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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Faster speeds than cheaper HDDs
Massive storage size options
Still much slower than SSDs
Pricey compared to the competition
Some reliability issues reported
The WD Black series is a long-time favorite among users, offering huge capacity and boosted speeds over most other HDDs.
Western Digital is a big name in the hard drive space. Though there are inevitably some duds here and there with WD hard drives, the Black series has been the favorite for many over the years, with their boosted performance and reliability. For this particular review, we’ll be taking a close look at the WD Black, specifically the 3.5-inch 4TB hard drive with 256MB cache. There are many other formats, sizes, and variations out there in the Black series, but all these SATA-based drives will deliver roughly the same results thanks to their shared interface.
Since hard drives are typically tucked away inside a computer for the extent of their lifetime, it’s no surprise that the overall design is utilitarian. Encased in a tough metal box, the WD Black features a sticker with some branding on the top, and the SATA 3 interface/plug at the bottom.
These particular internal hard disk drives come in both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch variations, so your specific needs will determine which is best for you. Because the 3.5-inch we tested is so big and bulky, it’s best suited for a desktop computer. You could use it in an external enclosure if you want, but 3.5-inch drives require quite a bit of power to operate, meaning you’ll need to plug it directly into a wall (in addition to having the USB for data transfer on your computer).
WD’s Black series has been the favorite for many over the years, with their boosted performance and reliability.
The 2.5-inch version is much smaller and works perfectly with most laptops or notebooks that have expandable storage. This size can also slip into an external enclosure for more portable storage, and the enclosure can be powered solely by a USB connection (no need to lug around a big AC cord).
The WD Black series of HDDs are best used as media storage devices for large file transfers on media-intensive projects. They are also excellent storage options for backing up things you want to keep safe, but can also be used for gaming (just keep in mind they will be very slow compared to an SSD or SSHD).
Setting up a new hard drive like this isn’t too complicated, but it will differ depending on how you plan to use it. Luckily, you can easily find instructions suited to your particular setup with either Google or YouTube. We’re going to cover how to install and use this HDD by plugging it into a desktop computer running Windows 10 and an external enclosure, which should cover the basics for most situations.
Because this is a “performance” drive, the HDD will be both loud and hot compared to something like the Blue series of drives from WD.
Begin by unboxing your hard drive, removing the moisture-blocking bag, and prepping your computer. Shut it down and unplug the power cable. If you need to attach brackets/supports to the sides of the drive so it can sit in the bay, do so now. Install the hard drive into the bay, plug in both the power supply cable and the data connector (SATA), and ensure they are fully connected. Manage any cables as you see fit, then close it all up.
Because this HDD lists “performance” right there in its name, we’re going to find out if it lives up to the hype. Below, we’ve listed Western Digital’s claims for the Black series of our version and put them up against our own results running CrystalDiskMark. WD also includes some handy software called Acronis True Image that can be used to test the drive, monitor its health, and help with data migration at no additional cost. Acronis is pretty useful, so it’s nice to have included with the purchase.
Also to mention quickly, because this is a “performance” drive, the HDD will be both loud and hot compared to something like the Blue series of drives from WD. This isn’t a negative per se, but it might be a factor that you should consider before buying.
Seeing how most hard drives that you’d pit against the WD Black will more likely fall in the average range of 80MB/s and 150MB/s, the Black series does indeed live up to its performance claims.
Here’s the specs WD has up right now for this Black HDD:
Using CrystalDiskMark on an Intel CPU, we recorded the following results (there can be variations on these results depending on the CPU model and manufacturer):
Based on these results, the specs WD put out are well within range of the tests, though a bit below the mark. These benchmarks are not flawlessly accurate compared to real-world use though, so that’s expected.
The Black series does indeed live up to its performance claims, and remains one of the fastest HDDs available.
Most hard drives that you’d pit against the WD Black will likely fall into the average range of 80MB/s and 150MB/s, so the Black series does indeed live up to its performance claims, and remains one of the fastest HDDs available. However, SATA 3 SSDs will hit something around 200MB/s to 400MB/s, making them vastly superior (albeit more expensive).
Obviously, the cost will vary depending on storage capacity and form factor, but the WD Black 4TB do cost a bit more than other HDDs.
Here’s a breakdown of each taken from WD’s website:
WD Black 2.5-inch
WD Black 3.5-inch
These prices can fluctuate depending on where you purchase your HDD, but these numbers taken from WD should give you an estimate as to how much you’ll pay. While they cost more than other HDDs in their class, the solid performance numbers, warranty, and endurance justify the prices. It’s hard to argue against getting a whopping 6TB of storage for about $200. Compare that to an SSD where you’d get maybe a third of the size for the same money.
Western Digital’s Black series of HDDs are geared towards those who want a balance of performance, large capacity, and price.
Because these two series put out by WD are one of the most commonly found while searching for an HDD solution, let’s take a quick look at them to compare which is right for you. The biggest thing you’ll notice is the price difference, with the Blue tending to be half as cheap. That makes sense because they’re noticeably slower in performance compared to the Black, but also because they take a hit in reliability.
Black HDDs from WD come with an excellent 5-year warranty, while Blue only has a measly 2 years. With the failure rate of HDDs, that could be a potential issue. Because of this, we’d definitely recommend going with the Black. If you are however trying to cut costs to the max, at least make sure you pick up a Blue HDD with an RPM of 7,200 versus 5,400. This will help close the performance gap a bit.
The optimal choice for a good HDD.
Western Digital’s Black series of HDDs are geared towards those who want a balance of performance, capacity, and price. The WD definitely delivers on those three key factors with the Black series, making them a great choice for potential buyers.