So the Junkyard was invited to take the new Western Digital My Cloud EX2 for a test run for a few weeks and being the geek that I am, Gretchen found it suitable for me to take on the task of testing it and writing the review myself. Needless to say, with all the technicalities and nerdery involved, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Kindly bear with me as this is my debut article for the Junkyard (though I owe Gretchen a couple more actually, which unfortunately, I have not been able to write…yet) and allow me to show you the beauty and fashion that is just as alive in the tech industry. Read on below to check out the Junkyard’s Western Digital My Cloud EX2 hands-on review and find out if it’s one of those toys that’s suitable for you.
Disclaimer: gretasjunkyard.com does not condone or encourage piracy or the use of any illegally distributed media material. All materials used in this article are photos taken by the author and all external material are licensed and orginal.
Meet the Western Digital My Cloud EX2
The Western Digital My Cloud EX2 is a high-performance NAS (Network Attached Storage) that can hold your files allowing you to access them wirelessly. It works as your own cloud server providing you a massive amount of file storage and at the same time makes your files, whether they be documents, music, photos, etc…, accessible to you almost anytime, anywhere (provided you have Internet connection of course). Simply put, it works similarly to Dropbox, Google Drive, Sky Drive, and iCloud (for Mac users) with the difference of having the hardware itself with you and having complete control of the configuration and settings of the server.
Personally, I use Dropbox, iCloud (i’m not a Mac user as I only use iCloud to save my photos), and Google Drive, but after a few weeks with this beast, I would love to have one for home and family use. The way I see it, users haven’t adapted to fully utilizing cloud services and I have nothing against that. With security being one of the major issues alongside availability and accessibility of (really) high-speed Internet, you still see the presence of portable hard drives which thankfully, are now accommodating larger capacities and are becoming friendlier on the pocket. The My Cloud EX2 however, does give you an extra blanket of security as you would actually have complete access to it and you literally know where your files are being stored. Let’s talk more about that later. For now, have a go at how it would look on your desk.
Setup was pretty simple and straightforward
Right out of the box, the unit’s completely set up, physically, meaning the hard drive/s are already stored inside the enclosure. So all you actually need to pull out is the unit, the Ethernet cable that comes with it, and the power supply. It’s pretty sleek in its 6.10 x 3.90 x 6.75-inch all-black exterior despite it feeling rather “plastic-y”, all 3.4lbs of the device make it feel much sturdier than it looks.
Once I pulled out everything from the box, I immediately knew where it would go and sit tight in the coming weeks. My work station at home is pretty simple. Since I don’t have a rig setup (yet), I just hook up my laptop onto my monitor when I’m working on the Junkyard and other projects. On the same table I have our modem and router, as well as an extra keyboard, and of course a couple of speakers.
To put things in perspective, the My Cloud EX2 is that black box in between the monitor and the laptop (see image below). The one with the three small lights.
Setup was quick and easy. For this part, all I needed were:
- My Cloud EX2 unit
- Ethernet cable
- AC power Adapter (autovolt out of the box)
- Router (My router is just a basic Belkin N150 – standard specs which any typical budget router should have)
- Internet connection (Modem to router connection – subscribed on PLDT Fibr at 3Mbps)
- Computer (I used my Acer Timeline X, running on 1st Gen Intel i5, 6GB RAM, 1GB Radeon HD 6550M Graphics, and Windows 7 premium – for setup purposes though, the device is compatible with Windows XP 32-bit SP 3 all the way up to Windows 8.1 and for MAC users you can use OS X Snow Leopard up to Mavericks)
*For complete compatibility specifications, refer to the product technical specifications here
Once the Ethernet cable was connected from the unit into our router, I just plugged in the power adapter and watched the unit boot up. The LEDs in the front face of the unit initially lit up in red while it was booting and once it was ready to connect, the LEDs turned blue. Blue lights signaled that my personal cloud server was ready for use.
Software was just as easy to setup
With the device ready, it was time to move stuff into its massive storage capacity. I expected a bit of complexity in making this work but I was honestly surprised that the programs required were easily available, and had a very user-friendly interface which worked pretty well. To start communicating with the device, I downloaded and installed the following programs from WD’s support site.
- WD My Cloud Desktop – this app is basically the interface you’ll be using to manage content on the device
- WD My Cloud EX2 Setup for Windows – wizard that will get your computer to discover your device over the network for setup.
Installation of these two will also include the WD Learning Center shortcut which is basically a guide and manual for your device. Pretty handy to have beside you in case you’ll need to troubleshoot.
Once both were installed, it was finally time to setup my personal cloud. To start things off, run the shortcut to the WD My Cloud EX2 Dashboard which will open on your browser via the device’s IP address. Through the dashboard, you’ll see the current capacities of your storage device, firmware updates, and device health. You can even create user accounts that can remotely access your storage.
Through the dashboard you can configure and customize your device as desired. Out of the box though, the admin account will already have been created and you’ll just need to generate a code through the dashboard to access your content on other devices, kind of similar to how bluetooth pairing works. Additionally, I went to the dashboard settings and enabled DLNA. Other than that, the device is pre-configured to work.
