Storage is a vital part of our digital lifestyle, and no one knows that better than WD. For years the company has been a key player in thes storage market, catering to both home and enterprise level storage. Their latest product offering comes in the form of the WD My Cloud EX4, a robust NAS solution that can be used in a variety of scenarios.
Build Quality & Design
As a business product, the EX4 looks perfect. But as something you might install at home, the design stands out as a bit harsh. Though the EX4 shared WD’s ‘My Cloud’ moniker, it looks nothing like the sleek white device I reviewed a few weeks ago, opting instead for a black cube design. It’s metal chassis does bump up the durability factor of the device, since most of WD’s devices come in a hard plastic case.
At the front of the EX4 you have a two-line display panel that shows you information such as the device’s IP address as well as important notifications. To the side of it you have a power button and two buttons to scroll through any available alerts. Below this are your four drive bays, each with their own blue status LED. What’s particularly beautiful about the EX4’s drive array is that they require zero tools to add or replace a drive. While other HDD caddies require screws of sorts to hold the HDD in place, the EX4 opts instead for a simple slot mechanism that lets you slide the HDDs right into the enclosure. This makes drive manipulation a lot easier, as you can simply pop drives in and out when required without reaching for a screwdriver. Our review unit came equipped with four 2TB WD Red drives, which are specifically built for 1-to5 bay SOHO NAS environments.
Look at the back of the EX4 and you’ll see why you can easily consider the EX4 as a business storage device as well. The back features two USB ports for drive expansion or backup, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as two AC power ports, making the EX4 a pretty reliable device once it’s set up.
Setup & Features
Like most of WD’s devices, setting up the EX4 is as simple as unboxing it, plugging it into your network, and turning it on. Once it’s booted up, you can access the EX4 by going to the device’s URL in your web browser. From there you can register your device for cloud access, setup users and permissions, and configure hard drives and shares. Everything is done through WD’s excellent and user-friendly browser-based interface, which clearly explains each option as you navigate through. It would seriously be very hard to mess up anything, which makes the EX4 excellent for novice users as well as professionals.
When it comes to storage, you can configure the EX4 to whatever RAID setup you like – it’s configured as RAID 5 out of the box, but this can be changed in just a few clicks. Switching between different RAID modes only takes a few minutes, and it’s pretty much a fool-proof process.
An extra feature of the EX4 is the ability to install particular apps onto the device. There is a small selection of apps such as eMule or WordPress which install with one click, as well as the ability to install custom apps that you may have designed yourself. It also has options for P2P and HTTP/FTP downloads, which means you can add a file or torrent and the EX4 will download it to a special folder. And as with other WD devices, you also have support for DLNA and iTunes streaming, which means that you’ll be able to configure and access your media library from compatible devices should you need to.
Where the EX4 did surprise us though is in the performance department. A device like the EX4 needs to be capable of good read and write speeds, but I found that this was a bit of a mixed bag. We tested the device in both RAID 0 and RAID 5 setup and found that speeds weren’t quite as impressive as we had hoped. The EX4 took around 3 minutes to copy a single 1.7GB file from the network, but this ballooned to 22 minutes when I copied over a folder with around 11GB of data in it. This could be down to a number of factors such as how your network is setup or if your router is setup to handle QoS. Windows also has its own QoS adjustments to take into account, so toggling these settings on and off may result in some improved transfer speeds. Still, even when we used a simple four-port network switch with no other activity on the network, the speeds we measured didn’t blow us away. Streaming media from the drive was easy enough, and the EX4 didn’t struggle with 720p videos either, though there didn’t seem to be any way to configure more settings such as which folders to watch. Instead you have to visit “wdmycloudex4:9000” to reach the media server and configure it properly, otherwise it will scan the entire drive.
As seen in other WD products, the EX4 also works with WD’s app for smartphones and tablet. You can browse the EX4 and navigate through files fairly easily, though it’s far more convenient to just fire up your laptop and get the files you need directly. You can also connect to other services such as Google Drive or Dropbox, however you can’t move files from one service directly to your EX4.
The WD My Cloud EX4 is certainly an adventurous product for the company. On one hand it’s a decent out of the box NAS that you can have up and running in mere minutes. But on the more important side, it doesn’t perform as well as we would have hoped when put to the test. Even with WD’s Red drives running the show underneath, the EX4 still has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to be adapted to different environments. Again this may be down to the kind of network setup you’re running, so we can’t place all the blame with WD. While the EX4 may be adequate for home use, its performance may make it hard to recommend for business scenarios, despite its excellent failover features. Pricing range from around $395 (enclosure only) all the way up to $1,200 for the 16TB model.
Easy to setup
Clean user interface
Easy HDD installation
Performance is a little underwhelming