Western Digital's been quite the busy body today in the SSD sector. In addition to the just-announced MLC-based SiliconEdge Blue line, the storage vendor also just unveiled its WD SiliconDrive N1x 2.5-inch SSD family. Built around a single-level cell architecture (SLC), Western Digital says these provide a cost effective alternative without giving up a ton of performance.
"The WD SiliconDrive N1x SSDs are the newest addition to our SiliconDrive product family, which has shipped several million units since the first products were introduced. SiliconDrive SSDs have consistently met critical OEM application requirements for high reliability, high performance and long product deployment cycles," said Michael Hajeck, senior vice president and general manager of WD's solid state storage business unit. "Satisfying the challenging storage demands for a wide variety of OEM applications, WD has designed the WD SiliconDrive N1x and WD SiliconEdge Blue product families to facilitate SSD technology adoption in a multitude of existing and expanding new markets that can benefit from advanced storage solutions."
Like the SiliconEdge Blue line, the SiliconDrive N1x family also features a native SATA 3Gbps interface. Read and write speeds are a little more modest at 240MB/s and 140MB/s, respectively, compared to 250MB/s and 170MB/s on the SiliconEdge.
TRIM and NCQ support also come as part of the package, as does a five year warranty.
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.
Western Digital is marketing this capacious WD ShareSpace to the home and small-office crowd. Both audiences will appreciate the low price tag, but this box’s several shortcomings and slow speed will leave both audiences wanting.
The ShareSpace is housed in a generic-looking gray steel cube. Loosening two captive screws in back and removing the three-sided housing exposes the motherboard and four of Western Digital’s environmentally conscious 2TB Caviar Green drives. The four platters on each drive spins somewhere between 5,400 and 7,200 RPM (Western Digital declines to state the actual speed), and each drive has 32MB of cache. The array comes from the factory in a RAID 5 configuration. Although the hardware also supports span (JBOD), RAID 0, and RAID 1 modes, RAID level migration is not supported. The more fault-tolerant RAID 5 + Spare and RAID 6 arrays are not supported, nor can you configure the drives in multiple volumes or limit the number of drives used in any given configuration.
We wouldn’t normally test two products from the same lineup in two consecutive issues of the magazine. But when Western Digital’s My Book 3.0 showed up just days after the March issue went to print (it's on newsstands now!), we knew we had to review it. It doesn’t have an e-label or capacity meter, like the My Book Elite. Nor does it include WD’s SmartWare backup software or hardware encryption. But the My Book 3.0 has one feature that makes it awesome: USB 3.0.
High-definition video files were meant to be seen on big-screen televisions, not your 19-inch PC monitor. But getting these files—either personally ripped from high-def sources or downloaded from the Internet—from your desktop to the living room has always been a cumbersome process. Users previously had the option of streaming over a network to devices like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, which have restrictive file compatibility, or they could use a dedicated video player like Western Digital’s WD TV, which could only play back files from attached USB drives. The new WD TV Live, however, comes with a much-needed Ethernet port, and along with the addition of other new hardware and software features, is the best video streamer we’ve tested yet.
Like its predecessor, the WD TV Live doesn’t actually store any media. Plug portable hard drives filled with your movies, music, and photos into the player’s two USB ports and it’ll output the content to your home theater via either an HDMI, composite, or component video connection (also added since the original design). And while the first WD TV supported a host of popular file types, format compatibility on this successor is even more impressive. In our tests, high-bitrate 1080p videos encoded with MPEG, Xvid, H.264, or WMV codecs played without a hitch, even when housed in a variety of file containers, like Matroska MKVs. You can also play videos with multiple audio tracks, soft subtitles, and even DTS audio—a big omission in the last iteration. We only ran into problems on a few occasions, most notably with WMV 9–encoded files that wouldn’t play audio, and raw video recorded from high-end digital cameras.
It's a apparently a good time to be in the HDD business. Just as strong hard drive sales helped Seagate post healthy revenue numbers, the same holds true for Western Digital, which reported revenue of $2.6 billion for its second fiscal quarter ended January 1, 2010.
"We are very pleased with WD's strong financial performance in our second fiscal quarter," said John Coyne, president and chief executive officer. "For the third consecutive quarter, we increased output in a supply constrained environment, providing strong support of our customers' growth opportunities, primarily in the consumer segment but, notably, with some emerging strength in the commercial sector."
WD said it shipped 49.5 million hard drives during its fiscal second quarter, which helped result in net income of $429 million, or $1.85 per share. The company also generated a record $557 million in cash from operations, ending with total cash and cash equivalents of $2.4 billion, WD said.
Western Digital today announced the My Book 3.0, their first USB 3.0-enabled external hard drive. The My Book 3.0 contains a 1TB WD hard drive in the same black shell as other My Book products, though without a capacity meter or e-ink display, a la the My Book Elite.
With USB 3.0, Western Digital claims theoretical transfer speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second are possible (or around 640MB/s). However, given the inherent transfer speed limits of mechanical hard drives, you won't see more than around 100MB/s - still three times as fast as USB 2.0.
The 1TB WD My Book 3.0 is available now at http://www.shopwd.com for $180, or $200 with an included USB 3.0 PCIe adapter card. Look for a full review on Maximumpc.com later this week.
Not only do you have to protect yourself from any number of nefarious online threats, you also have to watch your back as well. You never know when a friend may be readying to ‘accidentally’ plunge in a knife.
Western Digital claims that only a small percentage of WD Box Live users have been affected. Those with incapacitated units are advised to contact Western Digital’s customer service. (Affected commenters at Engadget suggest taking the unit to Best Buy and making an exchange rather than hassle with an RMA.)
The enterprise market is made up of big business, which places heavy, mission critical demands on their hard drives. You need some serious hard drive storage if you plan to offer email, web applications, or cloud-computing services. Drives that can handle the stress long-term, with little chance of failure are favored in this market, currently dominated by Seagate and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.
Western Digital’s first offering is the WD S25, available in 147 Gb and 300 Gb capacities. The drive, which has a 2.5-inch form factor, spins at 10,000 RPMs. It also includes the technologically necessary Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface, either SAS 3 Gb/s or SAS 6 Gb/s. While similar in appearance to Western Digital’s VelociRaptor, it has faster read and write seek times, and a higher MTBF rating of 1.6 million hours.
Recession? Tech slump? Losses? Apparently these are all things Western Digital is not familiar with, even if just about everyone else in the tech industry is. The hard drive maker today reported record quarterly revenue of $2.2 billion, and that's not the only record that was set.
Hard drive shipments also hit a record high totaling 44.1 million units for the quarter. All tallied, Western Digital pulled in net income of $288 million, or $1.25 per share, for its first fiscal quarter ended October 2, 2009.
"For the second consecutive quarter, demand for hard drives was stronger than expected as the positive industry conditions that materialized in the June quarter continued throughout the September quarter," said John Coyne, president and chief executive office. "We believe that demand is being driven primarily by consumers as a result of the growing social media phenomenon. This is creating demand in mobile and desktop PCs, branded products, and enterprise storage."
Western Digital went on to say that its hard drive inventories remain at historically low levels. And going forward, the hard drive maker says demand remains strong, so the good times should continue.