Western Digital has taken two of its 3-terabyte (TB) hard disks to create a hugely capacious 6-terabyte desktop drive – if you don’t mind living dangerously. Or live safely with around 3TB of mirrored storage.
The 6TB WD My Book Studio II has the same fat case design we’ve seen before on units like the My Book World Edition NAS drive. It’s a box the height of a paperback, and the thickness of an old-testament hardback. It’s well sized to sit discreetly on a bookshelf though.
The use of two low-power WD Caviar Green drives inside the WD My Book Studio II means the unit is not too noisy in use; in an office environment it shouldn’t add too much to the ambient noise, although it’ll still be too thrummy for quiet lounge use.
The disks inside the WD My Book Studio II must be configured in a RAID 0 or 1 array using WD’s DriveManager software, available for Windows and Mac.
In RAID 0 you’ll get the full benefit of all that storage space, around 5.6TB after formatting, but with the attendant certainty of losing all your data should either disk fail.
RAID 1 mirrors data between disks, leaving you with the same capacity as one disk, around 2.8TB. Missing from the setup options is a JBOD arrangement, to let you access two individual drives or a single concatenated volume.
You can service the WD My Book Studio II unit yourself when one drive dies, with the ventilated top lid hinging up to give you access to pull out a disk.
WD bills the My Book Studio II as a quad-interface drive, although it’s more accurately described as tri-interface with its FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and eSATA ports. There are two FireWire connectors to facilitate daisy-chaining, and these are backwards compatible to FireWire 400 of course, just as USB 2.0 is with USB 1.1.
That line-up of ports on the WD My Book Studio II promises some high-speed connectivity: with eSATA available the drives ought to be accessible as quickly as a PC’s internal drive. But the unit is marketed more at Mac users, for whom eSATA is not so easily available. Instead they can take advantage of the fast FireWire 800 connections.
Mac users also have freedom from worries about disk size issues: while modern operating systems have no problems with disks greater than 2TB in size, Windows XP users will see the limitations of the obsolete OS when their PCs can’t use this storage correctly. And even Windows Vista and 7 users may be confused by the GPT partition map, essential to replace old-school MBR.
There’s no E Ink panel on this WD My Book Studio II model to label the drive or give an indication of free drive space, but you do get a white LED-backlit stripe which sweeps up and down when the drive is accessed.
The casework is silver-sprayed plastic, a little creaky when handled, featuring WD’s morse-code messages around the ‘page leaf’ sides, these holes aiding passive air-cooled ventilation.
We tried the eSATA connection first. Beware which cable you try here – there’s no eSATA cable included, and we found the socket to be recessed too much for some eSATA plugs to connect.
Configured in RAID 0, we measured read/write speeds at 117MB/s and 100MB/s respectively, with write speed dropping to 93MB/s in RAID 1.
USB 2.0 is a handy fallback option for any computer platform, but remains the slowest connection method: up to 36MB/s was seen for reads and writes in the Windows ATTO Bench32 test for RAID 1.
Mac users, meanwhile, can enjoy FireWire 800 transfer speeds of around 60MB/s (read) and 53MB/s (write) in the same RAID 1 setup, according to Disk Speed Test.app.
We also tried file copy tests with FireWire 800, which suggested sustained read speeds of 85MB/s were possible.