Western Digital describes the MyBook range as having a design that's "iconic of a book". In practical terms, that means that they were shooting for something that looked like a book, only not very much. But designers, like the rest of us, have to come up with pretty words that keep the people in suits who sign the paycheques happy, so what we get is terms like "iconic of a book". The MyBook design looks more like a very small box file folder, or perhaps the ungodly union between a Microsoft Xbox and an oven-baked shrinky dink. The book idea would take more of a place if you did buy multiple drives and stack them, but even that's a stretch. It's not to say that the MyBook's design isn't somewhat eye-catching -- this is a hard drive, and that's usually the domain of ugly and functional designs -- but nobody's going to look at the MyBook and think "Book" first of all. We'd seriously doubt that Book would make the top ten. Physically it measures in at 57.2 by 170.5 by 141mm and weighs 1.3kg. That's not entirely outside the realms of luggability, although it's much bulkier and heavier than, say, the Lacie Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive, or even smaller options like the Iomega Micro Mini Hard Drive.
The front of the MyBook is dominated by the power button, which on the Essential edition version of the drive is lit up by a green ring that indicates power status and drive activity; owners of the flashier Premium Edition drive get a secondary glowing ring to show rough drive usage. The rear of the MyBook houses the AC power adaptor and USB Type B port. The MyBook is solely AC powered; it'd undoubtedly be a more enticing option if it offered the choice of AC or USB Bus power.
Western Digital offers the essential edition MyBook in two capacities, 250GB (AU$299) and 500GB (AU$569). Both use High Speed USB 2.0, although if you're truly into waiting there's no practical reason why they shouldn't work under USB 1.1 conditions. It might be wise to have an actual book -- say, War And Peace -- handy while you wait for your file transfers, though. The power management characteristics of the drive will see it power up when your PC does, and it'll go idle after 10 minutes of inactivity. The drive within is a 7,200RPM model with an 8MB buffer (16MB on the 500GB version) and a claimed maximum transfer rate of 480MB/s.
The drive itself is functionally driverless under Windows XP, and although we didn't test with a Mac, we can't see why it wouldn't be likewise on that platform. It'll power itself up when your system boots, and on first insertion if it's never been detected before, you'll be given the opportunity to install a number of programs, including a swathe of Google applications (all of which, it should be noted, can be had freely from Google -- we're talking applications such as Google Desktop here) as well as WD LifeGuard Diagnostics. Curiously for a drive that's touted as being all about data backup, there's no backup software provided with the drive at all; you'll have to either manage your backups manually, or use a third party software solution to automate your backups.
We tested the MyBook transferring files to and from the drive with three different file sizes; a small 16MB video file, a much larger 384MB video file and a grouped folder of around 1,000 files totalling 235MB. Video files were specifically chosen as they're normally as compressed as possible and thus a good test of the drive's quick and sustained transfer speeds, while the folder of files tests how well the drive can handle a continuous stream of smaller files of all types. With small files the MyBook averaged around 16MB/s write speed and an identical 16MB/s read speed. The larger file transfer saw data rates dip just a touch, with an average read/write speed of 14.8MB/sec. The larger folder test often proves tricky for drives, and here the MyBook did fare significantly worse. Read speeds dipped to an average of 5.75MB/s, while write speeds dropped to around 2MB/second. That's about the same speeds we achieved with the same tests on the smaller (and slower RPM) Iomega Micro Mini drive; not exceptional, although certainly not poor.
One thing we did notice with the MyBook was the noticeable level of vibration it gave off while copying files, especially if laid on its side, where the larger surface area could impact on our test desk. It's not at a level where you'll begin to lose dental fillings, but it's noticeable nonetheless.
The MyBook scores well with us for its simplicity of use and purpose, not to mention its very solid, unbooklike binding. It's a pity that it's not offered up with some kind of backup solution -- for that you'll have to investigate the Premium MyBook -- but beyond that, it does do what it says on the box -- or book, in this case.