Name: Western Digital My Book Essential 3TB
Type: 3TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive (PC/Mac)
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price: £168.75 from Amazon seller
If you're looking to do some super-quick, super-painless PC spring cleaning, you'll want to grab an external hard drive with USB 3.0 transfer speeds. Western Digital's My Book Essential range offers as much as a massive 3TB of external storage, and transfer speeds three times as fast as USB 2.0 thanks to their USB 3.0 connectivity options. We took a 3TB model for a spin. Read on for our thoughts!
As far as external hard drives go, the My Book Essential looks pretty snazzy, with its gloss black plastic casing and curved front. Three edges house discrete venting, with the front curved edge a white LED light that stays on constantly when the drive is in use, and blinks when in standby, which it tends to do quite a lot as the onboard software powers down the drive after a few minutes of inactivity. In a neat touch, the drive powers completely down automatically when your PC shuts down, and fires back up when the computer is switched on. When it comes to power management then, the drive is particularly savvy.
Though it shouldn't be treated as a portable drive, the My Book Essential is surprisingly small given its 3TB storage space inside. It measures just 165mm x 135mm x 48mm, and weighs only 1.18kg. It's also quiet as a mouse, barely audible when reading from or writing to its disk. Though rubber feet on the underside edge suggest the drive should be used in an upright position, we've had it running laid horizontally flat with no problems.
Though the drive is listed as a 3 terrabyte, as with all drives the actual usable space onboard is significantly smaller. You've in fact got 2794GB of space to play about with. This is by no means a fault of the drive (all hard drives have this quirk), but is worth mentioning if you're after specifically 3TB of external storage.
Things were going well until we started to install the latest drivers for the My Book Essential. While the onboard drivers worked fine, upgrading to firmware version 188.8.131.52 caused our system to go haywire, with the My Book Essential randomly connecting and disconnecting, our failing to appear at all when connected to our PC. It took a system restore to the initial driver settings before things calmed down again.
Using the USB 3.0 connection (the drive is also USB 2.0 compatible), we were very impressed with the My Book Essential's transfer speeds. See the chart below for our findings using CystalDiskMark:
As you can see, 5 passes at 1000MB saw average read speeds of 125.2MB/s and average write speeds of 92.61Mb/s, revealing solid transfer rates. In real world usage, we found it took just 49.4 seconds to transfer a 2.94GB ISO image file, with an average transfer rate of around 59.5 Mb/s. Not quite as good as the CystalDiskMark findings, but still impressive. Likewise, smaller file sizes transferred speedily at around the 70Mb/s mark, but wrote more slowly at closer to 30.5 Mb/s. It's still up with the best transfer speeds with experienced from USB 3.0, nonetheless, with each result averaging almost 3x as fast as when performed with a USB 2.0 connection.
The My Book Essential also ships with an impressive back-up software suite called SmartWare, pre-loaded onto the drive. Once a simple configuration process has been carried out, it works quietly in the background backing up your whole computer (or just files and folders of your choosing), keeping an eye out for changes and backing up accordingly. It's incredibly easy to use, and automates all of the tedious work that protecting your files can present.
Likewise, the security offerings onboard are equally impressive, with the ability to apply encrypted passwords and support for Kensington physical security locks.
A one-stop solution for your back-up needs, the My Book Essential offers speed, space, security and reliability. Were it not for the driver debacle we'd give this external drive a perfect score, but regardless it still comes very highly recommended.