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Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo 4TB Review

By on July 31, 2012
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WD flexes their Thunderbolt muscles.

Good: Extremely fast for external hard drive, good looks that go nicely with Macs, simple formatting options and easily upgreadable.
Bad: No Thunderbolt cable provided, prices of Thunderbolt drives are fairly higher than USB 3.0 of same capacity, and passive cooling means only 5400RPM drives can be used.
Price: AED 2,199
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

External hard drives have been with us for decades, mostly being used for data backup. Due to their slow speeds there’s really nothing else they can be used for. Sure, high speed Firewire drives were fast, and USB 3.0 drives promised a major jump in speeds too, but at the end of the day these speeds were still nowhere near internal hard drive speeds. So today I’ll be looking at WD’s new My Book Thunderbolt Duo external drive that promises high speeds good enough to do your work on it in real-time.

The My Book Thunderbolt Duo is basically a combination of two internal 3.5-inch hard drives that, when setup in RAID 0, combined with the throughput of Thunderbolt, gives transfer speeds of what you’d expect from internal SATA 3 drives.

Design

Formatted in the HFS system for Macs, the My Book Thunderbolt Duo looks great next to Mac products. The smooth silver paint looks very similar to that on our MacBook Pro Retina, while the white LED is fashioned in a similar way.

In the box we have the My Book Thunderbolt Duo along with a quick manual and power cable plus connector; no Thunderbolt cable is included with the packaging. Thankfully WD sent us an Apple branded Thunderbolt cable, so keep this in mind when buying the device: it’s not actually useable out of the box!

Installation

Once plugged in and connected to our MBP, the only thing left to do was download the WD Utilities software which allowed me to change the setup from ‘RAID 0 (Stripe)’ to ‘RAID 1 (Mirror)’ to ‘Individual Drives (JBOD)’. The latter two formatting option allows for an ex-FAT system whereby the drives can be connected to a Thunderbolt capable PC as well.

One interesting thing to note is that apart from the power plug, there are two Thunderbolt ports on the back, so you can actually daisy chain the drives, or other Thunderbolt devices.

The My Book Thunderbolt Duo is also easily upgradeable by pushing the button on the top lid, unscrewing the security lock and replacing the two 2TB WD Green 5400RPM drives with some higher capacity drives.  Given the bandwidth capacity of Thunderbolt is 10GBps, you can even use SATA 3 (6gbps) drives in the future and get even more speed out of this enclosure. Just be sure to use 5400RPM drives because there’s no fan inside the case; everything is passively cooled.

Tests

Now with all the technicalities out of the way, let’s see how the My Book Thunderbolt Duo actually performs. We have three testing methods, since it’s our first time testing a storage device on Mac hardware.

  1. - AJA System Test 6.0.1 where we simulated the write and read speeds using a 16GB file
  2. - Copied the Diablo III folder from the Mac’s drive which had multiple files totaling 8.52GB
  3. - Copied a .mkv video file which totaled 7.04GB

These three tests gave a real world speeds as well as theoretical maximum in the case of AJA System Test. All tests were conducted on the new MacBook pro Retina with 256GB SSD.

As you can see the speed in all three setups is faster than the 500GB USB 3.0 drive, with the RAID 0 speeds approaching figures those of SATA 2 solid state drives!

Conclusion

Essentially what we have here is an external drive which allows you to seamlessly work on your Mac with heavy workloads and use the My Book Thunderbolt Duo as a backup device and a primary drive to work on without any lag or slowdown in work. So we have speed, now we just need to have prices brought down as Thunderbolt drives are still a tad bit expensive compared to USB 3.0 drives.


About

From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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