WDLabs PiDrive 6x6 Enclosure Review
Last year, on Pi Day 2016, Western Digital launched the PiDrive for the Raspberry Pi. The PiDrive at the time was a 314GB external hard drive (get it?), optimised for low power consumption and with an integrate SATA-to-USB controller to make it easy to plug into one of the Raspberry’s USB ports. Of course, this last feature is a bit of a ruse. Many of the external 2.5” drives that are sold nowadays feature these SATA-to-USB controllers. It makes the external drive slightly more compact, and it prohibits the drive to be used in e.g. a laptop.
Since then, the original PiDrive has sold out and has been replaced by a 250GB, 375GB, and 1TB version. The pricing on these isn’t exactly bad – assuming it meets your storage needs. When comparing the options with alternatives it is important to note that these come bundled with a 4GB Sandisk microSD card (enough to install Raspbian on), and more importantly come bundled with the WD PiDrive cable – a.k.a. “dragon cable” – which allows you to power the drive and the Raspberry Pi, and connect the drive with the Raspberry Pi, all with just a single cable. The PiDrive was only the start for WD, and since then WDLabs has emerged. Through this website Western Digital sells a wide array of accessories for the Raspberry Pi including power adapters, cables, and enclosures.
For my needs, I wanted to use a Raspberry Pi as a Seafile server. To put it simply: I want to create my own Dropbox, which I can maintain myself, and meeting my own storage requirements. The Raspberry Pi with an external 2.5” hard drive fits this requirement beautifully. It results in a small, cheap to buy, and cheap to run server1. The Raspberry Pi is also more than capable of handling Seafile for a small number of users2. The limiting factor inside the house (within your own home network) is the 100Mbps ethernet connection on the Raspberry Pi which allows for about 10MB/sec upload and download after accounting for overhead. When accessing it from outside the house (through the internet) the limiting factor is the upload speed of the broadband connection which sits around 10Mbps and thus cuts downloads to about 1MB/sec. Fast enough for a simple cloud storage.
I did not purchase a PiDrive myself though. Instead, I bought a WD 2TB Elements 2.5” external hard drive during a sale, and removed its hard drive from the enclosure (as described earlier, it already came with the desired SATA-to-USB controller). From WDLabs I bought the “dragon cable” and the WD PiDrive 6x6 enclosure.
|Raspberry Pi 2 B||£34|
|WD 2TB Elements 2.5”||£55|
|PiDrive USB cable||£9|
|PiDrive 6x6 enclosure||£10|
To put that total price in perspective we can have a look at the prices charged by Dropbox for 1TB and by Microsoft OneDrive. The first one will charge you £79/year for 1TB of storage, whereas the latter would charge you £59/year for the same amount of storage (admittedly, with access to Office 365 for a full year on 1 PC, 1 tablet, and 1 phone). All in all, this makes the Raspberry Pi build not a bad proposition. It gives you a server which you can use for many more things (this very website is run on it, among other things) and even in the worst case you recover the costs after only 2 years.
Anyhow, this article isn’t about the pros and cons – nor about the headaches or delights – of building a Raspberry Pi server. The star of this show is the WD PiDrive 6x6 enclosure. Even with the best intentions, a Raspberry Pi has the tendency of looking a bit … nerdy. With its green PCB and pins sticking out, it isn’t exactly something to integrate with the rest of your entertainment appliances. While some good cases exist, most would still require you to use the hard disk as an external device. Once again, not the neatest solution. The WD PiDrive 6x6 enclosure solves this first world problem and offers an elegant build that hides its modest internals.
The enclosure itself is a relatively simple plastic construction, but is overall well-made. The box containing the enclosure comes with the necessary screws, a small torx screwdriver, and a handful of metal spacers and magnets. In terms of size, it’s about the same height as the official Raspberry Pi enclosure, but of course has a bigger surface area to accomodate a 2.5” hard drive.
Ironically, the metal spacers supplied in the box – which ensures a magnetic closure of the top and bottom half – have to be glued into place but the package does not contain any glue. This is a shame as the magnets are quite strong so you do need some decent glue, which you may not have handy. To add to the mystery, the rubber feet were already applied, so it’s even more of a shame that the spacers weren’t glued in place already. Luckily, when it comes to fitting the hard drive and the Raspberry Pi, it is no more work than screwing in the 8 supplied screws.
The second star of the show is the PiDrive cable. Thanks to this cable it’s possible to wire and power everything with only a single cable.
Everything fits reasonably nicely, but there is again a bit of a mystery. As you may notice, the cables bundle together in the hard drive USB plug, but are somewhat haphazardly organised. The shortest cable, to connect the drive with the Raspberry Pi USB, sits the fartest on the right. At the same time this is the thickest cable making it a bit awkwardly squeezed and bent. Similarly, there is a cut-out below the end of the Pi board. I originally assume this would be for an Ethernet cable, but even a flat Ethernet cable fits awkwardly when pulled through the hole. I ended up pulling the Ethernet cable through the same opening as the USB cable at the bottom left. Finally, with the USB power cable plugged in, the spacers and magnets glued in place, and the case closed, the end result looks rather unassuming and minimalistic.
All in all, I’m happy with the purchase of the PiDrive 6x6 enclosure. The end result is a neat little box that blends in perfectly. The enclosure is well-made, although some improvements could be made (e.g. glue the spacers in place before the enclosures are shipped). The PiDrive cable is less convincing. The construction is a tad odd, and the cable isn’t truly necessary. I do like how neat the PiDrive cable is, but the price is a little hard to swallow. A USB cable to hook your drive up with the Raspberry Pi costs no more than £1. A USB cable to power your Raspberry Pi costs about the same. Chances are you have both of them lying around anyway. So the PiDrive 6x6 enclosure comes recommended, and the PiDrive cable really depends on how neatly you want to connect everything internally.
The entire build uses on average 350mA when idling or 1.75W, and 1150mA when under full load or 5.75W. This is with a Raspberry Pi 2 B with HDMI and LEDs disabled. ↩
My use case is that of a normal household. I want 2-5 people to be able to connect with it. Most of the time, this access is sporadic. Most of the time, no more than a single user will be uploading/downloading files at the same time. ↩