Western Digital has a number of direct-attached storage (DAS) products based on hard drives. They cater to different market segments. These DAS units usually employ a USB port to connect to the host (Thunderbolt is also popular in the high-end market). Within the USB storage bridge market segment, Western Digital has a number of product lines tuned to specific use-cases. For example, the My Passport product line focuses on striking a balance between capacity and portability, while the My Book targets a 'desktop' use-case with external power, but much higher capacity.

Introduction and Product Impressions

The My Book and My Passport product lines were updated last week with a new industrial design. Western Digital has been selling these external storage devices with the highest storage capacity drives in their class for some time now (the 3.5" 8TB version in the My Book, and the 2.5" 4TB version in the My Passport). The refresh last week changes only the chassis and retains the internals from the previous model. Today's review will take a look at the latest versions of the My Book and the My Passport.

The gallery below shows the updated chassis design of the two units and a look at the contents of the two packages. The aspects to note here include the 18W adapter bundled with the My Book, and the longer USB 3.0 cable bundled with it. The My Book unit also comes with a Kensington lock slot.

The new chassis design is definitely more stylish compared to the previous generation. Despite being more pleasing to the eye, certain segments of the chassis act as fingerprint magnets. Also, the new chassis design makes no improvements to the repairability aspect. We would prefer being able to get access to the bare drive in these units easily. This was an issue with the previous design, and it continues that way even with the new units. This is particularly important for the My Book, where a SATA drive is connected to a daughterboard containing the SATA-USB bridge chip (making it possible to use the SATA drive alone after pulling it out of the unit). For the My Passport, we find that the SATA - USB bridge is integrated on to the hard drive's mainboard, and the USB port is the only available interface on the drive itself. A burnt-out bridge chip essentially means it is not possible for the average consumer to retrieve data from the drive in the case of the My Passport.

The table below presents the detailed specifications and miscellaneous aspects of the units and how they compare against other DAS units employing a single hard drive.

Comparative HDD-Based Direct-Attached Storage Device Configurations
Aspect
Bridge Configuration SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B
Power 18W (12V @ 1.5A) External Power Adapter Bus-Powered
Internal Drive WD80EZZX-11CSGA0
8TB 5400 RPM 128MB cache 3.5" SATA Hard Drive
HelioSeal, 7-Stac, Hardware Encryption, TLER Off
WD40NMZW-11GX6S1
4TB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA Hard Drive
WD Blue with Integrated USB bridge, Hardware Encryption, TLER Off
     
Physical Dimensions 139.3 mm x 49 mm x 170.6 mm 110 mm x 21.5 mm x 81.5 mm
Weight 960 grams 250 grams
Cable USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB 3.0 Type-A USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB 3.0 Type-A
     
Evaluated Capacity 8TB 4TB
Price USD 250 USD 140
Review Link Western Digital My Book 8TB [2016] Review Western Digital My Passport 4TB [2016] Review

 

 

The technical details of the internal drives in the unit(s) are revealed by CrystalDiskInfo. We see that the helium drive used in the My Book is similar to the Ultrastar He8, but, the spindle spins slower at 5400 RPM to further reduce the power consumption. Other firmware features such as TLER (time-limited error recovery) necessary for RAID operation are disabled, making the drive unsuitable for use in RAID arrays / NAS units. In any case, it is a bit of a challenge to take out the drive from the chassis without damage to the enclosure. The My Passport, on the other hand, is based on a 5400 RPM WD Blue - the high-capacity 2.5" versions have a 15mm z-height, and ship with the bridge chip integrated on the main board. This makes it difficult for the standard hard drive monitoring tools to get all the S.M.A.R.T attributes.

Internal Drive Characteristics
Performance Benchmarks
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  • fazalmajid - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    WD and Seagate both suck. The drives to get are HGST (formerly Hitachi, formerly-er IBM), despite the fact HGST is now owned by WDC. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Correct. Reply
  • Breit - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    I've got a total of 6 of these previous-gen WD MyBook 8TB model here and guess what: I took them all apart to see what's actually in them. In two of them there is actually a HGST Helium drive installed with a HGST sticker on it. The other 4 have an identical drive (same exteriour, same electronics, same name) but an updated sticker, which says WD instead of HGST. They look nearly identical to the HGST He8 drives, despite they are only 5400rpm. So I guess they are infact HGST drives, which is a good thing.

    Maybe buying them sooner rather then later might be a good idea, assuming WD will change the design in the future to bring costs down (the external WD 8TB drives cost ~$250, while the bare drives without external enclosures in the form of the WD Red costs around $300-350 for whatever reason).
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    I see mostly Seagate 3.5" failures especially in the 7200.10-7200.12 series, and tons of WD Black and WD Blue 2.5" failures. I've only seen ONE WD Blue 3.5" desktop drive fail.

    The other point to note is Seagate drives fail catastrophically. My friend Mitchell works for a data recovery service in Chicago, and backs this up whenever we talk. Seagate drives they receive have a very low recovery rate compared to all other brands because many failures result in the platters being physically scratched (radial surface scratch) which nobody can recover because the media is ruined and there just isn't enough error correction to recover from surface defects on this scale.

    He is particularly fond of...you guessed it, Hitachi-designed drives. Most failures are controller related and are turned around 100% satisfactory using a donor drive.

    Hitachi Coolspins are as good as people rave about. It's ridiculous to trust your data on anything else if you can cope with the 4TB max capacity before the design changed to the joint Hitachi-WD developed Deskstar/Ultrastar models that come in larger capacities. The original Hitachi developed designed ended at 4TB, but are still sold at retailers because they are actually still in production.
    Reply
  • Wardrop - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing. Reply
  • fanofanand - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Count me in the camp that had a 7200.10 fail on me after 18 months of use. I won't buy a spinning platter again. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Hard drives are useful as infrequently used backup drives since modern SSDs have problems with long-term data retention. For instance, if you stick your backup drive at a relative's house like I do (~45 mins drive from my home) and forget about it, a modern SSD may not be the best solution based on what I've been reading about TLC. Reply
  • Michael Bay - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    But are they quiet? Price is indeed good. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Anecdotal experience is worth nothing when we're talking about statistics with single-digit yearly failure rates (as most normal HDDs have, server grade units score better). And you should not TRUST any single storage device, no matter how reliable you think it is. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    This. Backup backup backup. Cloud backup services are $50 a year for unlimited storage and protect you from every form of data failure (fire flood theft surge malware infections accidental deletion mechanical failure etc) Reply

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