Western Digital's Series II external hard drive
The Western Digital Series II is a decent choice for users who don't need features such as a FireWire port, backup software, or a memory-card reader on their USB external hard drive. The no-frills, USB 2.0 Series II drives come in $149.99 80GB, $179.99 120GB, and $199.99 160GB flavors, the latter being $50 less than Western Digital's 160GB Media Center drive with all the above-mentioned bells and whistles. However, the Series II starts to look pricey when compared to Maxtor's $199.95 160GB USB 2.0/FireWire OneTouch with backup software, and the same company's $179.95 no-frills .
The Series II drives are slightly smaller than the average external drive, measuring a little more than 8.25 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and about 1.5 inches thick. The attractive pewter-and-silver case sheds heat fairly well and keeps the unit cool. The entire package--AC adapter and all--weighs a little more than 3 pounds. Befitting their budget spot in Western Digital's product line, Series II drives offer a minimal number of external features: power and activity lights on the front, with the AC, USB 2.0, and Kensington-lock ports on the back. There's no power switch, so you'll need an uninterruptible power supply or a power strip to avoid constantly pulling the plug.
Our hands-on experience with an 80GB Series II drive showed it to be a good if not spectacular performer. The drive read a 400MB folder of small to medium-size files in 40 seconds and a 1.987GB image file in 83 seconds--10.5MB per second and 23.9MB per second, respectively. By comparison, a Western Digital 250MB Media Center drive performed the same tasks at 12MB per second and 26.1MB per second, while a Maxtor 160GB OneTouch drive managed 11.35MB per second and 31.5MB per second. Slower than the competition or not, Series II drives offer enough performance for the average user.
Western Digital backs its Series II drives with a one-year warranty, and toll-free phone support is available to help with basic installation issues for the first 30 days that you own the product. Support costs $14.95 per incident after that, unless you purchase a full year of extended support at the same price (renewing yearly for $9.95). However, other than a dead drive, there's little that the company's online FAQs, jumper settings, e-mail support, and user forum can't help you with.
Note: Western Digital refers to its budget external USB 2.0 drives as Series II only on its Web site; there was no reference to Series II on our retail box. However, you can identify the drives in the store by their order numbers: WDXU800BBRNN (80GB), WDXU1200BBRNN (120GB), and WDXU1600BBRNN (160GB).