External storage devices can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with each one targeted at a certain market, and generally each type is neatly distinguished. There's the small and light 2.5in portable drives for those who want storage on the move, then there's the larger 3.5in desktop drives that offer huge capacity and speed, finally there's the network attached storage (NAS) appliances that are very feature rich but generally slower than the other two. Each type has developed slowly over the years into the forms we know and love but seldom has one type crossed over with another. However, Western Digital thinks that could be about to change and the My Book Pro Edition II is the device to lead the way.
Sitting somewhere between a NAS appliance and a regular external 3.5in desktop drive, the My Book Pro Edition II offers such features as RAID, Firewire 800, and cold swappable hard drives but lacks the networking abilities of a true NAS. It's a compromise that may prove perfect for some but for others it will seem to offer little over a normal desktop external hard drive. And, given its lack of eSATA connectivity and high price, it is going to have a hard time convincing the cynics. However, before I delve too deeply into this debate I'll talk you through what the My Book does have to offer.
Available in capacities of 1TB (2 x 500GB), 1.5TB (2 x 750GB) and 2TB (2 x 1TB) it is well endowed in terms of storage and, as the internal drives can be replaced without affecting the warranty, there's a very easy upgrade path for the future. The drives can be configured to run as a RAID 0 (this is the default), which will offer you high speed but if a drive fails you'll lose all your data, or RAID 1, which halves the capacity and read/write speed but adds protection of your data in case of a hard drive failure. Unfortunately JBOD isn't on offer, so you can't have that oft favoured half way house of capacity and security that it offers.
Externally the My Book certainly makes for an attractive accompaniment to any office space. Built from sturdy plastic, finished in silver paint, and with a shape designed to resemble a large hardback book, it is both elegant and understated. It doesn't quite exhibit the same flair as the Seagate Free Agent Pro, with its black body and pulsating orange lights, but it's nonetheless a good example of clever design.
For instance, a seemingly random smattering of slits actually make up the 'pages' of the book and, by some completely coincidental quirk of fate, also help to ventilate the inside. There's also a fan tucked away inside that will turn on if natural convection proves too little to keep things cool. We have heard reports that when the drive is plugged in over Firewire the fan remains on constantly. However, we experienced no such problems with our unit and it only span up after prolonged intense use.
The front, or spine, of the My Book contains two concentric rings of semi-transparent white plastic, which are each back-lit by a number of blue LEDs. Working in conjunction with the Western Digital software, the LEDs act as an analogue capacity gauge, where progressively more lights illuminate as the drive fills up. It's a simple system that works well, though I can't help but think it's mostly a gimmick.