent bottlenecks.
The 6TB Black drive certainly out-performed my other drives (three 1TB drives from another manufacturer), but in their defense they are about 4 years old at this point so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
I have no qualms about this drive’s performance – it’s quick, and more than up to the task of serving up game data, storing movies and pictures and other files.
WD 6TB Black Review: Is 6TB too much?
On the other hand, its overall capacity caused me some concern. I know this might be a very “early 2010s” attitude, but I worry that 6TB is a huge amount of space to fill, and that I’ll end up with a lot of my digital “eggs” in a single basket.
The problem with that is should this drive fail, the data loss would be catastrophic, not least of all from a psychological perspective. And drives do fail – they are mechanical, after all – so it’s not like failure is outside the realm of possibility.
So while I’d love to report back that after hundreds of thousands of hours of stress-testing, the drive survived, I can’t. Not because the drive didn’t survive, but because I simply cannot test that. All I can tell you is that in my time with it I heard no funny noises, the 6TB Black drive barely heated up even after intensive copy operations, and performance was stellar across the board. But that’s not to say it’s guaranteed not to fail.
WD 6TB Black Review: Mitigation
I asked WD about what they’ve done to mitigate those worries, because I’m positive I’m not the only person who feels this way about high-capacity drives. Perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out they’re just as concerned, and their engineers have come up with a specific feature intended to boost the overall reliability of the drive called StableTrac.
StableTrac is present on all Black drives bigger than 2TB; it secures the motor shaft inside the drive to reduce the impact of system vibrations on its spinning platters. This stabilises the platters even when the rest of the system is vibrating, something WD says makes tracking more accurate during read and write operations and boosts overall performance.
WD 6TB Black Review: Confidence
WD is so confident this technology will keep Black drives going that a five-year warranty is offered across the Black range. That’s significant, as the industry standard for hard drives is just three years these days.
While that doesn’t assuage my concern entirely, it’s encouraging. I must just keep in mind – and encourage my readers to do the same – that I should expect to replace my hard drives in the fifth year of operation just to be safe. And since that seems to line up with my upgrade cycle as a PC user anyway, I can live with that.
And of course, keeping that drive backed up is also encouraged, just in case; but then who has money for TWO 6TB hard drives? Especially at R4.7k a pop. Not this guy, that’s for sure.
WD 6TB Black Review: Price
You can pick this drive up online for around R4.7k; shop around and you might even find it cheaper. That works out to 78c a gigabyte, which really isn’t bad considering the average cost per gigabyte of a 7200RPM non-SSHD terabyte drive is around 90c.
So no, it’s not what I’d call “cheap”. But 6TB is a lot of space for the money, all things considered.
Ultimately, WD has done what it can to ensure the drive delivers reliable performance for years on end, and I can’t fault them on that.
WD 6TB Black Review: Verdict
After my experiences with this review drive, you might be wondering if I would buy one with my own money the next time my system runs out of space. Looking at the price of a 3TB Black Drive (around the R3k mark), yes I would – the 6TB offers fantastic value for money, and its cool/quiet operation impressed along with its performance, so it ticks a lot of the right boxes for me.
I’m still a wee bit worried about that whole “all eggs in one basket” thing, but with WD’s assurances that steps have been taken to boost reliability and the impressive 5-year warranty that indicates a high degree of confidence in the drive’s tech, I can’t complain.