Western Digital's My Book Studio Edition is quite possibly the sexiest external hard drive we've seen, if we're allowed to call external hard drives that. The powdered silver casing is one of luxury, a single stretched ovoid line lit by white LEDs calmly and serenely tracks back and forth when it's in use, elucidating visions of a holy version of KITT from Knight Rider.
OK, so it's just a box with rounded edges and some air holes. But it is one of the nicest boxes with rounded edges and air holes we've seen, and has the benefit of including the most interfaces as well -- one USB2.0 port, one eSATA and two Firewire 800 ports dot the back of the device, with firewire 400 capability available through an included firewire 800 > 400 cable. All data cables are included, although the eSATA cable is far too short for comfortable use. A single power button is featured above the rear ports, and you'll need the included power brick to switch the thing on.
Western Digital is jumping on the power saving bandwagon as well, the drive smartly turning itself off when you power your PC down, and coming back up when you switch it back on.
It's advertised as "for Mac", as it arrives preformatted with HFS -- but it's more than easy to format over the top for PC users. Backup software is included on the hard drive, although you can download it from Western Digital's site once you've registered the drive online.
The backup software uses Memeo technology. Unfortunately it's dropped FTP backup since the last revision, and doesn't support incremental backups -- the best offer being overwriting changed files between backups. Admittedly at the consumer level, usually this is more than enough.
For the first time that we can remember, software for both Mac and PC are included with identical functionality thanks to Memeo -- this is a huge plus, although we would have liked a software CD included as well. Installing the supplied WD Button Manager software and connecting over Firewire or USB also gives you a visual indication of how full your drive is, using the light strip on the front. In practice, this didn't seem frightfully accurate or frequently updated, so it's worth simply checking the properties in Explorer.
Quite hilariously, the manual states "do not use My Book as a portable device". Hmmm. A five year warranty means the external drive is at least well protected should you choose to do so.
We tested the 1TB version, which houses Western Digital's 5400RPM drive -- slower than the competing 7200RPM drives, but should also mean it's quieter and generates less heat -- indeed, the My Book Studio Edition is completely fanless, although you can hear the drive crunch during heavy disk operations.
While we didn't have a Firewire 800 port to test with, performance over USB2.0 and Firewire was as expected, with the eSATA connection suffering fairly significantly compared to the My Book ES Edition. Currently Western Digital's only TB drive has a power saving feature built in that varies the spindle speed between 5400RPM and 7200RPM, with a focus on power saving rather than performance -- we can only surmise that this is the cause of the underperforming eSATA results. On the up side -- you get a quiet and cool external drive that's perfect for most people's uses.
The My Book Studio Edition is a welcome addition to the My Book family, and should find a home on many Mac and PC users' desks. It is available in 320GB, 500GB, 750GB and 1TB editions.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)