The WD Red ‘5400 RPM Class’ NAS hard drives actually spin at 7,200rpm.
One of the key specifications present on any hard drive is how fast it spins, with 5,400rpm and 7,200rpm being the two most well-known spinning speeds. However, Western Digital is muddying the waters by classifying some of its 7,200rpm drives as “5400 RPM Class.” Confused? You’re not the only one.
As Ars Technica reports, Western Digital marks some of its WD Red Network Attached Storage hard drives as having a Performance Class of “5400 RPM Class,” which suggests these drives spin at 5,400rpm. Even the firmware on the drives reports 5400 RPM, but spectral analysis carried out by Reddit user Amaroko has confirmed these drives are actually spinning at 7,200rpm.
Although many consumers may be happy to find the hard drive they thought spun at 5,400rpm actually spins much faster, meaning higher performance, there are other consequences. Faster spin speed means more power is used by these drives and just as importantly, they emit more noise. In a NAS setup, which is what these drives are marketed as being for, both power use and noise levels are important, and arguably more so than performance.
The use of “5400 RPM Class” therefore seems misleading, and Western Digital’s official response to the discovery does little to clarify the situation. A representative responded to Ars Technica’s enquiry with the following statement:
“For select products, Western Digital has published RPM speed within a “class” or “performance class” for numerous years rather than publishing specific spindle speeds. We also fine-tune select hard drive platforms and the related HDD characteristics to create several different variations of such platforms to meet different market or application needs. By doing so, we are able to leverage our economies of scale and pass along those savings to our customers. As with every Western Digital product, our product details, which include power, acoustics and performance (data transfer rate), are tested to meet the specifications provided on the product’s data sheet and marketing collateral.”
It seems Western Digital could easily clear up any confusion by simply making the spindle speed clear as part of each drive’s listed specification. But for now, just be aware that the number you think represents spindle speed on Western Digital hard drives might simply be a performance class instead and not representative.
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