Review: Western Digital My Book Live
We live in an era of connected devices, be it smartphones, tablets, PCs and even televisions. However, the problem is that cloud storage has not been fully realized due to a myriad of issues. Here is where local cloud paradigms come in. People who want the connected experience in their households can purchase these Network Storage Devices (NSDs) and hook them up with their local Wi-Fi connections and setup their local cloud, where all the devices in the household have access to NSD. The Western Digital My Book Live is one of the most popular NSDs on the market and it works well across a wide array of devices. Let’s see if it’s the perfect storage medium for your personal cloud.
As far as NSDs go, the WD My Book Live is pretty much right up there with the likes of the Apple Time Capsule if not better. Just to make it clear we are reviewing the 1TB version, and we tested it on a MacBook Pro, an iPad 2, and a Samsung Series 7 DNLA-enabled TV.
Obviously, we have a WD caviar 5400 drive powering the My Book Live which is a pretty able performer, but the key here is that it is Apple Time Machine compatible. Another key facet of the WD My Book Live is that it can stream to a myriad of devices via DLNA technology and that’s a big deal as these days there are so many products that are DLNA compatible. For households such as mine where there are Windows PC camps and Macintosh camps, WD My Book Live is particularly handy as I could share files between Mac and Windows computers without having file system issues.
WD also provides various mobile apps, which enables the user to reap the benefits of the My Book Live on their tablets and smartphones. Remote access is also possible through an app, so theoretically one could accrue DropBox like capabilities from the WD My Book Live. All in all the WD My Book Live sports a formidable feature set.
Installing a network drive can often be daunting and tedious, however there are no such issues with the installation of the My Book Live. I just needed connect the provided CAT-5 Ethernet cable with my Wi-Fi router, and start the WD My Book Live disk, which enables the system to detect the drive. From the setup disk we can set up Time Machine on a Mac, set up one’s My Book Live with different user accounts, shared folders and security setting, in a matter of minutes.
While the setup is very simplistic, I don’t like the idea of a setup disk considering we live in world full of MacBook Airs, iPads, and Ultrabooks. All the above mentioned devices are Optical-drive-less so setting up the My Book Drive could turn sour if one were using either of these devices. Some will say other NSDs provide inbuilt wireless modules, but I am guessing this is not going to be a big deal as most households do have Wi-Fi routers, and hooking up the My Book live to a router is not very convoluted.
With the My Book Live we get the ability create private or shared folders and also setup various user accounts, so whenever we open the WD My Book Live folder it will ask for passwords. But the best aspect about the WD My Book live is that it gets detected like a normal hard drive so we can drag and drop files seamlessly, that too across platforms Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
Apart from this, the killer feature is the DLNA support. Through the DLNA support I did not need to copy and paste my files on a separate hard drive or hook up my laptop with an HDMI cable. I tested this functionality on my DLNA enabled Samsung Series 7 HDTV, most files streamed pretty smoothly but HD formats like .mkv were a no go. Perhaps this happened, as the HDTV did not natively support the format.
Now for Mac users Time Capsule is the de facto backup solution. With the WD My Book Live, Apple users have an alternative, which is cross platform, more flexible and more importantly cheaper. Right off the bat I must admit I prefer the seamless Time Machine set-up provided by Apple, but considering the extra flexibility and value for money the WD My Book Live is not a bad solution.
Western Digital has also released a set of applications for Android and iOS platforms through the WD 2go Pro app. Users can not only access all the data in the hard drive on the same Wi-Fi network but also access it remotely. With the app, the My Book Live actually acts like a personal cloud. I could stream music or download songs via the app and at the same time I could use it like my DropBox cloud account where I normally store all my important documents. This is a real differentiator, considering the app costs only $2.99.
As far as network hard drives go, the Western Digital My Book Live is as impressive as they get. Yes, there are a few quirks here and there, such as no Apple TV video support, no built in wireless module and dependence on an optical drive for setup, but these are minor road bumps. These will not effect most end-users. In fact, it adds some very unique and usable functionality of its own, prime example being the remote access functionality. Its cross platform support is another boon, for both Macintosh and Windows users, which really begs a question towards Apple fanatics for the need of a much more expensive Time Capsule. Perhaps the craziest Apple fanboy would find the lack of Apple TV video support reason enough, but not me.
For Windows users it’s a non-issue, but for Mac users, who aspire a Time Capsule experience, I would definitely recommend the WD My Book Live as it is cheaper at approximately Rs 8,000. (At launch the WD My Book Live was priced at Rs 7499, however in the wake of the Thai floods and hard drive shortages, the official price has been bumped upto Rs 10,799, though many retailers are still selling the device at Rs 8,000.) It offers more functionality and boasts of solid build quality. The only deterrent I can think is that setting it up is difficult if you are a MacBook Air/Ultrabook user with no optical drive or you want use it exclusively with your tablet or smartphone. But for the rest the WD My Book Live is definitely a winner.
Photo Credits: Rohit Sharma