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Through the years we've had the chance to review several 3.5" and 2.5" HDD models ranging from normal everyday ones ideal for consumer use and up to enterprise class ones designed for 24/7 heavy duty workloads. However no matter how many HDDs we've gotten our hands onto we never really got interested in testing an enterprise class self-encrypting model since we just didn't feel it was needed. That changed recently when some readers asked us whether or not self-encrypting models share the same performance numbers as their normal brothers and since we too were quite interested as well we decided to check it out. Of course aside the self-encrypting drive itself we also needed to have the normal version in our hands and what better candidate than the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 (AKA Constellation ES.3) 4TB drives by Seagate which we reviewed a while back? So today plugged into our primary test rig we have the latest Enterprise Capacity 3.5 SED 4TB SATA III drive by Seagate.
Founded in 1979, Seagate is the leading provider of hard drives and storage solutions. From the videos, music and documents we share with friends and family on social networks, to servers that form the backbone of enterprise data centers and cloud-based computing, to desktop and notebook computers that fuel our personal productivity, Seagate products help more people store, share and protect their valuable digital content. Seagate offers the industry’s broadest portfolio of hard disk drives, solid-state drives and solid-state hybrid drives. In addition, the company offers an extensive line of retail storage products for consumers and small businesses, along with data-recovery services for any brand of hard drive and digital media type. Seagate employs more than 50,000 people around the world.
Self-encrypting drives are quite unique since they offer hardware-based AES-256 data encryption and enhanced secure erase capability. Such feature is possible via a circuit built into the controller chip which in turn allows on the fly encryption with the help of a key (provided either by the user or the system/network) which is used both while data is written and retrieved giving the end user the highest level of data protection currently available. The Enterprise Capacity V3 3.5/Constellation ES.3 SED 4TB SATA III drive is also FIPS 140-2 (level 2) certified which means that aside hardware encryption it also either features tamper-evident coatings and/or seals (must be broken in order for someone to gain physical access to the cryptographic keys and critical security parameters) or pick-resistant locks on covers or doors (thus providing extra protection against unauthorized physical access). All of the above must sound really sweet for people who work with mission critical data and thus may need such features but do they hinder the performance of the drive, that's up to us to find out.