Review: Western Digital My Book Live Duo

May 08, 12 Review: Western Digital My Book Live Duo

I’ve always had mixed relationships with external hard drives (no, not like that) but this may the first one that’s won my heart. If you’ve ever swapped a hard drive, built a system or backed up a computer – chances are, you’ve heard of Western Digital. These guys are giants in the hard drive industry and they power most of the systems I’ve ever built.

A growing trend lately besides huge drives is NAS (Network Attached Storage) and ‘Cloud’ Functionality.  This is where Western Digital has gotten something very right – in their new My Book Live Duo series of drives. Like most things we’ll take it one step a time.

Looks

The faceless black monolith that are WD external drives are perfect for me. They aren’t much to look at, but they’re sleek and innocuous and blend into the background. Exactly as they should. While mostly plastic they don’t feel flimsy and have a good solid heft in the hands. I’ve seen some cool aluminum external drives before, but honestly people – it’s a hard drive. It doesn’t need lasers and blinky lights.

Behind the Scenes

Less obvious to the user is that this is actually a dual-hard drive enclosure. With some fancy RAID action going on in the background. Available up to a total of 6TB – we review the 4TB version which is probably plenty for most people. This consists of 2x 2 TB drives. You CAN open it up quite easily to swap or upgrade drives if need be.

Usage

What might throw you for a loop on this one, is that it’s main feature is an ethernet jack. While it has a USB port it’s not used for computer connection (we’ll get to that later) No – this is to connect directly to your home or office router. After using the included ethernet cable to simply plug it into your router. You move over to your computer and pop in the software CD, which will detect the drive on your network with minimal fuss. On our systems at least, this process was very smooth and easy.

After a quick install, where the software will map a network drive for you and basically just give you quick access to start ‘dumping stuff on the drive’ You’re off and going. Getting deeper into the interface (web-based) lets you change several other options as well. Including running your own FTP server, setting up email based alerts for any crashes or downtime, and choosing if you’d prefer to run in RAID 1 or RAID 0. For those who are left scratching their heads. That means you can either have 2TB (2 Terabytes) stored twice for extra-redundant storage (extra safe) or use the full 4TB to maximize your speed and storage capacity (extra fast/big) but generally if one drive fails, all data is lost across both drives. So it’s up to you, lots of room or lots of security. You can choose (but choose wisely).

Integration

Where the My Book Live Duo shines the most, in my humble opinion, is in its flawless integration with a huge variety of formats. Not only is it simply a network drive to dump files. But it’s also a DLNA server to pump your music & videos to several common types of video players (like game consoles), it works with windows backup and has it’s own backup software to get more fine-tuned than the built in solution. It also works as an Apple/Mac time machine drive to backup all your systems on either platform. It also has software available to make things available via an app. Whew. Seriously without a hitch this little tiny box does some very cool (and potentially complicated) stuff behind the scenes in a very seamless way.

Also a very cool feature is the USB port on the back, it can be used to jack-in EVEN more storage by plugging in another external drive. While it won’t integrate that drive into a single pool (it’s removable remember? So that could go badly) it neatly tacks on yet more storage as an additional network drive. We found this to be very easy to use as well.

Real World

We set up a Mac mini, a Macbook air, a PC desktop and a PC laptop all to automatically back up to the drive with very little fuss. Then we mapped network drives to give everyone access to drop in and remove files. Between the excellent integration mentioned previously, all of this works flawlessly and it’s very easy to use.

We have had a few instances where the drive got slowed down by getting hit with a lot of simultaneous traffic and backups, we also had the drive crash a few times. Where the DLNA server would just not respond and we had to just power cycle the drive. This always fixed it and it happened very rarely. All in all it’s very stable and quickly becomes an integral part of any home/office network.

In a world where 1TB drives are almost standard in most new systems, 4TB doesn’t seem like a lot, but in practice your systems probably aren’t jammed to the gills (RIGHT?) and your laptops and mac mini’s etc are on a much smaller scale so before you know it, everything is backed up and you’ve still got plenty to work with. However if your needs are greater, going to the 6TB model would certainly solve that. To top it off, easy access means that you could pop some bigger drives in later ( but you’ll want to double up and match for best performance ) and you’ll effectively be good to go for a long time.

Solid State may be taking the performance world by storm, but there will always be a place for huge redundant storage of all your most precious pics, videos, music and god knows what else you keep in your dusty computer-box. If you’re looking for a nimble full-featured and near-bottomless well of storage to keep your data safe. You’d do well to consider the Live Book Duo. It’s pricey at about $450-500 for the 4TB version but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better and simpler solution that also handles so many little chores without you ever having to set them up or think about them. Western Digital retains the consumer NAS crown in our book.