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Monday, January 4, 2010

WD My Book Studio Review

WD My Book Studio
My review for this week is the Western Digital My Book Studio hard disk drive.  Featuring Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 interfaces, an E-Ink display for volume information, WD GreenPower HDD for power and heat savings, and all packaged in an elegant silver box.

Initial impressions of the drive:
1. Product lighter and smaller than expected.  Bottom Heavy.
2. E-Ink display still showed Videos 09, at first I thought it was a sticker to protect the screen.  Neat to see it holds state that long
3. Includes Firewire 800, 800-400 adapter, USB cable standard mini type, and small AC power adapter, but the plug is part of the adapter so it takes more surge protector space.
4. Looks aluminum but it is plastic.
5. AC Power Adapter supplemental instructions had many typos and were poorly translated.

Setting up the Drive
Easy, but not totally as per the directions.  The software tried to get me to use it to backup using there software instead of time machine at first.  Don't recall exactly what I did to make it work, I don't think I had to do anything.  The first thing to do is install the WD SmartWare software.  There is no getting rid of the icon on the desktop or opting out of using the software.  However, the drive seems reliable with no random disconnects as of yet.  My other external HDD would randomly disconnect.

Once the software is installed be sure to open the SmartWare program and go to "Settings" -> "Setup my Software" -> "Preferences" -> uncheck "Open WD SmartWare when Drive is Connected" or it will get really annoying every time the Time Machine backup runs and it opens the WD SmartWare window saying it is categorizing your files.

Run "System Preferences" -> "Time Machine" and select the volume mounted on the desktop as the time machine backup.  There is two volumes, one for the WD SmartWare and one for My Book (or whatever your volume is named).  Be sure to select the actual hard drive, My Book.

Right click on the WD SmartWare CD icon (which WD claims is a "virtual CD", or VCD) and eject it.  It might come back later though.  If it does, you are stuck with the extra icon until WD decides to release the update for My Book users.

Using the Drive
My 260 GB Time Machine full backup took maybe 2 hours, which is fairly reasonable.  This wasn't as fast as the peak performance of the drive, but I was doing other operations on the computer while it was running.  I decided to test out the Firewire 800 v. USB 2.0 performance to see if it was worthwhile to use the FW800, and the answer is most definitely "YES!".

FW800 Write Performance
Large File: 1,493,332,688 bytes
Transfer Time: 23 seconds
Transfer Rate: 62 MB/s

Medium Files: 4,715,060,789 bytes
385 items
Transfer Time: 69 seconds
Transfer Rate: 65 MB/s

USB2.0 Write Performance
Large File: 1,493,332,688 bytes
Transfer Time: 42 seconds
Transfer Rate: 34 MB/s

Medium Files: 4,715,060,789 bytes
385 items
Transfer Time: 130 seconds
Transfer Rate: 35 MB/s

After using the drive for a while, there were a few things I noticed:
1: The drive automatically mounts when firewire plugged in
2: The WD SmartWare is too intrusive
3: The E-Ink screen is hard to read in a dark corner
4: The drive is quiet but audible.  No jet engine taking off, but it makes your standard hard drive noises.  Enclosure well ventilated, with vents on three edges.
5: Nice that disk utilization and label remains after you shut off the power

A nice external hard drive with some unique features, but the intrusive software might bother some users.  There aren't a lot of choices for Firewire 800 drives for mac users, and this is certainly a sound offering with about twice the performance of the USB 2.0 connection.  For the 1 TB FW800 drives, the LaCie d2 Quadra might also be worth a look.

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