Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/31/review_storage_western_digital_my_book_3/

Western Digital My Book USB 3.0 drive

The fast show

By Shaun Dormon

Posted in Hardware, 31st March 2010 11:48 GMT

Review Making the claim for the “first certified SuperSpeed USB 3.0 storage devices” is Western Digital with its new My Book 3.0 external desktop hard drive. Available as standalone models or in a kit form, which includes a USB 3.0 PCIe card, these 1TB and 2TB drives promise to raise the bar for external storage transfer speeds.

Western Digital My Book 3.0

Need for speed: Western Digital's My Book 3.0

Now, before we blather on about the My Book 3.0, what are the potential performance gains of USB 3.0 and do we really need it? We are certainly all familiar with USB 2.0 and its 480Mb/s cap, which allowed for a theoretical upper limit of 60MB/s. This has managed to keep the majority of us going throughout the past decade since its release in April 2000.

With USB 3.0 we get all the familiarity of USB 2.0, yet kicks it up a logarithmic notch with a ten-fold increase in theoretical transfer speeds of up to 4.8Gb/s (600MB/s). These are lofty expectations and the numbers are only theoretical. However, the USB 3.0 specification does consider transfer speeds of 3.2Gb/s (400MB/s) to be easily achievable after taking protocol overhead into account.

Gone are the days of eSata and Firewire 800 as the fast external interfaces, USB 3.0 outstrips eSata by 1.8Gb/s and Firewire 800 by 4Gb/s. Given that is eSata the same protocol used in Sata 2 hard drives with a different connector then, unless you've really got your finger on the pulse and have a 6Gb/s Sata 3 drive installed such as Seagate's Barracuda XTUSB 3.0 will run faster that our internal hard drives. USB 3.0 is so fast that, in terms of external hard drives, in most cases it will be the Sata bus between the hard disk and the enclosure that limits performance.

Western Digital My Book 3.0

USB backward compatible, but with obvious performance penalties

However, when you are arguing on this level, you can get stuck into the fact that the actual limiting speed in any non-solid-state Sata application is the speed at which data is transferred inside the hard disk itself, before it even reaches the Sata bus. This means that with the introduction of USB 3.0, additional performance gains in external hard drives now depend ever more on the internal workings of the drives.

Western Digital My Book 3.0

For those without a USB 3.0-capable motherboard, an NEC PCIe USB 3.0 card is supplied with the My Book if you buy the full kit. Installation is straightforward, but does require additional drivers from the included CD, as even Windows 7 doesn't ship with USB 3.0 support. The My Book 3.0 feels light, yet solid and sturdy. It features a single LED status light, but lacks the LED usage meter present on other products in the My Book line.

CrystalDiskMark Results

Western Digital My Book 3.0

512KB data transfer speeds in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

In general, the drive runs cool and quiet which suggests, even though WD does not let on, that this NTFS-formatted model utilises its line of Caviar Green hard disks. I would have no problems running this model on mu desk in close vicinity to the working area. A Kensington security slot is also included for those worried about envious co-workers lusting over your new USB 3.0 toy. Such jealousy is inevitable; just look at the performance figures.

To give you an idea of just how fast this is I’ve compared it to the next fastest drive Reg Hardware has reviewed, Iocell’s NetDisk 351UNE which also uses Western Digital Caviar Green drives. The NetDisk, however, uses eSata but it is still the closest parallel, until Reg Hardware gets some more SuperSpeed USB 3.0 drives to test.

Clearly, USB 3.0 has a major advantage over USB 2.0, offering speed increases of approximately 100 per cent in random I/O operations and 250 per cent in sequential I/O operations. It is also clear that the limiting factor is now the internal bus of the hard disk used, rather than the connecting interface.

Western Digital My Book 3.0

USB backward compatible, but with obvious performance penalties

With the release of the My Book 3.0, Western Digital has shown that external hard drives no longer need lag behind internal disks, while still maintaining compatibility with legacy systems. USB 3.0 is expected to enter mainstream usage when Intel adopts the standard in 2011, making these technological advances the norm among consumer applications.

Verdict

RH Recommended Medal

If eSata is not for you, or you are one of the few already equipped with a USB 3.0 capable computer and don’t feel like waiting for all the other USB 3.0 products announced at CES, then go and pick up the My Book 3.0, as there’s not much else out there. Go on, put those ports to work. ®

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