External hard disk storage now needs to look as good in a living room as it does under a desk. To this end, Western Digital has produced the My Book series - a range of attractive, quiet and large capacity external drives.

The chassis of the My Book Pro does indeed look like a book, but the brushed metal casing and solid rubber gives it a sturdy appearance. The series of holes puncturing the casing are apparently Morse Code, but more to the point allow the My Book Pro to run without a fan, keeping noise to a minimum. The rubber edging of the device is dual purpose too, allowing multiple units to be stacked together if required.

At the front of the book is a circular LED capacity gauge that spins when the disc is being accessed. What's more, it also works as a fast visual reference showing how much space is on the drive - an attractive, practical and well-designed feature. In terms of connectivity, the My Book Pro offers Firewire 800, 400 and USB 2.0. It requires a DC input, meaning its portable potential is reduced, but transport's not what the My Book Pro was built for.

Internally, the 7,200rpm 500GB drive is formatted for both Mac and PC as FAT32. It's surprisingly quiet, and fast; average random access was recorded at 13.6ms. Firewire 400 recorded a burst of 41.7MB/s and an average read and write of 40.2MB/s and 31.2MB/s respectively. Via USB 2.0, these results dipped to a burst of 32.9MB/s, with an average read and write of 32.5MB/s and 23.8MB/s respectively. All reasonable figures for an external unit.

The My Book series ships with EMC's Retrospect Express software, which offers a well-honed utility package that's used for one-click transfers and intelligent backups. It works well and can be set to schedule complete or incremental back-ups, which in practice proved to be uncomplicated if not a little slow.

One minor nag is the lack of Ethernet and subsequent networking capabilities. But its absence keeps the price down, and with the WD's NetCenter series covering this territory, you can understand its exclusion.

As it stands, the My Book Pro offers a sleek and elegant design, ample space and fast access. It may be slightly pricey, but the offer of Firewire 800, some excellent utility software and a two-year warranty still makes this a superb buy. Tom Dennis