Western Digital Releases Affordable My Book Thunderbolt Duo

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We got some hands-on time at CES, and now Western Digital has made it official: the new My Book Thunderbolt Duo, the company’s first product to take advantage of the high-speed interconnect developed by Intel and installed on new Apple computers, is shipping. More importantly, it’s pretty affordable too, compared to the alternatives.

The new drive fits right in with the rest of the storage provider’s lineup – the silver finish shows that they consider it to be more of a Mac-oriented product than anything else. At this point, that’s the right stance  to take. Apple has been shipping Thunderbolt on their new laptops and desktops for close to a year now, but it’s really yet to take off or show up in any competing products. That is liable to change in the latter half of 2012.

Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt DuoEven so, the new My Book Thunderbolt Duo will be compatible with any computer with a Thunderbolt port – regardless of who makes it or what OS it’s running.

While USB 3.0 is the fastest form of that standard we’ve seen, Thunderbolt can leave it in the dust. That’s because it uses the PCI-E bus for transport, which is capable of providing substantially greater bandwidth. In this form, with copper cabling, Thunderbolt can provide up to 10Gbps. Intel is expected to release optical Thunderbolt cables and chips that take advantage of PCI-e 3.0, which should bring us closer to that 50Gbps limit that the chipmaker originally envisioned.

Of course, the My Book Thunderbolt Duo won’t hit those speeds, as it relies on traditional rotating magnetic storage. Still, it’s going to be fast. Very fast. So fast, in fact, that it will be completely indistinguishable from having a drive and/or RAID array set up inside of your computer.

This first iteration will ship in both 4GB and 6GB versions, which means you’ll get a box that holds two drivers of either the 2GB or 3GB persuasion. It can be set up in either RAID 0, RAID 1 or JBOD configurations depending on whether you want speed, reliability or a ton of space, respectively.

Unlike some competitors we might name (ahem, Seagate), Western Digital was smart enough to include a second Thunderbolt port on the back of their product. That means that you’ll be able to daisy chain multiple My Book Thunderbolt Duos or just multiple Thunderbolt accessories in general, together. The results are impressive, too – at CES, Western Digital showed off a RAID array of four Thunderbolt drives that achieved throughput speeds of over 700 megabytes per second.

The new My Book is being targeted at users who need lots of storage and need it quickly, like audio and video editors, digital content creators, artists who need a lot of scratch space and other graphically intense product designers.

Since this will by necessity be a Mac-focused product at first, Western Digital also included support for OS X’s Time Machine backup system and ships the My Book Thunderbolt Duo formatted in HFS+.

The storage array comes with a three-year limited warranty and is available now, both in stores and online. If you want to pick one up, you can expect to hand over $499.99 for the 4TB version and $699.99 for the 6TB version.

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