WD's First 4-Bay NAS Server
Western Digital’s My Cloud network-attached storage devices are great for storing your data, but they are single-bay devices that can't offer capacity benefits or mind assuring redundancy of having a RAID array for your data. Millions of people around the world have relied on single-bay or single-drive devices to backup their data. WD has noticed that there has been a major shift to multi-bay network attached storage (NAS) devices this year and market research shows that trend will continue in the years to come. Businesses long ago embraced multi-bay NAS devices for maintaining backup copies of primary data, but now home users are finding that they have tons of data to backup. You could put all that data into the cloud, but you'll end up having to pay storage fees. Those fees might be minimal now, but think ahead a few years and look at how rapidly you are adding pictures and videos to your current backup solution. Sure, the cost of storage will go down over time, but most are generating more data now than ever. WD realized that they did not offer any multi-bay NAS devices for the consumer market, so they decided to come up with one. WD’s announcement of the My Cloud EX4 today is the answer to this market shift and hopefully the continued growth of the WD brand.
The WD My Cloud EX4 is available in four different storage capacities to help fit the storage criteria of various business and home user capacity needs. You start out with a drive-less 0TB model for $379.99 and then jump up to an 8TB version for $799.99, 12TB for $949.99 and a 16TB model for $1149.99. All of the My Cloud EX 4 Personal Cloud Storage servers use WD Red hard drives that are optimized for high-performance NAS devices. We were shocked to hear that WD would be coming out with a diskless option as they are a hard drive maker. They noted to Legit Reviews that roughly 70% of the NAS servers sold today are diskless, so they felt that they had to offer a solution for the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crowd as well. At $379.99, the diskless WD My Cloud EX4 is competitively priced as it is lower than many 4-bay diskless solutions from companies like Synology, QNAP, Buffalo and Thecus. We'll be taking a look at the WD My Cloud EX4 8TB version that is sold under part number WDBWWD0080KBK and has an MSRP of $799.99.
WD My Cloud EX4 General Specifications:
- Processor: Marvell ARMADA 300 SoC at 2.0GHz
- Memory: 512MB DDR3 (not upgradable)
- RAID Options: RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 or JBOD
- Robust: Twonky 7.2 DLNA-certified, 1.5 media server and iTunes support
- LAN Interface: 10/100/1000 MB Gigabit Ethernet
- USB 3.0 Ports: Two (rear)
- Height: 8.21 in (208.6 mm)
- Length: 8.67 in (220.2 mm)
- Width: 6.30 in (160.1 mm)
- Weight: 7.2 lbs (3.3 kg) without hard drives
- Warranty: 2-years
Inside the retail box you'll find the four-bay My Cloud EX4, Ethernet cable, quick install guide and the power supply brick and mickey mouse style power cord. Notice that all the colors are matched, which is nice and not often seen.
For starters the WD My Cloud EX4 looks great. The black and gun metal color combination are a perfect match for one another and will keep the NAS from looking 'old' in the years to come. The body of the enclosure is made from metal and it feels like it is really well built.
Since we are looking at the 8TB model it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that it is populated with four WD Red 2TB hard drives. WD ships all the models with a standard RAID 5 array (block-level striping with distributed parity.) A RAID 5 array distributes parity along with the data and can handle a single drive failure. This means that it has 6TB of usable storage space as one drive is used for parity. One of the really nice features of the WD My Cloud EX4 is that all of the hot swappable hard drive bays are trayless and tooless! This means that when a drive fails that you just open the drive bay door swap the drive and close it. The entire drive swapping process takes around five seconds per drive.
On the back of the WD My Cloud EX4 you have dual power ports, a recessed reset button, dual USB 3.0 expansion ports (the EX4 is not bootable off USB 3.0) and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. This is the first NAS device that we have ever seen that had both dual power and network redundancy. Only one power brick is included, but should one power or Ethernet port on the board go bad, you can quickly switch it to the other. You can also enable Ethernet bonding if you'd like. Having the pair of USB 3.0 ports is also nice as you can back up your most critical data again to external hard drives or use them to expand your data storage capabilities.
