by Greg King on November 12, 2013 in Networking, Storage
WD is somewhat new to the NAS game, but it made a splash with its single-drive My Cloud that we took a look at last month. It’s now following-up with a 4-bay variant of that NAS, focused more on the higher-end user. Better-still: It comes diskless, or packed with WD’s own Red NAS drives. How well does the company’s latest NAS stack up?
Testing of the EX4 was simple; I didn’t put it through the usual paces that we have done with our other NAS reviews. This device was not designed to run in the same performance race as some of the other NAS boxes we have looked at recently. That being said, it was designed to be a solid and reliable storage device that will house a user’s data. In this, as I have already touched upon, it shines.
Using the same Dell testbed we have used for our other reviews, a series of file copies were made to and from the EX4. The specs of the desktop can be found below.
- Dell Optiplex 755
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6550
- 2GB DDR2 RAM
- 320GB Seagate 7200 RPM
- Integrated Video
- Intel PRO/1000 PT Dual Port NIC
Our tests were composed of simple file copies, to and from the EX4. Robocopy was used for the transfers going both ways. A share was setup on the EX4 and brought up on the Windows test box as a regular SMB share. Additionally, I created an iSCSI LUN on the EX4 and connected the test box using the built-in Microsoft iSCSI initiator.
When we were sent this review unit, it shipped with four WD Red drives setup in RAID 5. For our testing, this configuration was kept as it’s likely the setup most end-users will choose to run with.
||WD My Cloud EX Cloud NAS
The EX4 won’t win any performance crowns with those numbers. Even the two-bay Synology unit we reviewed a few months back could run laps around the EX4 in most typical use cases. But, having said that, WD didn’t design this device to light any fires in the performance category. What it was designed for, it does so with powerful conviction. As if WD had been reading my reviews over the past two years, taking note of the gripes with other NAS boxes, it’s started with an all-metal housing. As I have said time and time again, this isn’t a deal breaker, but the metal enclosure does give a device a more solid foundation and feel.
The elimination of drive sleds also is appealing to this editor. It facilitates a quick drive swap in the event that one is needed. While I personally prefer having a drive in a caddy, I applaud WD for removing them, allowing a quick swap when needed. When talking about the build quality, I would be remiss to leave out the LCD screen. It’s another addition that isn’t necessary, but it makes the day-to-day usage of the EX4 all the better. Having the ability to get basic information about the unit without logging into the Web interface is nice and certainly something that many will appreciate when rolling the EX4 out into production.
The EX4 is quiet. I couldn’t identify it above any other piece of powered-on computing hardware in my office. Additionally, the ecosystem that WD has quickly built around its My Cloud line of products should be applauded as well. While they will benefit from the polish that apps obtain after a couple of initial revisions, the iOS app on my iPhone works very well and has allowed me to reach my data stored on the EX4 from anywhere I have a connection to the Internet. Add in the backup software that WD included, SmartWare Pro (the EX4 comes with 10 licenses for this program), and the value increases again.
A device like the EX4 will always excite me. I love almost anything that can communicate across a network, and the My Cloud EX4 can do that and so much more. The simulated failures that I put it through, the load that it was under yet still allowing me to access the data within, all left a very positive impression on this reviewer.
There are things that could use some more attention, of course. The layout of the UI, while clean and easy to navigate, could use a bit more polish. The CPU utilization when idle seems higher than it should be (approximately 50% – 65%) with processes such as wdphotodbmerger consuming quite a bit of CPU, but after some digging, I was unable to find out what was using it. However, these are things that can be addressed with updated code. WD is on version 1.x now with both of its My Cloud offerings, and I am excited to see how they mature over time.
The last thing I feel needs mentioning is the price. Available in four configurations, the WD EX4 is priced fairly competitively.
- Diskless: $379.99
- 8TB: $799.99
- 12TB: $949.99
- 16TB: $1149.99
With the diskless offering having an MSRP of under $400, this puts the EX4 into the range of the stellar DS413j from Synology. But, with the EX4, you get redundant power and network, whereas with the DS413j, you don’t. You also don’t get a pair of USB 3.0 ports. These are also MSRP prices; when they hit the streets, they will likely sell for a little less. When stepping up for a model with storage already in it, you get at minimum 8TB of usable space, made up of the award-winning WD Red drives.
It’s hard to go wrong with the EX4. While the My Cloud lineup is new, and nobody would fault you for waiting to see how things shape up with their future firmware and hardware offerings, I have zero qualms with recommending the EX4 to anyone looking to get into the world of network-attached storage. With a four bay, you get the redundancy of RAID 5, without the hassle of setting it up yourself. Adding to the value, the EX4 has most everything that both a home user, and an office manager, could want. With granular permissions, flexible storage offerings, and reliability backed up by the WD name, the EX4 is a winner. An absolute winner.
WD My Cloud EX4 Cloud NAS