Hardware review by Matt S.
Last week, Sony did something that absolutely delighted people struggling to actually play all the games that were being released on the console; it released an update to the PlayStation 4 operating system to allow it to recognise external hard drives.
While you’ve always been able to replace your internal hard drive in your PlayStation 4 with Sony’s blessing (and warranty intact), I must admit that that is not something I took advantage of, as I’m not the kind of guy that likes pulling things apart. As a result of that I found myself constantly deleting games off my PlayStation 4, as the console only had 500GB in storage, and PlayStation 4 games can get very, very large. It got to the point where I had to delete Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 from my harddrive to make room for the games I was reviewing, and that really hurt.
So for a person like me, the ability to make use of external hard drives has been a serious benefit. Indeed, for anyone who plays a lot of games, external hard drives are a major boon; grab yourself an 8TB external hard drive and unless you’re looking to download the entire PlayStation Network, you should be pretty well covered for your gaming collection, whether you’re running the basic 500GB PS4 model, or you’ve got a couple of terabytes of internal storage as well.
The hard drive I recommend the most for this purpose is Western Digital’s new My Book range, and it’s for a couple of reasons; firstly, the drives have data sizes ranging from 3TB (which is still a lot of storage), right up to 8TB (which is a lot of storage). This means that people who are more casual gamers, but don’t want to keep deleting and re-installing stuff can buy a drive that suits their needs without excess, and people who are seriously hardcore, with hundreds of games, can find a solution that will work well for them.
Secondly, the PlayStation 4 update only allows for external USB drives with USB 3.0 technology built into them to store and run games on the console, which the My Book does have. And as befits that technology, it allows games to load and run quickly; if there's a difference between loading a game from the internal HD on the PlayStation 4, and the My Book, I didn't notice it.
Actually setting up the device with the console is a snap; plug it in, format it according to the simple instructions, and away you go. The downside to these devices is that they’re also externally powered. This is the case with most large external drives, of course, but it does mean that once you’re set up, you’re not going to want to mess around with power chords and the like too often. Thankfully, the third real advantage to going with the My Books is the design of them; these devices have a dual-tone ribbed and smooth outer shell that looks like such a perfect complement to the PlayStation 4’s gloss/matte design that you would swear the hard drive was specifically designed for the console. People who care about the aesthetics of their game room will appreciate how easily the hard drive fits in with everything else in the room.
Of course, if you’re not intending on hooking the drive up to your PlayStation 4, the My Book is still a remarkably effective bit of hardware. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in the office, and has a number of key features that help make it a valuable resource for storing and backing up important documents, photos, and so forth. It’s easy to set the thing to automatically create backups of all your data and content, for example, which is handy if you’re anything like me and tend to forget to do these things. If you’re keen on security (and you should be) the My Book features a 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption system, which is about as good as home consumer technology gets. There’s also a 3-year limited warranty in there for peace of mind; unreliable backup hard drives are the worst.
All of these features are deleted by necessity if you format the drive to be compatible with PlayStation 4; and indeed if you decide to use the hard drive for that purpose, and then decide you want to backup your computers as well, it’s best to buy a second one to retain those features. Thankfully, the other great weapon of the My Book is its price, A 3TB hard drive is $100 US, while the 8TB drive is $230.
Realistically, if you have a PlayStation 4, then the external hard drive is an essential purchase now. Even if you haven’t filled up the internal hard drive, the way the console installs each game disc, plus anything you download off the PSN, means that that hard drive does full quickly. What you probably don’t want to do is spend a fortune of yet another box under the television, or end up with one of those ugly drives that simply doesn’t match anything else in your living room. Thankfully, Western Digital has come to the rescue on both counts, and did so just as that wonderful PlayStation 4 update happened. It’s almost like serendipity.
- Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld