Category Archives: Tech Reviews

Western Digital RE 4TB Review

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Western Digital RE 4TB

The WD RE 4TB drive is specifically meant to handle an enterprise workload, but don’t let that scare you off, as it includes a desktop-friendly SATA 6Gb/s interface. As long as you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should be able to format it into one partition somewhat easily, though you could use it as a boot drive if you’re insane. Its enterprise pedigree is evident not only in its RE branding but in its 1.2 million-hour MTBF, or mean time between failure. This means you should be using this drive at least until Apple Maps for iOS has caught up to Google Maps.

Western Digital’s first 4TB SATA hard drive is the one to get if you have a lot of data (and money).

Though we appreciate the nod to reliability and certainly abhor flaky hard drives, our primary concern in storage affairs is speed. WD designed the RE 4TB to offer the highest specs possible for a drive of this type, fitting it with a large 64MB buffer and five 800GB platters. Now, this isn’t a perfect scenario—we’d prefer a drive with 1TB platters, as is the case with some 3TB drives, such as the Seagate Barracuda 3TB, but right now if you want 4TB and 7,200rpm you get five-platters, so make your peace with it.

In terms of real-world performance, you won’t miss that extra platter too much, as this 4TB drive is just a bit slower than the 3TB Barracuda but also slightly faster than several of its 3TB competitors. In sequential-read tests, we saw the WD drive run neck-and-neck with its Hitachi counterpart, with both of them averaging 132MB/s, while the 1TB-per-platter Seagate averaged 155MB/s. The WD Caviar Green 3TB can’t hold a candle to these speeds, though, and neither can the 5,400rpm 4TB Hitachi 5K4000, which is not surprising.

Our current Adobe Premiere encoding test writes a 20GB raw AVI file to the drive being tested. The WD RE ran right alongside SSDs in this test, which means our test is past its prime and is gated by CPU and application performance these days. However, it was a tad faster than the Hitachi drive in this test despite their similar write speeds. In our “real-world” PCMark Vantage hard drive test, the WD RE 4TB placed third overall compared to other 3- and 4TB drives. Its performance makes it one of the fastest high-capacity drives we’ve tested and the fastest 4TB model we’ve seen thus far.

So it’s fast, and it’s huge. That must mean the price is equally massive, right? Yes, that is correct! It is hugely expensive at $460, which seems ludicrous. That will be a deal-breaker for many, plain and simple. A data center manager looking to reduce the storage footprint by 33 percent may see value here, but the average desktop user is better served with smaller drives. You can buy 2TB drives for roughly $110, so if you’re just looking for fast storage, they’ll work just fine. If you need maximum capacity per SATA port, we have no problem recommending the WD RE 4TB, but like any new technology, it’s prohibitively expensive at this time.

Price $460,www.wd.com

Note: This review appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.

Western Digital 4TB RE

Grumpy cat

Lots of storage; semi-affordable; fast.

Nyan cat

Not 1TB per platter; 3x cost of 3TB drive.

Benchmark

Best scores are bolded.All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel Core i3-2100 CPU on an Asus P8P67 Pro (Rev 3.1) motherboard with 4GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.All tests performed using native Intel 6Gb/s SATA chipset with IRST version 10.1 drivers.

Thermaltake New Soprano Review

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A soprano could sing inside of this case and you’d never hear it

Finding a chassis that successfully combines practical noise dampening, useful features, and cooling can be a bit of a needle in the haystack sometimes—but in this case (pardon the pun), that’s Thermaltake’s New Soprano. The solid construction of this chassis creates an upgrading or installation experience that’s free of frustration. Our only complaint with the case, if you can really call it that, is that it lacks pizazz.

Thermaltake Soprano

This case might look fairly simple on the outside, but it has just about everything you’d ever want or need. Trust us.

That said, give us function over pretty lights any day.

The jet-black exterior of the case uses a front-panel door to create a sleek, uncluttered aesthetic by allowing you to hide your components when you aren’t specifically using them. The door doubles as an excellent noise-dampener and, we argue, a heavier-than-you-might-expect blunt object for use when squaring off against midnight intruders or zombie hordes. 

Two USB 3.0 ports sit alongside two USB 2.0 ports on the top-front of the case; we’re even more enthusiastic about the built-in hot-swap hard drive docking station for 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives that Thermaltake’s constructed on the top of the chassis itself. It’s a delightful and unexpected addition to the case that brings a lot of extra connectivity without harming the case’s overall look or feel.

On the inside, Thermaltake uses four simple locking mechanisms to keep your 5.25-inch device held tightly. Installing an optical drive requires you to remove the drive bay’s front panels—easily done without having to rip off any part of the case’s front. Four screwless hard drive trays rest behind the case’s secret weapon: a huge, blue-LED, 20cm fan that delivers plenty of air over your drives without blowing out your eardrums to do so. Above the primary 3.5-inch bays rests a single additional 3.5-inch drive bay and a single 2.5-inch bay for your solid-state needs (neither one screwless). Thermaltake positions the thumbscrews for the case’s seven expansion slots on the exterior of the case. While that saves you a little room on the inside—giving the case space for a video card up to 12.2-inches in length—it also means that it’s really hard to actually use your fingers to tighten or loosen the screws.

Thermaltake Soprano

Thermaltake pulls out all the stops to make it as easy as possible for you to install or upgrade parts—minus the expansion slots, which will require a screwdriver.

Motherboard standoffs are built directly into the case—an excellent touch that saves would-be system builders a bit of time and hassle. A huge hole on the upper half of the motherboard tray exposes your CPU area for easier installation of aftermarket coolers, and that’s joined by five other holes on the tray itself (four rubberized) for cable management. There’s plenty of room between the rear of the tray and the case’s right side panel, even including the acoustical foam that Thermaltake’s attached to the panel to give your ears a respite.

The only other fan in the case is a single, 12cm exhaust fan attached to its rear, and the only other fan you can install beyond that would be an optional 12cm intake fan on the case’s bottom. That’s the trade-off of having a “sound-proof” rig: more potential for heat. However, Thermaltake’s done a masterful job of addressing this issue while building out a case that’s packed with just about everything you’d want to have—assuming you care more about function than flash.

Price $120, www.thermaltakeusa.com

Note: This review was taken from the February 2013 issue of the magazine.

Thermaltake Soprano

Plus

Good cooling; great soundproofing; mostly easy installation; slick aesthetics.

Minus

Expansion slots a little fussy with thumbscrews; case isn’t extraordinarily “flashy.”

Corsair H80i Review

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Super cool in every respect

When Corsair released its closed-loop H80 water cooler in 2011, we found it to be one of the best-performing dual-fan kits available. It was also very loud at full blast and cumbersome to install, and the updated H80i model sets out to address these issues while also improving performance.

Corsair H80i

The H80i’s water block features a logo that can change colors according to temperature.

At first glance the H80i doesn’t appear to differ much from its predecessor, but there are a number of key upgrades. First, at 1.4cm thick, the coolant tubes are nearly twice as fat to help increase coolant flow. Also, the two 12cm fans are now based on Corsair’s high static-pressure Air Series SP120 fans and run a bit quieter than the previous model’s fans. Finally, Corsair now includes its Corsair Link software with the kit, rather than making it an expensive add-on, allowing you to control all the functions of the kit from within Windows. The software provides a range of controls for fan and pump speeds and overall performance, but the coolest feature is that the logo on the water block can be customized to change color according to CPU temperatures. For anything below 70 C, we had the light shine blue and anything above displayed red. 

Corsair has gone to great lengths to simplify the installation process, as it includes one of the best manuals we’ve seen, with clear instructions and excellent diagrams, and the parts are all easy to combine, as well. First you attach a backplate (the H80i supports all modern CPU sockets except for Intel’s LGA775), then tighten four standoffs around the CPU socket. Where Corsair has really simplified things is with its magnetic mounting bracket, which just slides onto the top of the water block until it snaps into place. Mounting the water block onto the CPU also requires just four screws, and then eight screws are needed to sandwich the radiator between the two fans and the chassis. The last step is to plug the fans into the water block and connect the system’s three cables (SATA for power, fans, and USB cable for the software) into their respective plugs. 

Though that’s more cables than we’re used to seeing for a CPU cooler, the added functionality they offer is worth it. The Corsair Link software allows you to choose from more than a half-dozen preset fan speed profiles (Quiet, Performance, Balanced, and more) and also allows you to customize and save your own presets. You can set individual fans at specific RPMs or set specific temperature ceilings at which they spin up. The icing on the cake is that the highly tweakable software is easy to use.

When we set the kit to quiet mode using Corsair Link, the cooler was near silent and outperformed our zero-point Hyper 212 Evo air cooler by almost 4 C under load. When we switched to performance mode, the fans revved up appropriately and sounded like a small wind tunnel, but its cooling performance was unmatched in its class, beating its very cool predecessor by roughly 3 C, and Thermaltake’s Water2.0 Pro dual-fan kit by 4 C. It also decimated our zero-point air-cooler by over 11 C. 

The H80i isn’t without its issues, however. At $110 bucks it’s expensive, and it should have come with a software CD (you’re supposed to download it), but those are our only complaints. We like that it has the flexibility to be either super cool under load or amazingly quiet at idle, and everything in between, thanks to its elegant software. When you factor in its simple installation process and nifty LED options, it’s clear Corsair has a winner on its hands with the H80i.

Price $110, www.corsair.com

Benchmarks

Note: This review was taken from the March 2013 issue of the magazine.

Corsair H80i

The Dark Knight

Great cooling performance; very customizable fan speeds; simple installation.

The Dark Knight Rises

Expensive; Corsair Link software should come in the box.

Specifications