The sides of the WD My Cloud EX4 have some small ventilation holes located along the top edge and the bottom of the enclosure has thick rubber feet to keep from scratching whatever it will be placed on. Overall the WD My Cloud EX4 appears to be well designed and built, so let's take a peak inside and see what it looks like.
Inside The WD My Cloud EX4
We've never seen a NAS server from WD before, so we cracked up the case to take a look at the build quality and to see what components were being sourced for the WD My Cloud EX4.
With the black metal cover removed we were able to take a look inside the WD My Cloud EX4. The layout is very simple with the motherboard mounted on the top, and the drives located below that. There are just two wires inside the EX4; one for the front LCD and the other for the rear cooling fan. Both were proper sized with no extra cabling that would impede airflow or anything like that.
Here is a shot at the right side of the case with the cover removed. Not much to see besides the bottom of a hard drive and of course the bottom of the motherboard again.
With the motherboard removed you can see what appears to be a PCIe slot that connects the four SATA III hard drives to the motherboard. You can also clearly see the spring loaded drive bays, front panel ribbon and the 3-pin fan header for the one 80mm fan that cools the entire NAS server.
Here is a full look at the X20710286 motherboard used on the WD My Cloud EX4 NAS server. The layout is fairly simple and very clean as you can see from the image above. We were a bit shocked to see that WD didn't use all solid-state capacitors as four were standard electrolytic style capacitors.
The bottom of the board has a pair of the DDR3 memory chips and the lone SLC NAND chip. The bottom of the board sits on the top of the NAS, so we suspect this metal bar is present to protect the printed circuit board from the top cover of the WD My Cloud EX4 chassis and to help line up the board for installation.
This silver cover capped Marvell 88F6-BK12 is the embedded SoC that powers the unit. The WD My Cloud EX4 uses the Marvell ARMADA 300 embedded processor (ARM based 88F6282 processor) and it is a single-core solution that runs at 2.0GHz.
A Marvell 88SX7042-BDU1 was the PCI-E to Serial ATA Controller used by WD on the EX4. This controller has been around for over five years and we have seen it used on other networked attached servers and RAID cards.
WD went with the Etron EJ168 USB 3.0 Host Controller for the pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports that are found on the rear of the EX4.
WD placed a single 2GB SLC NAND Flash memory chip on the board to handle the operating system. The part number is K9F2G08U0C.
The WD My Cloud EX4 has 512MB of DDR3 1066MHz memory that is not upgradable. Our breakdown of the motherboard discovered four SKhynix H5TQ1G83DFR DDR3 memory chips that are each 128MB in size.
Lastly, we were shocked to see WD didn't use all solid-state capacitors on the EX4. WD is using capacitors labeled Nichicon and Taicon, which are both part of the Nichicon Family of capacitors. These capacitors aren't considered to be cheap. Our capacitor expert on staff said that Nichicon generally makes very high quality products. Taicon is a subsidiary of Nichicon and are basically Nichicon's "budget" line and are usually very good too. Both are considered better than Teapo's.
Now that we know what the WD My Cloud EX4 is and what is inside of it, we can move along and setup the NAS server!
Setting Up The WD My Cloud EX4
WD is trying to make personal storage easy and this product is aimed at first time NAS users. In fact, WD never calls this a networked attached storage server. They keep it simple and call it personal cloud storage. The first thing that you need to do is to power up the My Cloud EX4 and connect it to your network. To do this you simply give it power and plug it into your wired network, which most likely means plugging it into your wireless router. Once that is done you need to go to your computer or smartphone and download the WD My Cloud EX4 setup software. We downloaded the PC version for our laptop to get the initial setup started. The WD My Cloud EX4 software is available for both Windows and Mac, but it should be noted WD Smartware backup program is only for Windows. Fear not Apple users as the My Cloud EX4 supports Apple Time Machine natively for Mac backups.
