This WD My Book Studio desktop hard drive from Western Digital offers plenty of storage, up to 3TB in one very modestly sized and stylish metal chassis.
When we looked at the dual-bay My Book Studio II from WD recently, we couldn’t help but admire the advantage of putting two high-capacity drives in one smart box. That unit has the option of mirroring or striping data between internal disks, for safety or speed respectively.
But we were less taken by the overall finish – creaky plastic sprayed to look like aluminium. Thankfully, we have no such criticisms here.
The WD My Book Studio for Mac could very well be an Apple product, given its supreme build quality, not to mention its very styling. It follows the design trend first set by Apple with the launch of the PowerMac G5 eight years ago: satin-finish aluminium sheet casework with perforated ventilation holes. It’s an enduring look that survives to today in the current Mac Pro workstations.
The WD My Book is available in the UK in three capacities, either 1TB, 2TB or 3TB. Recommended prices are £120, £153 and £205 respectively, although when we tested the largest version, which we’ve seen on sale for around £160.
More than skin deep
Inside the WD My Book Studio is one of the company’s low-power hard disks, a WD Caviar Green. These spin slower, draw less power and produce less noise and vibration than traditional 7200rpm disks, at the expense of a little performance.
But performance is less an issue for a desktop drive using older connection standards which don’t realise the speed of the hard disks inside anyway.
In the case of the WD My Book, it includes one mini-USB 2.0 port and a pair of FireWire 800 ports (backwards compatible with original FireWire 400, facilitated by an 800-to-400 cable in the box).
A small external adaptor provides the 12V required to power the drive, and a Kensington lock socket on the rear lets you anchor it to a desk for a little theft security. There’s no separate power switch, but the drive spins up when a cable is hooked up, and powers down elsewhen.
Security is available for the data within. The My Book Studio includes WD’s SmartWare software, a general purpose suite of tools that includes software for automatically backing up designated folders to the WD drive, as well as for restoring archived drive data to your computer afterwards.
Like the My Book Passport portable drive, the My Book Studio includes hardware encryption that’s always switched on.
Whether you choose to password protect the drive is your choice, and you can elect to set or remove a password at any time. But since your data is always scrambled with 256-bit encryption, you won’t be able to pull out the disk inside and use in any old enclosure in the event the WD My Book Studio case should develop a fault.
The WD SmartWare software has improved fractionally since we last tried it. Built around Adobe's Flash to make a cheap cross-platform solution, it installs itself at a low level on the host computer with admin privileges. Once there, it’s running all the time in the background, but at least now it doesn’t waste as many CPU cycles – we saw only about 6-10% processor load when it was categorizing files in the background, where once it was closer to 100%.
The interface looks reasonably accessible, but being built with Adobe’s half-baked tools means it breaks several Mac interface standards. It has wrongly coloured close/minimise/maximise buttons, and refuses to accept drag commands from the mouse until the window is focused. It also exhibits faulty drop shadow details.
In use, the WD My Book Studio is surprisingly quiet; to extend Western Digital’s bookish metaphor, this unit is up to finger-shushing reference library standards. We’ve heard the Caviar Green mounted in desktop enclosures before, but this one take the award for nearest to near-silent operation.
Performance is very good, about as good as the two chosen interface types will allow. Connected by USB 2.0 we saw writes up to 27.8MB/s and reads up to 37.2MB/s in the AJA System Test benchmark for OS X. That was using 128MB data files and full-HD 10-bit video frames.
Marginally faster sequential speeds were recorded in Intech QuickBench, part of the SpeedTools suite. Here performance reached 28.2MB/s when writing (50MB test files); and 37.7MB/s reads (1MB test).
Note that the latter best-case USB 2.0 transfer equates to just over 300Mbps – a very good result for a USB 2.0 device. Remember that, next time you see a USB 2.0 product promising ‘480Mbps' transfers.
FireWire 800 was naturally faster, and here QuickBench showed peak reads of 73MB/s and writes up to 67MB/s – both sterling results, if as short as ever of the standard’s promised 100MB/s (‘800Mbps’) performance.
Using QuickBench’s standard test (4kB-1024kB) for random read/write access – which is anyway a more telling result for real-world daily usage than sequential – the drive showed averages of 17MB/s reads, and 41MB/s writes.
To improve performance further just requires a faster interface. We know that the disk inside is capable of almost twice the peak speed of FireWire 800 measured here.
Now that Apple has equipped most of its Macintosh range with Thunderbolt connectors, the ball is decidely in Western Digital’s court to make use of the opportunity and future-proof its legacy-ported drives like this My Book Studio.