October 5, 2010

682 words 4 mins read

Review: Western Digital My Book 3.0 (2 TB, USB 3.0)

It is, once again, time to upgrade external hard drives.  After I bought two Western Digital 750 GB My Books, I swore I wouldn’t need to upgrade for a LONG time.  Well that long time has been long up, but I figured it wasn’t worth it until I could get a 2TB drive at a reasonable price.  That time and price are now.  I looked at the Western Digital Elements 2 TB (USB 2) which is a really sweet buy right now at only $120  (on Amazon), but thought that maybe I should consider doing the USB 3.0 thing.  The Western Digital My Book 3.0 2TB is USB 3.0 for only $40 more at $160 (on Amazon).   Of course I don’t any USB 3.0 ports, and it sure would be cool to take full advantage of that speed… so I broke down and bought the Western Digital My Book 3.0 2 TB with PCIe Adapter Card.

I recently received the package and broke out my new toy.  The contents included 1 hard drive with power supply, USB 3.0 cable (Note: the picture on the right — the connector is not the same), a PCIe USB 3.0 card and a CD with the drivers for the PCIe card.  The most surprising thing to me was that the connectors were different.  I realize more power & data requires more pins, I just never stopped to think about it.  Granted the computer side of the USB cable looks just the same as it did before — and still works in normal (USB 2) ports.  I tried this and got the typical Windows pop up of “This device can preform faster…”, a pop up I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

The PCIe card is nothing to write home about.  It is a small card, it’s has 2 USB 3.0 ports, and comes with a half width cover, if you should need it for a low form factor environment.  I shutdown, installed the card, brought the machine back up THEN installed the drivers.  This necessitated me rebooting again to get the drivers to kick into gear.  I recommend you follow the instructions (which I did not read) and install software BEFORE hardware.

The drive itself is like every other Western Digital My Book external.  It is in a hard drive in a little plastic enclosure.  On this drive, there is a white LED up front, with a power button, USB port and power port all in the back.  The drive is no frills with no extra ports (no eSATA or firewire… both of which would be much slower) and no software.  I love it.  When I buy a hard drive, I don’t want anything fancy.  I didn’t run any benchmarks, but the drive is fast.

I dumped about 80 GB of video files (between 350 MB and 1 GB per file) onto the drive right off the bat.  I watched the Windows File move window.  The transfer bounced between 45MB/s and 70MB/s.  The average was in the 55MB/s range.  I know that USB 3 is capable of so much more, but I’m quite pleased with the transfer speeds.  The limiting factor is most likely the write speed of that external drive (probably a 7,200 RPM unit).   The hard drive on this desktop is a 300GB Western Digital 10,000 RPM VelociRaptor, an internal unit which I’ve quite enjoyed having (was supposed to be for a server, but I bought the wrong one).

In summary: If you’re willing to fork over a few extra bucks ($40 if you already have USB 3.0, $70 if you don’t) buy the USB 3.0 drive. In my book, the speed boost is well worth a few extra dollars.  I loathe having to sit around and wait for a large file transfer.  Slow external storage (be it HD or USB key) is akin to going back to dialup.  Painful.  Fairly shortly, everyone will be supporting USB 3 natively, and it will be cheaper in the long run to pay more for the drive now than have to replace it again down the line.