Ask Gizmodo: Which 4TB Hard Drive Should I Buy?

Hi guys, I really need to buy a new hard drive — but I am torn between the choice of a WD Black 4TB which is currently $309 on PC Case Gear or a Toshiba 4TB, which unfortunately they have stopped selling but other sites I think still do. However Toshiba also have the X300 series but I haven't found any reviews on them. I was wondering if possible if you could do a comparison on them regarding performance and their pricing. Cheers, Peter

Hard drive image via Shutterstock

Hi Peter,

I haven't had the opportunity to directly compare the WD Black 4TB and Toshiba's variant, but I can offer some general advice for picking a new drive. Those two drives are very similar — they're both 4TB 7200rpm SATA3 disks with multiple platters, and you should expect transfer rates of around 170MBps — because for the most part, mechanical (spinning disk) hard drives of a similar capacity will have broadly similar performance statistics, unless you choose an enterprise-grade drive or a solid-state hybrid disk like the WD Blue or Seagate Desktop SSHD.

The easiest way to differentiate between models is to look at warranty and reliability, and then compare drives' prices with that in mind. If one drive is significantly more reliable, or has a significantly better warranty period than its competitor, at only a slight increase in price — remember, you're spending this money over at least three years — then that's the one I'd pick.

On the matter of hard drive longevity, I'm always happy to defer to the experts — the people that use them every day, in the thousands, for months and years on end in a 24/7 environment. BackBlaze's Q3 2015 hard drive reliability tests clearly shows HGST (formerly Hitachi) drives with a quarter of the long-term failure rate of their competitors, with everyone else roughly equal. A November 2013 test by BackBlaze of 25,000 hard drives also found that only half of all drives will last to six years, although reliability within the first year is a bigger issue than the second or third — so you should always have a backup strategy in place.

On warranty, the WD Black is notable for its excellent 5-year warranty, while the Toshiba apparently has a 3-year one. That's a pretty clear point in the Western Digital's favour, especially if you plan on using it for long-term storage rather than as a stepping stone to some other drive. As usual, you should consider the wonderful alternative that is a SSD plus a smaller mechanical disk for longer-term backups. [BackBlaze]

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