Western Digital My Book Pro 500GB

It’s hardly believable just how much storage prices have come down over the past 18 months. I have been running with the Western Digital MyBook Pro (featuring the FireWire 400 and 800 ports as well as USB 2.0) with its immaculate design that complements both my Cinema Display, XBOX 360 and of course my MacBook Pro. Why is that important you ask? First of all design is important in my book but not the defining reason for choosing a product and secondly if it’s going to be sitting on my desk and in view at all times, you’re going to want something that is at least a little bit sexy right?

SpecificationThe Western Digital MyBook Pro is available in a variety of sizes, ports and colours. This review refers to the MyBook Pro 500GB WDG1T50000E decked out with three interfaces and enough storage to satisfy your downloading habits for a few hours of fun (if you’ve got that 40Gbps connection that some Swedish mother has) or if you’re like me and you have to settle for 20Mbps then it will last at least a year or two.At the rear of the unit you will see access to the USB 2.0 port, two FireWire 800 and one FireWire 400 port. The guys at Western Digital have decided to put two 800 ports at the back so you can daisy chain another drive.

Inside the stylish unit is a 3.5-inch 7200RPM hard drive with a massive 16MB of cache resulting in an 8.9 millisecond average seek time.It was a surprise when I found that cables for all three interfaces were included in the box so no need to go out and spend ridiculous money on cables that cost pennies to manufacture. Software comes in the form of EMC Retrospect Express for backing up purposes, otherwise you are able to use your own backup solution or the more traditional approach of drag and drop.Design and featuresWestern Digital have created a compact and lightweight storage solution that is both practical and stylish at the same time. The design is clearly aimed at the style of a book and wouldn’t go amiss next to a whole series of these drives stood or stacked next to each other. At the front of the unit, I can’t but help think of the Xbox 360 power ring of lights. Some may say that it’s not such a good thing given the recent bad press, but personally I think it works.

The ring of lights is decked out with blue LEDs and they flash and light up as the drive warms up and also shows you information on the available storage that is left on the drive. Unfortunately, you do need to install a driver first before this works and this feature is only available on higher end units with the blue LEDs as opposed to the black drives with green LED’s.Just like the 360, the power button is the button located in the middle of the LED lights which will allow you to switch the unit on and off. If you do install the driver however, the drive will boot up and shutdown automatically alongside your computer. You will also find that the hard drive inside will spin down after a period of inactivity.PerformanceAs with all of my external hard drive reviews, the standard benchmarks I perform are based on two tests that are performed for each available connectivity option. In this case, both FireWire and USB options are available. Unfortunately I have yet to get a hold of a machine with FireWire 800 so I won’t be able to let you know how fast that performs. However, based on FireWire 400 times you can get a pretty good idea.One is the large file copy, which in this scenario, is a 1.07GB video file.The second test is copying across 1020 smaller JPEG files adding up to 3GB.USB 2.0 test1 minute 4 seconds – 1.07GB3 minutes 37 seconds – 3GB 1020 filesFireWire 400 test46.2 seconds – 1.07GB2 minutes 37 seconds – 3GB 1020 files

It’s quite clear that FireWire blasts USB 2.0 out of the water on each and every test I have performed using this option as opposed to the latter. In the 1.07GB file transfer test, it took just over half the time to complete and it managed to knock an entire minute dead-on when transferring the 1020 files.Just to be sure, I ran these tests twice but the results came out the same (plus or minus one or two seconds).ConclusionThe excellent ergonomic design backed with all flavours of public transportation modes, bus (USB), train (FireWire) and the more recent FireWire 800 (Supersonic Jet) makes this one of the best and most compact external hard drives that really packs a punch in both storage size and performance. My only criticisms would have to be the noise of the spinning drive, my rather un–scientific way of measuring this noise level is comparing it to the noise I can hear when I pick the thing up and the noise it makes when it’s sitting on the desk.

In order to get the drive space indicators to work on the front, you need to install a driver on your machine. Surely this could be a built in feature? This means you unfortunately can’t just power it up whilst disconnected or with your computer powered down to check how much space you have left.Despite these minor shortcomings, I can at least sleep better at night knowing that Western Digital are backing me up with a three year warranty. If your drive ever does crash and burn, your 500GB of data will be gone but at least you won’t have to buy another drive.

External storage prices have dropped so much recently that the capacities that you can get are mind boggling. If you don’t care about the extra performance that FireWire 400/800 offers then this drive isn’t worth you paying extra for. I would look at cheaper alternatives which offer the USB 2.0 connectivity option with the same capacity. You won’t get the extra ‘kick’ when transferring large or even small files but it will certainly do the job at a cheaper price.Me? I’m going to stick with this one, because it sits so beautifully underneath my 30-inch Cinema Display.

2007-09-06 Onwah Tsang

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