Compact and light enough to easily fit in a backpack or briefcase, Western Digital’s My Book Studio external hard drive is a cute little bugger. Designed to resemble a book, the 6.5-inch tall drive stands upright, and you have the option of digitally labeling your drive (with 12 characters or less) so it’ll read like a title on the binding a book.
Designed specifically for a Mac, this plug-in-and-go drive is compatible with Apple’s TimeMachine software and has two FireWire 800 ports and one USB 2.0 port, with cables for both included. The drive is relatively quiet, with its ventilation system sitting up top, and its plastic build keeps the unit lightweight at 2.6 pounds. Unfortunately, its plastic casing also makes the unit a little less durable than aluminum drives, and when we received our My Book Studio, it came with a little bulge in the backside that we had to physically snap back into place.
One of the biggest complaints I had about the My Book Studio was its fickle power button, which made it very unclear whether I should either press and release the power button quickly, or hold for a few second and wait, in order to turn the drive on and off. Either way seemed to work (or not work, rather) and because its tiny LED light had a few seconds lag time to indicate when the unit was turned on, I resorted to becoming the hard drive whisperer: experimenting with button pushing wait times as I nestled my ear against the My Book Studio to hear the drive spinning for startup.
When I did manage to power on the My Book Studio, it performed well in our hard drive tests. Transferring a 1GB file took 42 and 34 seconds through a USB and FireWire 400 (using a FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 cable), respectively. Duplicating the same file took an average of 1 minute, 10 seconds using USB, and 55 seconds using FireWire 400. In our low-memory Photoshop tests, the drive timed in at 1 minute, 24 seconds for USB, and 1 minutes, 3 seconds for FireWire 400. When we tested the My Book Studio using FireWire 800, all three tests clocked in less than 45 seconds: transferring our 1GB file took 22 seconds, copying the file averaged about 32 seconds, and our Photoshop test was completed in 43 seconds.
Our AJA system tests, which mimics writing a full scale, high quality, 2GB HD video file that is 2GB with a video frame size of 1920-by-1080 and 10-bit RGB, yielded 28.1MBps for writes and 37.1MBps for reads through USB. With FireWire 400, the write and read speeds were 27.6MBps and 33.7MBps, respectively. With FireWire 800, the write speed was 60.1MBps, while the read speed was 54.6MB/ps.
The drive also comes with its own software, called WD SmartWare, which mounts on your desktop when the drive is plugged into your Mac. Sometimes however, our Mac did not register SmartWare when our My Book was connected, though a few restarts of our computer were able to remedy this situation.
The SmartWare software has its benefits because it is a one-stop shop, a control centre to customize all your My Book Studio’s capacity and security settings. You can choose your password and with its 256-bit hardware-based encryption, the drive will have an extra layer of protection from unwanted access. It is also a place where you can see the progress of your backup and the different categories of your drive’s content like music, photos, and movies, along with how much memory they are each respectively using.
SmartWare also allows you to customize your My Book Studio’s label, so you can name your drive something along the lines of “VIDEOS 09” or “HOME PICTURES” to remind you of what’s inside. The label itself uses e-paper technology, which does not require a backlight to illuminate pixels like most flat panel displays. Instead, it reflects light like paper, and because it uses no electricity to display its text, the label will remain displayed, regardless of whether your My Book Studio is plugged in. The label also shows the available storage capacity left on your drive and a padlock icon lets you know if it is secured.
Macworld buying advice
At $250 for the 2TB model, Western Digital’s My Book Studio is a decent hard drive for all your casual storing needs. Although the confusing power button is something I find worth griping about, its nifty labeling feature and easy to navigate SmartWare software make up for it. Also, its decent results times and environmentally conscious elements definitely make the My Book worth putting on your shelf.
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Lynn La is a Macworld staff editor.