WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: A solid and capable SOHO NAS drive
A reliable new entry to the stalwart range, but file transfer speeds are still not as fast as other brands
One of the key things about Western Digital's NAS offerings is they are spectacularly predictable. It's no accident that the entire range - from the single berth home units, right up to the eight-bay medium business devices - are almost exactly the same for the most part.
And it's not a bad thing either. Familiarity breeds loyalty, and it is one of the reasons that the My Cloud range has lasted as long as it has.
If you're expecting something as 'fully featured' as a product from Synology or QNAP, you may be left wanting. But if you actually want it to be a centralised source for your files that's accessible from anywhere in the world, keep reading.
WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: Design
The PR2100 is part of the professional end of Western Digital's offerings. This means that the hardware itself is just that little bit smarter and more robust. In this case, the chassis is composed of exceedingly pleasing black sandblasted metal and very little else - this particular unit has once again shrunk the form factor down to the point where there's not much left to shave off.
The two quick-release drive bays have front grills that look attractive but will probably need dust clearing more often than a solid plate. The only other notes from the front are the power button which illuminates (as do the 'drive busy' lights) and a single USB 3.0 input, perfect for dumping down from flash drives.
At the back is the full fan outlet (which is quiet enough to ignore), a second USB 3.0 input and a double power supply input (thought only one is supplied) and double gigabit ethernet ports - both are doubled up for bonding or redundancy.
One point that's worth noting is that on our two-bay test model, there's no LCD display at all - there is one, however on the similarly specced four-bay model.
WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: Performance
Specs-wise, the important part is that the PR2100 boasts an Intel Pentium N3710 quad-core 1.6 GHz processor with 4GB of DDR3 memory. That's no slouch and should be more than sufficient for even the most aggressive NAS usage.
For the purposes of reviewing, we've used two WD Red drives, each with a capacity of 8TB. This is the same spec that you'll get if you buy a pre-installed My Cloud, but obviously using your own drives, or even previous-generation WD drives, could change your performance.
We've also assumed the connection is to an empty network for the purposes of transferring - just the NAS and the host computer are attached to our router.
Having said all that, we could easily have told you what the performance is like without testing - the answer is always that it's OK but not outstanding.
Our transfers clocked in at 6min 36s out and 6min 49 secs back for 22.3GB worth of files of varying sizes. For a single 25GB file, it was 5min 23sec and 5min 20sec.
This is a significant improvement on older NAS drives from WD, especially when you consider that this isn't using the bonded second ethernet connection, Even on a single connection, its robust for big file transfers and its backup and restore capabilities are more than acceptable.
Our CrystalDiskMark tests show an average read speed of 8.95MB/sec read and 3.62MB/sec write. At over 15MB/sec a large sequential read is the fastest spec, and it's not to be sniffed at (ten years ago, WD NAS devices would have been about a third of that speed), but we've seen faster from other brands - not much faster, but WD still hasn't managed to get the complete hang of super speedy transfers.
WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: Features
From this point on, most of what we are reviewing could be applied to any current WD My Cloud drive. The My Cloud OS is now well established and continues to be developed, with new features coming online all the time.
In recent years, the company has really focused on the mobile aspect and so almost everything you can do with the web interface, you can also do from the Android and iOS apps.
As a potential business user however, you look for certain things in a NAS. Is it easy to set up, for example? The short answer is yes; there's a wizard, and it's very intuitive.
Can I assign users different folder access? Yes you can, and as it's all icon-driven, that's very easy too. And if you want to, you can map the folders in each user's Windows/Mac file system.
If you just want the NAS as a silent backup device, that's fine - it works with Windows and Mac Time Machine. It also offers bare bones back up to take a complete image of a device.
NAS drives usually have some sort of in-built media server, and in the case of WD drives, that means Plex - probably the finest example of media software, if you actually need it. Not everyone will, but if you require a media server in the office, Plex support is a genuine selling point - especially as the NAS hardware handles transcoding locally, making for a much smoother experience on the screen.
The other apps in the store vary in their usefulness - a direct pipe to Amazon S3 storage is definitely a good idea. An app to turn the NAS into a Freeview server (for a chunk of extra costs) is less so.
But Dropbox, Acronis and Wordpress are amongst the big names that are supported out of the box, and that makes for an extremely efficient workflow.
If you are just backing up from another storage device like a USB drive, there's not even any need for a computer - simply insert the device into the front USB slot and press the button - the NAS does the rest.
There's even more for creative users - a direct connection between the NAS and Adobe's Creative Cloud means that you can start editing photos or working on collaborative designs without copying or transferring - just load it in and watch it run.
WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: Verdict
The thing that has always stood WD's My Cloud range in good stead is that it does exactly what you buy a NAS for. It does it robustly and it does it well and anything else that you discover it does is a bonus.
If you have an entire army of technicians on hand to help you make the most of a more complex NAS drive, then by all means, go look at one. If, on the other hand, you want a steady, reliable NAS that manages to make being unsurprising into a desirable attribute at a price that won't make you balk, then it's very difficult to go wrong, and the fact that it comes in an extra-tough box just adds to that.
The My Cloud Pro PR2100 may not be the flashiest or fanciest NAS drive around, but if you want reliability and a solid range of essential features, then this appliance will deliver the goods at a reasonable price.
Available 2x4TB up to 2x10TB PR2100: 2 X USB 3.0 (Expansion Ports) PR4100: 3 X USB 3.0 (Expansion Ports) One-touch USB import button (Front) 2 x Gigabit Ethernet 2 x Power Supply (DC in)
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