Once the Windows app is installed and launched, you'll see the screen above and just need to click the 'get started' button to proceed.
From there you are taken to the WD End User License Agreement (EULA) that you must accept before being able to continue.
Next it tells you to turn on the My Cloud EX4 and when it shows the device name that you can click next. Most people likely won't be in the same room as their router, so if you plugged this in first, you can likely just click next.
This is what the welcome screen looks like on the LCD when you first boot the My Cloud EX4. Once the server is up and running this display also shows other information about the server, such as its IP address, its name, and so on.
If everything is working properly, the app should find your My Cloud EX4 and you can select next. If not, make sure everything is connected properly or give WD support a call for setup help.
The next step is setting up your personal cloud. If you want to be able to access your files from outside your home you must fill in this information as you need that account to login remotely. This is something you'll want to enable if you want to use the WD My Cloud mobile app on your iOS or Android smartphone and tablet.
After setting up your personal cloud information you are down. You can then choose to install the WD My Cloud application and create helpful shortcuts on your desktop. No drive letters are mapped at this point, so if you wanted to map drive letters you need to restart your PC and then you can right click the EX4 under storage devices and map a drive letter for it.
WD My Cloud EX4 Admin Panel
The My Cloud EX4 dashboard is super simple to use and has a user interface that is easy to learn and navigate. The home menu clearly shows the free capacity, drive status, firmware version, network activity, cloud devices, users and apps. Basically, all the basics are covered here.
The EX4 comes with a single account for the admin, but you can easily come into the users menu and add individual users and then even cluster select users together to form groups.
The WD My Cloud EX4 comes with public shared folders for pictures, videos and music. You can setup more shared folders and control access to each shared item. So, if a family wanted to share the My Cloud EX4 the parents can have a shared folder between themselves, but have it to where the other family members can access it.
If you want to be able to access your data from anywhere in the world through an internet connection you can do so with WD Cloud Access, but you must have it activated first. It should be noted that neither the WD My Cloud or My Cloud EX4 have the ability to sync folders via the cloud. This is a bit disappointing as if a group of people or a business is using the EX4 from computers, tablets and smartphones on a regular basis some updates might get missed.
The Western Digital My Cloud EX4 gives you multiple backup options and includes a 10 user license for WD Smartware Pro software. From this menu you can backup USB to/from USB drives, remote Backup and Restore to another My Cloud EX4, backup internal volumes and do cloud backups with Amazon S3 and Elephant Drive. You can of course back up things manually and it of course has integrated Apple Time Machine support.
If you get a WD My Cloud EX4 it comes in RAID 5 mode, but you can change that to RAID 0, 1, 5, 5+Hot-Spare or 10 by visiting the storage tab and changing the raid mode. You can also check the disk status adjust the iSCSI settings and other drive related things in this menu. Small Office/Home Office users looking for iSCSI, volume encryption, virtual folders (DFS) and active directories will be happy to know that the My Cloud EX4 supports them all. It should be noted that the stripe size (called chunk size by WD for some odd reason) is set to 48Kbytes by default and there is no way to change that value when configuring a new RAID setup.
When it comes to applications we were happy to see that WD supports a good number of them. For starters there are built in downloader Apps for Torrent, FTP and HTTP needs as well as a web file viewer. The WD My Cloud EX4 also supports a number of third party Apps like:
- aMule - peer to peer download application
- Transmission - peer to peer download application
- IceCast - Internet music streamer
- Wordpress - blogging tool
- Joomla - Content Management System
- phBB - Internet Forum package
- phpMyAdmin - MySQL admin tool
- SqueezeCenter - Logitech media Server for Logitech hardware products
- NZBGet - binary newsgrabber for nzb files
The last tab is the settings menu, which appears to be the dump area for a number of things as there is a sub menu with general and network settings, ISO mounting details, media, utilities, notifications and firmware updates (auto and manual updates are available). You might have noticed that there is no option to turn off the My Cloud EX4 yet. For this you either have to hold down the power button on the unit itself or go into the settings tab and then under the general menu you can scroll down to the device management settings and find the options to reboot or shutdown. WD plans on adding options to shutdown the unit on the home menu of the WD My Cloud EX4 software in the future to make this easier to find and access.
