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WD Green 2TB review: affordable secondary storage [updated]
Update: Since the first draft of this review was released, WD has stressed that the drives are not meant to be used in a NAS array even if they were shipped within one. So, being the good Samaritan that I am, I agreed to re-review just one drive in my secondary system at home, firstly for the hell of it and secondly, to understand the WD Green 2TB as a lone wolf, not a pack animal. The update can be found lower down in the review.
There are hundreds of forums across the internet with consumers pondering the difference between WD‘s array of colour-named drives. Currently, consumer offerings consist of the Black, Red, Blue and Green line, with each geared for slightly different usage scenarios.
The Black drives are for the performance enthusiasts or those with money in the bank, while the Red drives are mainly used for network storage or reliable data retention in RAID arrays. The Blue drives are probably the closest to the bog-standard drive, and then come the WD Green drives.
These spinners often get a fair amount of hate from the online community, and have thus largely fallen out of favour for those building performance rigs. It’s a shame though, because the WD Green drivers are largely billed at secondary drives, not those that lead the line. Think of them as the Secretary of State rather than the President.
With that said, I got a hefty old delivery from WD the other day, consisting of four 2TB WD Greens within one D-Link ShareCenter NAS. Granted, it’s common practice to ship drives like this but it gave me a thought: “Yes, WD Greens are generally used as ‘slave’ drives, if you will, but how do they perform in a NAS?”
First of all, let’s look at the WD Green on paper, singularly.
As the “Green” title would suggest, the drives focus on reduced power consumption and heat emission while sacrificing raw platter speed. The drives come with WD’s GreenPower technology, that effectively throttles the drive’s RPM based on load and cache requirements. It works well for secondary drives, as this drops the power usage and heat emitted by the drives.
“NoTouch Ramp Load Technology also protects the drive by ensuring the recording head never touches the disk media, reducing wear and tear to the head and increases drive reliability,” notes WD on its support page.
The Greens max out at 5400RPM, and that is primarily a standard you’ll find in laptop drives, but the speed does vary thanks to GreenPower. Sizes range from 500GB up to 6TB, which allows users an array of options to choose from.
And of course, like most desktop drives, they will require a 3.5-inch drive bay within the computer case.
Now, how do they perform and what are they like to use?
Update: These drives are not meant to perform in a NAS device, so as a result, this is a little updated section of the review.
As primary and secondary drives in a PC
Since the first draft of the review, I’ve used one WD Green 2TB in my relatively old 775 socket system, and it’s been buzzing away quite unmoved frankly. It’s set up to be the primary drive in this scenario, and while it is still slow in terms of reading scattered OS files, it sips power. There’s a nice trade off. I’ve found that the drives run a lot cooler too, but if you were looking to build a gaming rig, or a relatively swift video editing jack-of-all-trades, this wouldn’t be the drive to lead the line (like I’ve mentioned before).
The high-performance WD Blacks, or cheaper WD Blues, are probably much better spinning primary drives, but of course, I’d still recommended an SSD in that scenario.
As far as running as a secondary drive goes, it’s still an avid performer. This is really it’s intended purpose. It activates when needed, idles-to-stop when not, sips power, varies RPM to suit heat and power output. Perfect, really.
The WD Green drives also, arguably, offer the best price-to-storage ratio at the moment, so if storage is what you want or need, the WD Greens are a good choice.
Within a NAS (Not recommended)
Look, let’s just get this out of the way immediately. You shouldn’t buy these drives if you’re looking for outright performance. GreenPower does well to spin the drives up when needed, but ultimately the drives won’t compete against the likes of the WD Blacks or Seagate’s Barracuda range.
As secondary drives though, they perform just adequately.
Large storage banks for a relatively low fee (the 2TB can be had for around R1400) the trade off is valid for those just wanting to store things. In that sense, the WD Greens are a perfect match for systems using high-speed SSDs.
Within NAS configurations though, you should probably stave away from the Greens.
Although I had them buzzing away quite fine within the D-Link ShareCenter, it wasn’t in a RAID configuration of any kind. Thanks to the GreenPower system, I wouldn’t quite chance running them in RAID either — sudden drops in RPM could play havoc with storage.
Nevertheless, with the drives running in JBOD — each as a separate volume — I could find no fault, not in the two weeks that I tested them.
Keeping them on constantly is also a non-issue. Thanks to the intelligent power management, the drives spin down to a complete halt if no read/writes are scheduled, which is frankly glorious if you’re using them as backup drives in a server a low-use media centre.
Heat was not an issue in the D-Link ShareCenter though, but temperatures did climb into the high 40 degree Celsius range, with ambient room temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius. A NAS with better cooling would get much better results.
With all that said, I don’t quite see what the issue is with WD Green drives. Those using them as primary drives should be slapped, as they aren’t quite designed for that. WD’s Blue range would serve well in a low-cost gaming PC or budget build, but not the Greens.
Understandably, I can’t speak of the drives’ reliability after spending half-a-month with them, but I didn’t have any conceivable issues: no damaged sectors, no untoward transfer speed drops, no hissing or buzzing noises emanating from their enclosures.
Value and Price
For around R1400, a 3TB WD Green is probably the best drive deal in South Africa at the moment for a few bucks more than a WD Green 2TB. Of course, the lower down the storage range you go, the less MB/Rand you receive.
If you’re looking for a cheap always-on drive for a budget machine, the Greens won’t be a good choice, rather save a bit more and get the WD Blues, but if you’re building a NAS or server and don’t fancy running the drives in RAID, the Greens will do just fine spinning down when they feel fit.
Verdict: WD Greens are perfect as secondary, low work-rate drives for storage and backups, but I wouldn’t quite trust them to lead the line. They also do well in a NAS as separate drives (but this is not recommended by WD even if I found no issue with them in non-RAID arrays), and if you’re running a bit thin on your budget, they give you more bang for your buck than the WD Red NAS drives. Nevertheless, they do offer the best bang for the buck, and there’s no much more consumers can ask for.