WD Sets the Record Straight: Lists All Drives That Use Slower SMR Tech 1

(Image credit: WD)

News emerged last week that WD, Seagate and Toshiba are all shipping hard drives using Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), a slower form of HDD technology that can result in reduced performance in some types of workloads, but without disclosing that critical bit of information in marketing materials or specification sheets. The backlash has been swift, and now WD is striking a conciliatory tone with its customers in an update to its blog. The company also divulged that it is also shipping SMR technology in some of its WD Blue and WD Black hard drives for desktop PCs and laptops. 

The new disclosure comes on the heels of WD’s blog post yesterday that outlined its stance on using SMR drives. The company contends that SMR technology is adequate for the applications the drives are designed for, but that is certainly an open matter of debate with many users claiming the drives cause problems in RAID arrays. The issues purportedly stem from the slow random write speeds, which do cause a measurable reduction in performance, and background activities that are purportedly responsible for the drives dropping from RAID arrays. (Quick explainer at the bottom of the article here.) In either case, The WD blog advised users they should step up to more expensive models designed for heavier workloads if they have more demanding needs.

Today the company updated its blog with a more conciliatory tone, and also disclosed all of its drive models that are shipping with SMR tech. In addition to the WD Red NAS drives that the company previously admitted used SMR tech, WD is also shipping the tech into its 2.5″and 3.5″ WD Blue and 2.5″ WD Black lineups. Both models are designed for desktop PCs and laptops, with the former coming as a value drive while the latter is designed for high-performance users. 

WD acknowledged the recent brouhaha surrounding the fact it was shipping drives without disclosing they use the slower recording technology, stating:

“The past week has been eventful, to say the least. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used. Your concerns were heard loud and clear. Here is that list of our client internal HDDs available through the channel:”

WD Drives with SMR Technology WD Red WD Red Pro WD Blue WD Black WD Purple
3.5″ 1TB or Below CMR CMR CMR CMR CMR
3.5″ 2TB – 6TB SMR CMR SMR/CMR CMR CMR
3.5″ 8TB and Above CMR CMR CMR
2.5″ 500GB or Below CMR CMR
2.5″ 1TB CMR SMR SMR
2.5″ 2TB SMR

The table above lists the WD drives that come with SMR technology and the drives that use the faster conventional magnetic recording (CMR). Importantly, the blog states, “…Thank you for letting us know how we can do better. We will update our marketing materials, as well as provide more information about SMR technology, including benchmarks and ideal use cases.”

That’s a welcome announcement for users who want to make the decision of when, and where, to use SMR drives in their systems and NAS arrays.

SMR does result in lower performance, but it enables cost savings that are attractive to some users, and if used in the correct types of workloads, those savings are worth the exchange of gaining access to deeper capacity. However, using SMR tech for desktop and laptop boot drives will likely remain a topic open for debate, as their underwhelming performance in sustained random write workloads could hamper performance in standard operating systems. 

WD’s blog also says the company will share further data in the future, including benchmarks that might prove otherwise, so we’ll have to wait to see what the company shares. As usual, the proof will be in independent third-party benchmarks, but it is encouraging to see WD confront the recent issues head on and promise to be more forthcoming in the future. We hope the other remaining HDD vendors follow suit.  

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