Product Review: Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II External Hard Drive
By Shawn Soni
The Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II is an attractive, burnished aluminum dual-drive storage system. It’s an appealing and truly functional addition to any studio computer setup. The unit is about the size of a boxed set of "Lord of the Rings" paperbacks and weighs just slightly more. The Studio Edition II will be one of the quietest items on your desk. Its WD GreenPower fanless design consumes less power than standard dual-drive storage systems, a welcome plus.
Adding the drive to your existing Apple computer is as simple as plugging it in and turning it on. The unit offers several ports for different connection media: a USB2.0 port, an eSATA port (which works for both Mac and PC) and two FireWire ports for FireWire 400 or 800 connections (the FireWire ports are for FireWire 800, but the included cable will allow a FireWire 400 device to be connected). Western Digital includes cables for these connection options, with the exception of eSATA, along with clear and simple directions. For the WD software to support an eSATA connection, the host computer must have either an eSATA PCI card or native connection on its motherboard.
Your Macintosh will immediately recognize and mount the volume as “MyBook” on your desktop, and, if you do not choose to reformat or repartition it is immediately ready to use.
The Studio Edition II drive comes pre-configured as a Macintosh HFS+ journaled drive set up as RAID 0 (a large, non-redundant disk set) and is easy to re-configure using the included Western Digital WD Drive Manager Software. Drive Manager driven reconfiguration options include a RAID 1 (a mirrored, redundant disk set) option for HFS+, and RAID 0 and RAID 1 options for Windows using FAT32 as the file system. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option to use NTFS for Windows, which, from a purely technical standpoint, is a disadvantage to Window users who want to utilize the file security and compression system advantages that are inherent in NTFS.
Image ©Shawn Soni
The need for data integrity drives the level of RAID selection. RAID 0 offers no data protection at all, but blazingly fast data access (read/write). RAID 1 offers a mirrored set of drives (so a 1 terabyte set with two spanned drives would be 500MB total storage under RAID 1). The advantage of RAID 1 is that a failed drive can be removed and replaced, and the firmware in the Studio Edition II drive will rebuild or re-mirror the new drive with the data on the existing drive that did not fail. According to the documentation, this can take up to 12 hours, but typically takes five to seven hours.
For Windows computers, Western Digital supplies a version of Google Desktop to facilitate reasonably fast searches of stored data on the drive. Mac users, of course, have Spotlight which allows speedy searches of all the storage media attached to the host computer.
The Studio Edition II drive also has a functional LED bar on the front that provides status messages about the drive (see the CD-based PDF accompanying the drive for the breakdown/translation). Each message, as well as the procedure for changing a failed drive, is explained clearly in the documentation. According to the documentation, the unit has “limited user serviceability,” which means that though you can work on it, Western Digital would prefer you at least call their tech support and talk to someone. They do point to their online knowledgebase and refer to the proper article for self-service instructions. Performing a drive replacement seems simple and does not appear to require tools. Western Digital’s only caveat is that a replacement must be a specific Western Digital Caviar type of drive.
The Western Digital Studio II External Hard Drive is fast, easy to configure, and quiet. The set-up and configuration are as user-friendly as any Macintosh-based device that you will ever attach to your computer and Western Digital’s software works flawlessly with Leopard. As the prices per Gigabyte of storage nosedive, the value of this drive is in its excellent design and overall ease of use for a busy, creative professional who wants increased storage with a hassle-free, easy setup.
MSRP: 1TB model $399; 2TB model $599.
Image ©Shawn Soni