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Review: Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo 6 TB

by Thursten Kent on 08/30/2012

 

In the world of hard drives and data rates, every few years or so a new standard of fast comes out. When I started out with with Macs and had a grasp on what external drives were, Firewire was a very expensive option for your Mac computer. But anyone who was working in media, or graphics/video were using Firewire drives. You can thank Apple for pushing this interface that never quite caught on with the mainstream PC market. It’s been the standard for a while–hard drives, audio I/O devices, even a generation of the iPod used Firewire-400!

Now, Apple teams up with Intel to make Light Peak. We all know it today as Thunderbolt. Apple/Intel’s new interface for use for high-speed data access when you need it. That’s where the opportunity for  new high-speed drives comes into play.

Western Digital let me have a go with it’s My Book Thunderbolt Drive. I’ve had some time to make some video work with it, run renders as well as transfer files on this drive. Fast is the word that comes to mind. More below.

 

Gear Used

Tech Specs

Taken from the B&H Photo Video listing of the product.

Capacity 6TB
Interface Thunderbolt Ports x 2
Drive Speed 7200 rpm
Data Transfer Rate 10 Gb/s (maximum)
System Requirements Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher
Computer with Thunderbolt connector
Thunderbolt cable (sold separately)
Configuration RAID 0 (max speed)
RAID 1 (data protection/mirror mode)
JBOD (use drives individually)
Power Requirements AC 100 – 240V (47 – 63Hz)
Operating Temperature 41 to 95°F (5 to 35°C)
Non-Operating Temperature -4 to 149°F (-20 to 65°C)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 3.9 x 6.5 x 6.2″ (9.9 x 16.5 x 15.7 cm)
Weight 4.98 lb (2.26 kg)

Ergonomics

In my preview I had said this drive has a very “apple-esque” design. Which I feel compliments any Apple desktop or notebook. This is certainly not a light drive–weighing close to 5 lbs. Even if you had to take your edit on the road you should still not have any real problem putting this into a small-medium sized backpack with your Macbook of choice.

Since this is strictly a Thunderbolt only drive you will be pleased to know just like your old love-to-hate friend Firewire, you can daisy chain. In this case, up to 6 Thunderbolt powered devices. You can even plug in a Thunderbolt powered monitor as one of the 6. Though I must admit I did not have a chance to test that claim without having access to a monitor that supports the interface. Sorry, I’m still using a DVI monitor with an adapter.

All along the top, bottom and sides near the ports is a black grate-like design used for heat to escape the unit. This drive does not have a single fan. Which will keep the noise down on the unit. Except for the occasional hard drive noise you hear from time to time, it was minimal for me. I have an older CalDigit drive that I swear sounded like you are in a wind tunnel on a small scale. Very loud.

The great thing I love about this drive is the drives are replaceable! Rejoice! To access the drive bay, you will simply press the button found on the top front of the drive . This will give you access to the drive bays. Now, something to take note here. There is the right way, and the wrong way to take off the metal lid securing the drives in their respective slots.

Once you un-screw the thumbscrew, you need to lightly lift the the plate up just slightly than push the lid back so as not to bend the  latch on the other end of the metal lid. Otherwise, you will have to gently set the notch back in it’s place with a very tiny flat head screw driver  so you can re-attach the mount in the proper way.

To re-attach the inner metal lid, I suggest sliding it forward to lock the back latch in place first, than placing the front lip of the lid over and down  to secure it into place. Turn the screw clock-wise. You’re good to go. Following this procedure should allow you to close the plastic top properly.

To swap the drives, all you have to do is grab the plastic tab located on the top side of the drive facing the plastic lid and light upwards to pull the drive out of the bay.

Before I was going on about how this enclosure  has no fans but relies on the heat escaping the unit from the plastic grates. I suspect there is an obvious reason for this. WD placed in their line of  green series drives.  These drives are much more efficient than their Caviar Black line.

 

The Thunderbolt Duo  can be configured one of 3 way: Stripe which is RAID 0. This will give you maximum speed –but if one of the two drives fail, you’re in deep trouble.  You can also set the drive up as RAID 1. This will mirror the info from one drive to the other. 2 things will happen as a result. Your storage will go from 6 TB (in this configuration) to 3 TB. The drives speed will also slow down as well.  More on this later.  The third option is JBOD or Just a Bunch of Disks. This will make the drives individual.

Western Digital also includes a utility that simplifies the drive configuration for your unit. No more having to mess around in Apple Disk Utility and figure out how to make a RAID.

If you head to the diagnostics tab you can even test the drives S.M.A.R.T. status as well test for bad drive sectors.

In my preview of this unit I had some trouble loading up WD Drive utilities. Through problem solving I had learned that my Mac had some major updates plus Western Digital had a new version of the software. This in combination sovled the issue.

Speed

Ah yes, the part you all were waiting for. The speed. I did a few very simple tests using AJA’s System Test application. The way I did this was I configured the drive as RAID 0, ran 10 passes with the AJA System Test application. Then repeated the same process with the RAID 1 option used.

I used 8.0 GB sized 1080p, 8-bit video to test read and write speeds

After making 10 passes, here are my results:

RAID 0 offered the fastest speeds with an average read speed of 235.8 MB/s and write speed of 232.9 MB/s.

RAID 1 took quite a bit of a hit in the speed dept. with an average read speed of 118.9 MB/s and an average write speed of 117.2 MB/s.

Now, I’m not trying to go at this scientifically here. I just averaged the ten 10 passes for each RAID configuration and rounded them by the nearest hundredth when necessary.

It does seem by playing it safe and going with RAID 1, you will take a hit in speed. For me, with  my content, I’d rather have the safety net.

Conclusion

Running this unit for my edits,  my exports and renders were much, much quicker. This drive ate up HDDSLR footage like a hot knife through butter. Whether it was rendering graded footage with Magic Bullet Looks, rendering the time line for a final edit, or exporting a file with this drive. It was up to the task.

Obviously, there are other options on the market as well. But, this is one of the most affordable out there. Would I get one? Yes. My reason being is if you are working on a budget and are considering upgrading from a Firewire drive, or in my case from a sorely old Macbook Pro to the new shiny Retina unit you might want to give this one a look.

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