Next, I just ran the setup wizard (which easily discovered the device on my network) and followed the instructions for each step to complete the process. Note that in this process, you can create your WD account that will allow you to access your files from the device even when you’re connected through a different network.
After complete setup of the device, which took me around 10-15 minutes, I ran the My Cloud Desktop App to start moving files into the storage device. The desktop app is pretty straightforward as well, with easy folder organization for both file access and cloud backups. The interface is nothing fancy but it’s easy enough to use especially if you’re already familiar with how Dropbox or other third party cloud services work.
Finally, My Own Personal Media Server
When Gretchen told me about reviewing the product, I instantly made a mental note to test the My Cloud EX2 with all the toys that I had. To add to that, I knew that having a NAS would work well for home use particularly for media consumption which is what I focused on more, other than just file storage. For this review I used the following devices and programs:
- My Laptop (tested using the My Cloud Desktop app and XBMC 12.2)
- Apple TV 1st Gen running XBMC 12.1
- Raspberry Pi model B running RaspBMC
- Asus Infinity Pad tf700t on Jelly Bean 4.2.1 (tested using the My Cloud Android app and XBMC 13.1 beta Android App)
- Apple iPad mini on iOS 7.1.2 (My Cloud iOS app)
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Active i9295 on Kitkat 4.4.2 (My Cloud Android App + Smart Communications LTE Connection)
The cloud server didn’t seem to have problems loading any of the files that I uploaded into it. All the files that I uploaded, I did so wirelessly through the My Cloud Applications whether on desktop or mobile. All these companion apps are free by the way. So I uploaded 3 movie files, 2 of which were animated, and one that wasn’t (Final Fantasy VII 1080p, Rise of the Guardians 720p, and The Immortals 1080p). I uploaded photos from my mobile phone and tablet, and music and other files from my laptop. All of which were copied into the My Cloud EX2 seemlessly. It accepted any file I threw into it from PSD’s, to .txt files, and even your usual documents, spreadsheets, etc.
The My Cloud apps worked very well and were very easy to use given the interface. Again, nothing fancy, but user-friendly and it does the job. From where I stand, I don’t really need it to look any better than it already is. The user experience is better than average as it provides users with a seamless procedure of accessing their files. What’s in the storage device is in the app and if you want to watch, view, or listen, all you have to do is click on it or tap it and watch the magic happen. Even better, the quality of the file hardly suffered (depending on the capability of the device playing the file of course). As long as the device you’re streaming to can recognize the file extension and can play the resolution, then no quality loss is experienced. The two samples above were streamed through the 1st gen Apple TV which could not play 1080p video yet resulting in the first video to be choppy whilst the second one played at 720p very well.
Loading time didn’t seem to be an issue at all either. I didn’t encounter any buffering even while playing the 1080p movie files and fast forwarding to a particular scene. Perhaps a 2-second load for it to catch up to the scene but once it did, it played on. I can’t guarantee however that this applies to all users as I think it’s highly dependent on the Internet connection—luckily I’ve been happy with Fibr’s speed so far.
I did however, test accessing the files through my LTE connection and this was when loading time took a little longer than I hoped, but satisfactory nonetheless. Maybe I was just comparing it to how fast it called the files from when I was connected to the same network as the device.
In terms of compatibility with programs, I was a bit doubtful at first as I presumed that connectivity would be limited to being accessible only via the My Cloud apps. To my delight, there was no exclusivity at all. UPnP and DLNA connections worked properly and the cloud device was easily discovered and connected to XBMC apps on any of my devices. I even tried playing the same file on two different devices simultaneously and it worked perfectly—at the same time I tried streaming some of the music through the app on my phone.
Conclusion – It’s a powerful personal tool that a home should have
In just a short span of time, I was able to test the My Cloud EX2 rigorously for media consumption. With UPnP and DLNA working properly, I’m sure that it would also work on my PS3 (though I wasn’t able to test) and it would be a great way to centralize all the movies, music, photos, and other media files into one place. At the same time, these will be easily accessible throughout the house.
It’s definitely a tool that may seem portable, but still highly dependent on a strong and fast Internet connection. That being said, it’s really not your on-the-go media storage device though you still would be able to access your media files even through a different network. I would discourage however, trying to stream to mobile data access as doing so would definitely eat up your data allocation—unless of course you’re only trying to access maybe some documents or a few epub files that you want to read on your impromptu trip.
For media and entertainment purposes, this would be an ideal gadget to have in a home—especially with the emergence of smart TV’s, you’ll definitely save time and space on both your computer’s capacities and the shelves that once held your DVDs. If you’re into much more than that though, you’ll see that you have full access into the device and find it powerful enough to even host your own website or blog. The device comes compatible with various online platforms such as WordPress, phpMyAdmin, Icecast, and more. Though I wasn’t able to test the device for such use, I hope I would be able to do so in the future.
In a way, you would also feel that your files are more secure here than with a third party provider but at the same time the device also allows you to configure the right security and access settings, as well as integration with other third party providers. This little black box really packs a punch and I can only wish that I could’ve had more time to test more of its capabilities.
I hope that this review interests you and if you decide to get one yourself, please do share your experience and how you use and setup your own My Cloud EX2. Looking forward to sharing notes!