Let's take a look at performance!
WD My Cloud EX4 Performance Benchmarks
Rather than relying on synthetic benchmarks alone, we also used Teracopy and dragged and dropped a folder with 400 pictures and .MOV video clips from a recent trip we took to Hawaii last month. The entire folder was 2.21GB in size and is the perfect real world test for the My Cloud EX4 as everyone backs up their pictures and movies. When copying the pictures from our desktop through our Gigabit LAN (powered by the ASUS RT-AC66U Gigabit Router) to the My Cloud EX4 we averaged 25 MB/s. It tool 89.59 seconds to copy the 2.21GB file to the NAS, which means that we are certainly not going to be breaking any speed records here today.
When copying the folder from the NAS back to a new location on our desktop PC we found that it took 91.30 seconds at 25MB/s once again. The WD My Cloud EX4 is extremely user friendly, but it is clear that transfer speeds are not going to be it's strong suit.
It should be noted that we tried faster 7200RPM WD Black hard drives and the performance was the same. This means that the limitation is likely the single-core Marvell ARMADA 300 SoC running at 2.0GHz as it is not the drives.
Power Consumption and Final Thoughts
When it comes to power consumption the WD My Cloud EX4 8TB isn't too bad. We found that it uses around 15 Watts at idle when power saver mode is enabled. When the drives come out of their low power state they spike up to ~50 Watts during the few seconds it takes for them to spin back up to operational speeds.
During a single user file transfer we found the WD My Cloud EX4 to use right around 30 Watts of power, which is pretty good considering there are four WD Red 2TB hard drives inside along with the internal motherboard.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions:
The My Cloud EX4 is WD's first 4-bay NAS solution and we have to say it is a very solid device. This is by far the easiest NAS that we have ever used with the exception of figuring out how to restart or power the unit down from the desktop. From a cost perspective the WD My Cloud EX4 was found to be very affordable and competitive with what is available in the market.
The My Cloud EX4 drive-less 0TB model runs $379.99 and you can populate it with any drives that you like. WD will be posting an expansive whitelist of compatible drives from themselves as well as Seagate, HGST (Hitachi) and Toshiba in the near future. This is nice as you aren't forced to use WD drives. The WD My Cloud EX4 has been optimized for WD Red Drives though, so you can imagine that is the preferred drive choice by WD. The WD My Cloud EX4 that we reviewed today is sold under part number WDBWWD0080KBK for $799.99. Can you save some money by buying the empty housing and populating it yourself? A quick look online discovered we could get WD Red 2TB drives for $98.95 shipped each. This means that you could 'build' your own for right at $775.79, which is $24.20 less than buying it configured and ready to go. Is it worth piecing your own NAS together and building the RAID array for about $25? You'll have to be the one to decide that.
At the end of the day the My Cloud EX4 shows that WD is now a serious contender in the 4-bay NAS market. It is highly likely that in the months to come that WD will expand into other bay sizes and hopefully more powerful models. The My Cloud EX4 had acceptable performance for the price point, but we've used and reviewed other NAS devices that cost hundreds more and offer much faster performance. The WD My Cloud EX4 isn't really an enthusiast NAS as it was designed for the mainstream consumer. If you've never owned a NAS before and want to try one out the My Cloud EX4 is a great place to start. We highly recommend the My Cloud EX4 for a starter NAS as it is simple to use and backed by a 2-year warranty with support from WD.
Legit Bottom Line: The WD My Cloud EX4 is a solid performing 4-bay NAS that is easy to setup for use in a home or small office!