WD My Cloud Home Duo frustrates with software quirks

The WD My Cloud Home Duo blends into the home with its dual-tone design and lack of front buttons. PHOTO: WD
The WD My Cloud Home Duo blends into the home with its dual-tone design and lack of front buttons. PHOTO: WD

The WD My Cloud Home Duo tries to simplify local storage and backup for mainstream users, presumably because NAS (network-attached storage) boxes are too intimidating for the less tech-savvy.

But WD has introduced arbitrary restrictions that are annoying. These are further amplified by the inconsistencies found across the multiple ways (desktop, mobile and Web) to access this external storage device.

As its name suggests, My Cloud Home Duo creates your own personal cloud in your home, a central repository for the data from your devices and those you choose to share it with. Plugged directly to your home router via Ethernet cable, its contents can be accessed from outside the home network via a Web browser.

With its dual-tone design, the Duo looks more like a household appliance than a NAS. It has a single Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB 3.0 ports at the rear. The power and reset buttons are also at the back.

It comes with two hard drives that, by default, mirror the contents of each other to safeguard against hardware failure of either one of the drives. This halves the usable disk space (my 8TB review set has around 4TB of free space), though it can also be configured to use its full 8TB capacity.

I set up the Duo using the My Cloud Home mobile app (for iOS and Android devices) on my smartphone. It was quick and easy, though you'll need to sign up for a WD My Cloud Home account.

The mobile app can automatically back up photos and videos from my smartphone to the Duo. I like the Activity log that shows, in chronological order, everything that has happened with the Duo, such as recently-uploaded files. The app can download files from the Duo to the phone, or create a Web link to share files with others.

You can even invite others to use the Duo's ample storage by sending e-mail invites via the app. Each guest user gets a private account, but with limited privileges - for instance, they cannot invite other users or reboot the Duo.

WD also has a desktop app (for Mac and Windows PCs) that lets you back up folders on computers to the Duo. In fact, you'll need to install the app before you can even see the Duo's folders using Windows Explorer or Mac OS Finder, which is not usually the case for a NAS. Alternatively, you could also access the Duo via a Web browser.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $809 (8TB), prices start from $509 (4TB)

    CAPACITY: 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 12TB, 16TB, 20TB

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

It is convenient that the Duo can be accessed through its mobile and desktop apps, as well as the Web interface. But while they offer similar features, they have some quirks that are frustrating and confusing.

For instance, the mobile app could only upload photos and videos from my smartphone - I could not choose other file types, like documents or music files. WD told me that I could use the mobile-optimised Web interface to upload files instead. Another method, which seems to be for more advanced users, is to open the phone's file manager, click on the file I wanted to upload and share it to the My Cloud Home app using Android's built-in share function.

And when I plug an external flash drive into the Duo's USB port, the desktop app does not even detect the presence of the flash drive. Instead I get a notification on the mobile app, which also gives me the option to copy the flash drive's files to the Duo. It boggles me why I could only do this on the mobile app, but not the desktop app.

The Duo can be linked to cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. If you do so, it will download a copy of the files from your cloud storage accounts to the Duo and keep them updated with any changes made to the online version. But it only works one-way as the Duo will not upload any changes made to its local copy to the cloud. This limits the Duo's usefulness to just being an extra backup for a cloud storage service.

It does not come with its own DLNA server for streaming media to other devices in the home network and relies instead on well-known third-party media streamer Plex. This means you'll need to sign up for a Plex account and download the Plex app on the devices before you can start streaming content from the Duo.

Its performance is mediocre, with an average transfer speed of around 40MB/s between my PC and the Duo. I was expecting a higher figure given that the Duo's hard drives are likely rated at around 100MB/s like standard drives.

Verdict: WD's attempt to simplify the NAS experience for a mainstream audience falls short.