by Kevin OBrien

Western Digital My Book Live Duo Review

At the beginning of this month Western Digital announced the My Book Live Duo, a two bay version of their popular My Book Live. When we reviewed the original My Book Live, we raved about its simple setup, which includes bypassing the need to alter any router settings. For the home user, and even SMB, that's a nice touch. We also love WD's mobile apps, which continue to get updated to make access to files on the go fast and easy, especially for storage-constrained tablets and other mobile devices. The only thing we didn't really like was the single drive risk - enter the My Book Live Duo, a two bay unit that comes pre-configured in 4TB and 6TB options. 

Not to disparage the single hard drive My Book Live, both the Live and the Live Duo offer a remote backup option to another My Book Live or NAS on the network. But the benefit of a two drive Duo are obvious, having the option to use one drive for data and one drive for redundancy provides a little more peace of mind. Out of the box mirroring mode is the default configuration letting users access the full 4TB capacity, but users may also switch to RAID1 should data redundancy be more important than total volume size.

The My Book Live Duo is about a good deal more than simple data access though. Western Digital has the suite of aforementioned apps for tablets and phones, and provides online access through a browser interface for computers. The Duo also provides backup services for computers on the network, with support for Apple's Time Machine. On the entertainment side, My Book Live Duo is DLNA certified making streaming of content to home theater devices simple, and it offers iTunes server support to help users organize and stream media files.

Western Digital My Book Live Duo Specs

  • 800MHz CPU
  • Capacities:
    • 4TB - WDBVHT0040JCH
    • 6TB - WDBVHT0060JCH
  • RAID1 or spanned modes
  • iTunes server support
  • Apple Time Machine
  • DLNA certified 1.5
  • Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • Dimensions - 6.50" x 6.20" x 3.90"
  • Weight - 4.98 Pounds

Aesthetics

The Western Digital My Book Live Duo looks just like the standard Live, albeit twice the thickness. It's has a sleek, minimalist rounded face with a small WD badge and pinhole-sized green status light. From a design perspective, the highlight is certainly the fact that the drives are user accessible - without being visually distracting - via a lid that opens with moderate pressure on the front edge. This follows the design of the My Book Studio Edition II, but makes it even easier to get at each hard drive. The top now has a springed plastic tab, which with a much softer press allows users to access both drives inside their My Book Live Duo. The Live Duo is passively cooled, allowing for near silent operation. This is made possible by the low-power 2TB Western Digital AV-GP drives inside.

All of the ports are on the back of the unit, including a USB expansion port for adding additional storage capacity that can be shared over the network. Besides the aforementioned port, the layout is rather sparse with the only other items being LAN, power, a lock slot, and a reset button.

Disassembly

Western Digital went from a design on the original My Book Live that was difficult to access the hard drive inside to a very user intuitive layout on the My Book Live Duo that lets users access the internal drives with very little effort. With a quick press on the top latch the cover opens, exposing the two Western Digital hard drives inside underneath a metal retention bracket. The drives are quickly removed by unscrewing a thumb-screw holding on a retention plate, allowing you to pull on the handy plastic tab to lift the drive out. The drives are also labeled A and B to quickly identify which drive has failed and replace the correct one.

Given the passively cooled design of the My Book Live Duo, users should stick with 5400RPM or Green hard drives. Since this storage device is passively cooled, using faster 7200RPM drives may cause overheating and premature failure.

Setup and Use

WD includes a quick start guide with the drive that pretty much says plug it in and run the included CD. If you don't have an optical drive, don't worry, once the My Book Live is connected to the network it's easily found by both Macs and PCs. From there you can access the software folder to install the included software, or not, it's not required once you know the IP address of the device.

Having the software installed does make it easier to work with the drive though. It took us under a minute to run through the search of the network for the drive and installation the WD Quick View software. 

From there it's time to configure the drive for backups, remote users and the like. To allow mobile users to log in, you can setup activation codes on a per-user basis to work with the WD 2go Mobile Apps. The beauty of this method is the My Book Live broadcasts itself past the local network onto the internet without needing to forward ports or change any settings on your router. It is still able to limit access though through use of the activation codes so only registered users can access the files served.

One area added over the original My Book Live model is a drive configuration section inside the control panel area. This lets users change the drive mode between RAID1 (mirrored) and spanned configurations. In RAID1 your data is safe in the event of a single drive failure, with total capacity being 2TB. In spanned mode you have double the capacity at 4TB, but have increased risk that half your data could go missing with a single drive failure.

The mobile apps provided by Western Digital provide a rich content experience, with easy access to files no matter where you are (as long as you have an internet connection). When tested from an iPhone or iPad outside of the office, the devices were quick to connect to the My Book Live and were able to access files immediately.

When it comes to performance, the WD My Book Live Duo handled itself pretty well over gigabit Ethernet. The Duo was happily serving up files with an average read speed of 66.3MB/s and a write speed of 53.2MB/s in spanned mode over our network. Switching to RAID1, we measured speeds of 65.4MB/s read and 48.7MB/s write. While not as fast as some of the bigger NAS units, it offers plenty of speed for moving media files around and providing backup space for home computers. For users opting for more data protection, you can convert to RAID1 on the fly, and in our initial testing still retain the WD-supplied data on the drives from spanned mode. It is still highly recommended to make sure you have a backup of your data though before you go through this process. Not including RAID1 resync time, the Live Duo was back in action in about 3-4 minutes.

Conclusion

The Western Digital raised the bar with the My Book Live Duo, perfectly fitting the market segment of buyers who want network accessible media, but don't want to go through the hassle of setting up an entire NAS. By including RAID capabilities, the Live Duo can finally be included in the category of devices people can use backup files to and sleep safe knowing the system can handle a drive failure. The main draw though is the ability to serve up content behind a firewall to mobile devices anywhere in the world as long as they have internet access... and without needing to mess with any router settings!

The My Book Live Duo brings a lot to the table, expanding on all of the great features of the original My Book Live, as well as increasing capacity or data redundancy through two drive bays. The software is easy to setup, the web interface is designed beautifully and looks great, and the mobile apps available for both iOS and Andriod are very well made. Western Digital finally hit all marks with this network device, offering an all-in-one media serving package for home and mobile devices with RAID capabilities.

Pros

  • Supports RAID1 and Spanned Drives
  • Very easy to setup, works out of the box
  • Decent gigabit transfer speeds
  • Includes USB port to expand on internal storage

Cons

  • No on/off button

Bottom Line

The WD My Book Live Duo takes a really good device and makes it better on all counts. With personal cloud being all the rage, the Duo delivers on all counts and expands on storage capabilities with RAID1. It's dead simple to set up and use, and with the nicely designed mobile apps, users can easily access their media and files on a computer, smartphone or tablet.

WD My Book Live Duo at Amazon.com

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