We previously discussed Samsung’s different product lines for their SSDs—more specifically, the differences between their QVO and EVO drives.
Despite performing the exact same tasks, there’s some fairly substantial differences between the two, even if it doesn’t matter all too much in the long run.
Western Digital’s (WD) own line of products—endearingly referred to as the “WD Rainbow”—follows this same logic.
While they may lack the prestige of household brands like Samsung, or the go-to budget power of Seagate, Western Digital has been around for quite some time, catering mainly to budget builders looking to get “good enough” performance on a budget.
Over the years, WD has expanded their assortment of products, so it helps to know what should be used for what.
WD Red Hard Drives
Considering the above, you might be surprised to see their line of “Red” Hard Drives (HDDs) being covered first, as—with very few exceptions—these drives are not meant to be used by the average consumer. Ranging from 1TB all the way to a whopping 18TB of storage (which is far more than a day-to-day user needs, and costs a whopping $400), it’s also split into 3 different variants: “Red”, “Red Plus,” and “Red Pro.”
While there are differences between the three, they’re all designed with a specific purpose in mind: Being used in a Network Attached Storage (NAS). Without going into too much detail, a NAS is an external storage device connected to a network, allowing the stored files to be accessed remotely. While there are NAS configurations designed to be used by only a few people, most are used for storing work or business files, and are capable of holding ~15-40TB of data.
Because they’re made with this specific use case in mind, there’s a few design choices that differentiate themselves from their Blue and Black counterparts. The most relevant of these is RPM. HDDS use a spinning platter—the higher the RPM, the faster the drive. With the exception of the (very expensive) Red Pro lineup, the WD Red drives spin at 5400 RPM, trading speed for improved longevity.
Unlike its Blue and Black counterparts, the Red product line also boasts substantial vibration protection. This is due to the fact that they’re often used alongside other similar (or identical) drives when placed inside a NAS—which is often in operation 24/7. This inevitably results in some level of noise and heat, which makes component quality all the more important.
WD Blue Hard Drives
The “Blue” moniker indicates more budget-friendly drives, skewed towards offering reasonable storage space and “good enough” performance.
Compared to the Red offerings, the Blue product line offerings are both smaller and more affordable, with a comparatively meager 8TB drive costing $140. On the flip side, though, the 1 and 2TB drives have 7200RPM variants, making them ~33% faster than non-Pro Red variants.
The Blue line of HDDs are meant to be an entry-level drive. While they’re not the fastest, they offer a solid blend of capacity and performance at a reasonable price. It’s worth noting that—due to the merging of the Blue and Green lines) the 2TB drive offers both 5400 and 7200 RPM variants—if looking to purchase one, be sure to select the faster of the two, unless you’re on an extreme budget, as the difference in price is ~$3.
Generally speaking, the WD Blue offerings serve their purpose well. While they don’t offer the “best performance” available (speaking in terms of mechanical storage), their combination of capacity and storage at a relatively low price still makes them a compelling choice for the average user—including those who may be more budget conscious.
WD Black Hard Drives
The “Black” drives offered by WD are more performance-oriented than their Blue counterparts. They trade quiet operation for improved performance and durability. On average, Black drives boast read and write speeds ~15% faster than Blue drives of identical sizes.
These improvements leave Black drives as a “step-up” from WD’s own Blue line, as well as from other average industry-standard drives. This increase in performance leaves them as an interim between HDDs and SSDs.
Solid State Drives (SSDs) have seen significant price drops in the last few years. Even brands like Samsung offer 1TB SSDs for around ~$110. WD themselves even offer a “Green” line of SSDs, with the 1TB model costing ~$80. This makes them competitors to the 2TB Black drive offered by WD, which carries a price tag of $85.
While the mentioned SSDs may only have half the capacity of the competing Black drive, they’re still worth considering, as they’ll offer significantly improved performance, longevity, and continue running quietly for their lifespan.
WD Blue vs. Black vs. Red: Which One is Best?
In conclusion, the WD Rainbow is designed to cater to all sorts of different users. The Red drives are meant to be used in storage arrays, Blue drives are meant to serve as entry-level drives, and the Black drives offer improved performance over a standard consumer HDD, leaving them as an interim between mechanical and electronic storage.