Network attached storage – the NAS drive – may be a handy way to keep piles of data readily accessible at home. But it’s not always particularly quick – at least on most consumer drives anyway.
They may use the same hard disks as fast and fierce desktop PCs, but somewhere between the raw disk and your computer, data tends to get treacled.
Here’s some numbers: a 3.5in disk can easily dish the digits at 150MBps or more. When we measure the datarate at our PC, the average consumer NAS drive deals at 30Mbps or less. Often, much less. So our ears pricked up when Western Digital announced its new My Book Live with 100MBps read performance.
The latter was after all just two internal hard disks under one cover. The speed-bragging WD My Book Live, meanwhile, remains a few millimetres thinner and shorter than even the first edition. It’s a simplified piece of hardware, for sure. There’s no USB port to add more storage or printers, nor even a power switch on the back any more.
Inside the WD My Book Live is a single 3.5in WD Caviar Green hard disk, either 1TB or 2TB capacity – a quiet, low-power drive optimised for home use and domestically innocuous compared to the speed demons that tend to get fitted to power PCs and servers.
It’s not silent, but it’s one of the quietest 3.5in disks you can buy right now. And the WD My Book Live is fanless, relying on convection cooling with its array of dot-and-dash perforations around the case.
Western Digital has spruced up the interface a little compared to its literary friends, with a dark but colourful webpage interface to help set up and manage the drive.
But it’s a doddle to do so, with the Support link in the left-hand list of options reassuringly underscored by the strapline ‘Let us help you’.
Improvements we appreciate in the simple interface include a new option to set the energy-saver time out duration.
Like other Western Digital consumer NAS drives, the WD My Book Live will appear automatically as a network server to Windows and Mac computers, with an FTP server thrown in for good measure.
Linux is not so immediately well served; but most Linux users will be accomplished enough to know how to get connected through manual means.
There’s also the Java-based MioNet service, to let you copy off your files when you're outside the home network.
A most worthy application of a NAS drive is computer backups. To this end, WD provides instructions for Windows 7 users to use the Backup and Restore feature in the OS to send files to the WD My Book Live. And Mac users can take advantage of OS X’s built-in Time Machine app to do the same, straight to the NAS.
We tried some time trials to see just how quick the WD My Book Live could be. We didn’t quite get the speed promised – but we did find the WD My Book Live to be the fastest consumer-level NAS we’ve seen.
Curiously, our tests with an Apple MacBook Pro (4,1) couldn’t elicit any read speeds faster than 57MBps, and writes to the drive never beat 47MBps. We tried dabbling with jumbo frames on our gigabit connection, to no tangible benefit.
In Windows 7 we saw faster speed on an Acer TimelineX 4820TG, also direct-connected over gigabit ethernet. Here we could copy large video files much quicker, the WD My Book Live indicating average read speeds up to 78MBps and writes to the drive at 48MBps.
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