Today Western Digital updated their My Book series of external hard drives with the WD My Book World Edition II, an upgrade and redesign from the original World Edition line. WD designed the older World Edition drives as networked storage that could be accessed from anywhere. The new drives literally expand on this idea by adding a second drive for redundancy. Bundled with automatic backup software and streaming media utilities, the new and improved My Book World Edition II puts some pretty features in a pretty package. Read on for our full review.
The Western Digital My Book World Edition II will be available in two different configurations. The 2TB version featured in this review will run $399.99 while a more expansive 4TB version costs $699.99.
Build and Design
Western Digital first designed their book-inspired series of external hard drives a few years ago, and they've been refining the design ever since. It's for good reason, too: the drives always look elegant and fit in to any desk environment. Even though it's network storage, not something you need to sit right next to your computer, the thoughtful design means you don't need to hide it away in a closet, either. The holes cut into three of the drives edges look like Morse code, but provide a sharp-looking means of venting the drives inside.
The front of the drive features a small, translucent strip of plastic lit by white LEDs. The bar serves as both status light and power indicator. The simplistic design of the My Book drives mean there's little on the sides besides WD's two-letter logo.
On the rear of the device, however, are the ports and connections required to make the whole thing work. A sunken channel in the middle of the back serves to hold the power button, power jack, Ethernet port and USB2.0 port. The Ethernet port is what puts the My Book World Edition II on the network, but can also be connected directly to your computer without a crossover cable if your card supports it. Much like the Seagate BlackArmor we reviewed earlier this week, the USB port on the back of the My Book lets users add additional networked storage space just by plugging in a thumb drive or USB hard drive.
The top of the device looks just like the rear and the bottom, but near the front of the drive is a scooped out depression. Pressing the area reveals that the top actually raises up, granting access to the drives inside. This is a brilliant, brilliant feature, since external drives often prevent users from getting inside; when a drive dies, the whole thing ends up getting chucked in the trash. The new My Book makes it easy to replace the drives, meaning that when the two 1TB (or 2TB, depending on the model) drives get to be too small someday, users can just drop in two even bigger drives and greatly extend the usable life of the appliance.
Setup and Features
The new My Book World Edition II drives are designed to be easy to use and configure, since they're targeted toward home users that want to centralize their documents and media. The drive basically sets itself up once it's powered on and connected to the network. The user guide recommends that consumers wait at least three minutes for the drive to finish completely powering up before trying to configuration anything.
The included CD installs two main programs on your computer: WD Discovery and WD Anywhere Backup. WD Discovery automatically finds the My Book once its set up on your network; users don't need to dive into their router to look up the IP address. The discovery program also makes it very simple to map drive letters to the shared folders on the My Book's drives. A configure link automatically loads the web interface if users want to tinker around with individual settings, while the browse link brings the drive's shares up in Explorer or Finder.
Western Digital designed the web interface to be simple and clickable; the basic mode brings up 8 big buttons for users to click on depending on what they want to accomplish. If you feel a little more daring, or are comfortable with computers, there's an advanced mode, too. The advanced mode still uses the big buttons, but presents options to users that are hidden on the more basic configuration.
The new World Edition II supports iTunes and DLNA media streaming, meaning that users won't need to browse through a distant network share on the computer just to access media; it should appear automatically. The real draws to WD's new network drive, though, are the ease of backup and remote capabilities. Rather than try and code everything in house, WD licensed proven solutions from other companies, and it works out well for the end user. The backup software is powered by a company known as Memeo. Similar to Apple's Time Capsule technology, the new My Book can back up whole drives or user selectable files and folders. It can also store variants of a file, in case you accidentally delete or overwrite the one you needed.
Western Digital's remote access feature is powered by MioNet. MioNet's service typically costs $7.99 a month for full PC access; users who purchase one of these new My Books, however, won't have to pay anything additional in order to access the data on their drives. The web interface walks users through creating a MioNet account on their servers. Once set up, you can view all of your content through a regular web browser, and even send documents and other content back to your My Book over the internet. Users can also set up public and private shares, letting your family see a new photo album from your recent vacation, or your coworkers see a set of PowerPoint slides for your upcoming meeting.
The last Western Digital My Book World Edition was one of the fastest drives we've brought in for testing, so the new World Edition II has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it manages to perform pretty well over the network. Given how small the unit is, however, it would be nice to see an eSATA port or something similar so that you could rapidly access the drive's content via one computer while sharing it with everyone else through the network.
Atto is one of the standard synthetic benchmarks we use to test storage devices.
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 420
Iomega StorCenter ix2
Western Digital My Book World Edition
The new drive continues the legacy left by its forebears; while incremental, the drive is as much as 10% faster in some cases. Real world speeds will always depend on what size the files are as well as how many are being copied, but even then the drive was sufficiently speedy. We saw movies copy to the drive at between 17 and 20 megabytes per second over a gigabit network while read speeds could get as high as 50 megabytes per second, but typically averaged out to 35 or so. Users who feel a little more daring can trade the additional security of RAID1 for the increased speeds of RAID0, but double their chance of data loss by doing so.
Power usage was wear the drive really shines, however; powered by Western Digital's fantastic Caviar Green series, idle power usage was down to five and a half watts. Full powered and active, the drive generally only used between ten and twelve, though it would spike as high as fourteen when first powered up.
The new Western Digital My Book World Edition II may have a mouthful of a name, but it's certainly a worth addition to the the line. The look is stylish and modern, but elegant enough that users won't feel the need to hide it away in a closet or underneath their desk. The ability to replace drives with new or bigger ones goes a long way to making this drive a very good value. RAID1 adds a degree of redundancy to your backups, so if one drive dies, you won't necessarily lose it all. Speeds aren't amazing, but they are definitely solid. The power use, though, is truly fantastic and definitely makes the case for buying something like this over leaving a power hungry older desktop on all day.
The new drives are a little pricey; at $400 for 2TB and $700 for 4TB, users will have to decide whether it's worth it to spend that much. Considering that 2TB drives are currently around $300, however, the value is still pretty worthwhile. If you're looking for some central place to store your data, you can't go wrong with this versatile and efficient gem.
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