It’s been a long time since we reviewed a USB external drive—not since November 2008, to be exact—mostly because they’re essentially commodities now. With transfers capped at USB 2.0 speeds and drive sizes mostly standardized, portable hard drives have had few features by which to distinguish themselves from their peers—the usefulness of included software, eSATA support, and full-disk encryption among them. On the eve of USB 3.0 drives, the Western Digital My Book Elite 2TB seems to be the state of the USB 2.0 drive art, with a custom e-ink display. But is it more than a gimmick?
The My Book Elite shares the vaguely book-like formfactor of the My Book World and Essential lineups, but along its “spine” is the e-ink display, which shows a custom 12-character drive label, a capacity meter, and a little lock icon if you’ve enabled disk encryption. Despite its limited usefulness, we dig it—mostly because we geek out over any applications with e-ink.
Is the e-ink display really necessary? Maybe not, but we dig it.
Backup, restore, disk encryption, power options, and changing the display label are all handled by WD’s SmartWare software, which mounts from a virtual CD partition on the My Book. Backup is intuitive, though not very fine-grained, and files can be restored either to their original locations or to a restore folder on your computer. The drive can also be set to back up continuously when the drive is plugged in.
The My Book Elite’s transfer speeds, as expected, are constrained by its USB 2.0 connector—no FireWire or eSATA here. Strangely, the average write speed was lower than either a bare WD Caviar Green drive in an external cradle or the 500GB SimpleTech ReDrive, at about 20MB/s compared to the others’ nearly 30MB/s writes.
The My Book Elite is reasonably priced, powerful, and intuitive, and although power-users will lament its lack of eSATA and opt for their own backup software, the drive offers users easy backup and restore, full-disk encryption, and an unnecessary but awesome e-ink label.
Western Digital My Book Elite 2TB
Elite (Halo Series)
Good looks; cool display; intuitive backup software; full-disk encryption.
31337 (Halo Players)
Write speeds slower than expected; no eSATA.
My Book Elite (USB)
SimpleTech Redrive (USB)
WD Caviar Green in Thermaltake BlacX Dock (USB)
HDTach Avg. Read (MB/s)
HDTach Avg. Write (MB/s)
HDTach Burst (MB/s)
HDTach CPU Utilization
HDTach Random Access (ms)
Best scores are bolded. HDTach version 18.104.22.168 used.