WD Purple and Seagate Surveillance Hard Drives

By John Honovich, Published Feb 25, 2014, 12:00am EST

Western Digital wants our help marketing their new hard drives to "fly by night type folks", explaining to us that you could still be valuable until IT people wipe you out.

When presented in such a flattering way, we felt obliged to comply. What great magic does a 'purple' hard dive hold?

Purple Overview

Purple is the 5th color in the Western Digital lineup, joining the entry level blue, 'earth friendly' green, NAS focused red and high end black. WD says Purple sits right in the middle and, more importantly, optimized for surveillance.

When asked what WD is doing that is so special, they said they could not tell us because competitors would immediately replicate it, ruining their competitive advantage. So it is yet another surveillance storage 'secret sauce'.

WD did identify a few specific aspects of the Purple surveillance drives:

  • Focused on writes, instead of pre-emptive caching
  • Adds TLER (time limited error recovery [link no longer available]) a feature on their enterprise offerings
  • AllFrame 'Technology' which they claim smoothens playback.

Evidently, the technical difference with other drives is primarily firmware as WD mentions how they flashed existing hard drives to make them 'purple'.

Here is their 1 minute marketing video promo:

The key highlight is the dramatization of the recorder locking up when a person is walking through a door. That said, typically this is not a common problem.

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WD projects purple pricing at $90 for a 1TB drive, $120 for a 2TB, $160 for a 3TB and $200 for a 4TB. Again, more expensive than green but less expensive than black.

Benefits of Going Purple?

Benefits are unclear. By their own marketing claims, performance improvements for systems with 16 channels or less is minimal. Plus, the drives are only specified for a max of 32 HD cameras and 5 TBs per month max recording (which is fairly low).However, for more than 32 HD cameras, they recommend their Se [link no longer available] and Re [link no longer available] series.

Theoretically, then, systems with 20 something HD cameras could find this beneficial but the vast majority of surveillance applications are outside this range (with the mass market in particular being under 20).

Additionally, compared to non-WD drives, they are claiming a 1 - 2 watt power consumption decrease, though we cannot validate that.

The clearest benefit for WD is likely on marketing, as they now have a surveillance specific offering to point to / sell, rather than their general offerings.


IPVM's favorite hard drive survey revealed that about half of integrators preferred WD or Seagate drives. Within WD, their favorite was the Black line. Purple aims to be moderately less expensive than Black so it could offer some savings for those who prefer WD. By contrast, on the Seagate side, their SV35 was the most frequently cited surveillance drive for integrators. Indeed, Seagate has also just announced a new SV35 version (see comment below for details on this).

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