The EX2 is a dual drive version of Western Digital’s popular single drive My Cloud hybrid NAS and Cloud storage device. It joins the company’s four-drive My Cloud EX4 but, while we found speed and design issues with that product, the EX2 follows the original closely. So do we have another highly affordable and appealing consumer NAS or, in expanding the original My Cloud concept, has WD again pushed too close to more established NAS devices with greater functionality?
Whereas the hard angles of the EX4 were more industrial and less living room friendly, the EX2’s sweeping curves give it an appealing, chunky, almost cute appearance and make it a device you could place just about anywhere.
Since price is a key part of WD’s attack on the market the build quality of the EX2 isn’t stellar. The plastic chassis has a lot of flex, most notably in the lid that pops open like pressing the lid of a kitchen bin.
In this age of tool-less, hot swappable drive bays we also aren’t particularly impressed by the weak mechanism WD has fitted for taking the drives in and out.
If you buy a populated EX2 this may not be a problem, but for those buying an unpopulated unit it feels fragile and you need to be careful slotting drives in and out.
In short the EX2 looks great from a distance, but you’ll spot some corner cutting up close.
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This isn’t as evident in the feature set. Like the original My Cloud and EX4, the EX2 has core NAS functionality like support for DLNA and iTunes servers, UPnP and FTP as well as multi-user support to set folder access and permissions. Backups are also a big focus with TimeMachine support for Macs and WD’s own 'SmartWare' software for scheduling backups on PCs.
WD pitches the My Cloud line as both NAS and Dropbox alternative and it takes on the latter by enabling remote access to its data via Android, iOS, PC and Mac apps. Files can be downloaded, edited or – in the case of media on mobile devices – streamed (depending on the codec support from your OS).
WD also builds in support for Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft’s newly renamed OneDrive (previously SkyDrive). Letting you automatically sync or manually transfer specific folders between them and your My Cloud.
On the hardware side there isn’t a lot to see. WD doesn’t reveal what chipset powers the EX2, but accompanying its Gigabit Ethernet port are two USB 3.0 ports (up from the My Cloud’s single port), which allow you to add further storage capacity via external drives.
Some NAS will let you sync files from external drives via the USB ports, but here they are purely for bolstering capacity.
So far so good, but the EX2 maintains a potentially significant Achilles heel: its lack of expandable RAID. This won’t affect customers who buy an EX2 with all the storage they need, but for those hoping to expand it with bigger drives in future you’ll be out of luck.
Unlike Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR), Netgear X-RAID or Drobo’s BeyondRAID, the My Cloud’s RAID1 cannot swap to larger drives and automatically expand its capacity. Instead you’ll have to transfer everything off the My Cloud, install two larger drives (they must have matching capacities) then put the data back on again.
This aspect emphasises the mainstream consumer focus of the line. WD doesn’t expect you to be upgrading the EX2 and if that is in your plans you would be better of looking at the more advanced lines from Synology, Netgear and Drobo.