WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra: Review

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Model: My Cloud EX2 Ultra
Specifications:

    Type: NAS Enclosure, Network HDD
    CPU: Marvell® ARMADA® 385 1.3 GHz dual-core
    Dimensions: 165x157x99mm (LxWxH)
    Weight: 2.3KG
    Read/Write:
      RAID 0: 250MBps read/200MBps write
      RAID 1: 150MBps read/150MBps write
      JBOD: 250MBps read/210MBps write
    Software: WD SmartWare, WD Utilities, WD Security
Product Link: WD Global

Ease of Learning: 4.5 / 5

Ease of Use: 4.5 / 5

Enjoyment: 3.5 / 5

Design: 3.5 / 5

Value for Money: 3.5 / 5


Western Digital, or WD, recently released the My Cloud EX2 Ultra, less than two months back. The company has expanded their range of household and small business storage essentials. Having previously reviewed the My Book Duo on FoS, the My Cloud EX2 Ultra adds another dimension to the range of products.

The My Cloud EX2 Ultra is, effectively, a 2-bay NAS casing, an upgrade of its predecessor, the My Cloud EX2. As with the EX2, the Ultra provides remote and cloud access to your personal files. This makes for secure sharing across different devices, whether it be home or office use. The unit comes in a few variants based on storage options, 4TB (x2 2TB), 8TB (x2 4TB), 12TB (x2 6TB), or simply the enclosure itself. Variants with drives within the enclosure are WD’s Red NAS HDDs, each with a 3-year warranty. Choosing to use your own drives is a more cost effective option, provided that those drives are compatible. WD provided the 4TB variant for our review.

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra-04

Build and Design

The build and design are almost identical to that of the older My Cloud EX2, and even the My Book Duo. The Ultra and EX2 both include x2 USB3.0 ports, as well as an RJ-45 port for connectivity to the local network, or even directly to your PC or laptop. The My Book Duo, however, is more geared toward personal home use, providing a SATA connection in place of the RJ-45 port.

The matte grey, plastic enclosure has had the same design for many years, with its curved front edges on the front, and black plastic across the top, bottom and back. The three front LEDs are indicators for the connectivity of bay 1 and bay 2, along with the power indicator. The lid is opened by a simple click, exposing the two drives and internals. The internals is the where most of the changes have been made, but more on that later.

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra-02

Software

Many of the cloud interfaces for the WD are similar across the range. The Ultra is no different. The User Interface starts off by taking you through the necessary steps in setting up your unit, before it’s ready to be shared in the cloud or your local network, since security is one of the main exponents of having the Ultra in the first place. The interface provides useful information, as well as a number of tools to setup and secure your network, even choosing which devices to allow and decline access to. In addition, you’ll also have the option of access the files from your iOS or Android smartphones via their respective apps. So there’s no excuse not to have your required files wherever you are in the world.

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra-03

Performance

One of the key changes of the My Cloud EX2 Ultra isn’t a matter of what drives you’re using, but rather the internals of the enclosure, as alluded to earlier. At the centre of its upgrade lies the much improved Marvell® ARMADA® 385 1.3 GHz dual-core CPU, the brain of the operation, alongside the 1GB DDR3 RAM. Having an onboard CPU creates an environment not restrictive of operating systems, drivers, and any other network limitations. In fact, the setup supports multiple network protocols, which include DHCP Client or Static IP, NTP Client, Dynamic DNS (DDNS), Apple Bonjour and Windows Rally, Jumbo frame support up to 9K, VLAN (802.1Q), Link Aggregation and failover for 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, UPnP port forwarding, LLTD Link Layer Topology Discovery Protocol, iSCSI and SSH. It also supports different network file servers such as Windows XP Home/ Pro/ 64-bit SP3+, Windows Vista/ 7/ 8 (All versions), Mac OS X 10.6, Lion, Mountain Lion, CIFS/SMB for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, Linux Distributed File System (DFS), AFP for Mac OS X, FTP/SFTP Server, WebDAV Server, and Microsoft Active Directory support. You can view the full list of capabilities here.

The end result of the upgraded enclosure hardware means faster and more efficient processing of the above-mentioned protocols, standards and execution. It doesn’t have a significant effect on transfer speeds, however, as these are still mostly limited by the drives themselves, when compared against the EX2 and Duo units. In any event, the results are still pleasing, with pretty impressive read and write speeds, for both larger files and smaller sequential transfers.

What was surprising to observe during testing was that the EX2 Ultra outperformed the EX2 in read speeds and latency, but lagged behind when it came to write speeds and latency, during transfers for both large and sequential tests. The sequential file transfer tests on RAID 0 setup yielded an average of 250MBps read and 200MBps write, with RAID 1 slowing slightly to around 150MBps, with JBOD increasing again to above 250MBps read and 210MBps write. Switching to larger file transfers again slowed down the read/write speeds to 115MBps and 105MBps, respectively, on RAID 0, with only slightly different results for RAID 1 and JBOD.

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra-01

Conclusion

If you’re a first time buyer of the NAS enclosure and looking for a good setup, the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra is a really good start. If, however, you own either the original EX2 or the My Book Duo, it wouldn’t have much benefit to upgrade your existing unit, unless you really do require the additional levels of security, and processing prowess.

The WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra is an easy to setup, easy to use NAS enclosure with a lot of hidden features to explore. While setup may take as little as 5 minutes, traversing the feature set could take more than an entire week. For most prospective buyers, read and write speeds for such a setup don’t really matter. What is more important here is the security, ease of access and backup capabilities, something the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra has in abundance.

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