When considering external storage, we usually consider value, capacity, performance and functionality over looks. With a drive like the Western Digital My Passport, combining these criteria with a sleek and subtle design with a bold color means the My Passport can happily perform all those tasks, and look good doing it.
Let’s face it: External storage is not exactly the sexiest PC component. It boils down to being a storage box you plug into your PC or laptop. With the new My Passport series, WD have made an attempt to improve the looks of external storage to better reflect the tastes and preferences of the more discerning consumer.
The drive is available in 1,2,3 and 4Tb options. We have the 4Tb version on hand for review. Our sample came with a nice striking blue color. Other color options include black, red, white, orange and yellow. The drives have a plastic construction that feels quite solid and a little on the weighty side. There are tiny rubber feet on the bottom side of the drive which prevents it from being knocked or pushed around a desktop.
Here we see the only distinguishing features of the drive. on the right is the activity LED, which can be turned off it you choose. The USB 3.0 port is of the Micro-B type.
There isn’t much in the way of accessories, with the drive and the cable being the most important. There’s documentation offering info on support and warranty. The software is found on the drive itself, ready to install.
WD have chosen a Type-A connector to connect to the host. While this is mostly fine, in a perfect world we’d like to have seen a second cable or an option for a Type-C connection, which is becoming increasingly prevalent and in many cases, the only option for many devices, particularly ultra portables and Macbooks which come with Type-C only. Given that those types of device are exactly the the types that require large additional storage options, this seems a bit of an oversight. An adapter would only cost a buck or two to add and would future proof the connection that little bit.
Below we have the key specs, copied from Western Digital. They speak for themselves. We see a 3 year warranty and the dimensions of the different drives. For those looking for a truly pocket sized drive, note that the larger size drives are thicker. Though if you are carrying the drive around in a laptop bag, 4mm is hardly going to be of any concern.
Setup and Software
Setup could not possibly be any simpler. Just plug the drive into a USB port (preferably 3.0) and the drive will appear as a new storage device. It’s no more complicated than plugging in a USB flash drive. If you are using a Mac, the process involves an extra step. Since the drive ships formatted as a single NTFS partition for Windows, you will need to format the drive to HFS+ for use with OSX.
The Western Digital My Passport range comes with a set of utilities included on the drive, ready to be installed on the host PC.
The first is the WD Drive Utilities app. This app is quite basic but does include a couple of useful tools for checking the health of the drive via SMART analysis and a sleep timer. The sleep timer can be set anywhere from 10 minutes to 90 minutes. Where 10 would be useful for maximizing notebook battery power and 90 mins more suitable to a desktop usage scenario. You can turn off the drive activity LED if you choose. There’s also an erase utility, but then you can do this with any modern operating system so it not particularly ground-breaking.
Next up is the WD security app. You can set a password to protect your data from being read by anyone else thanks to 256 bit AES encryption. Of course this does nothing to protect the actual drive from theft as it is possible to just reformat it. To many though, the drive itself is an afterthought compared to sensitive data the drive may contain. Working in a coffee shop on your lunch break and leaving a device behind on the table for a sneaky opportunist is a scenario we’re sure has happened many a time. At least the thief cannot access your data.
The third bundled application is a backup utility. Even in 2017 it is amazing how often we hear horror stories of people losing their family or wedding photos thanks to a drive failure. We’re sure many of our readers have heard of similar stories. Backup backup backup is critical advice. You can use the My Passport to backup files from a certain folder or folders, as well as to a dropbox account. The app is ridiculously easy to use and once set, will create incremental backups of the selected files/folders. Restoring files is similarly easy. Just pick the location, click and you’re done. Note that the WD backup utility works with Windows only. Mac users cannot use it, although the tools and security apps work with Macs without issue.
Performance is arguably not the most important criteria when considering a portable hard drive. You just aren’t going to get the transfer speed you’d see with flash solutions. Nevertheless, you don’t want your drive to be a slouch either!
As we can see below, moving large video files to and from the drive gave us a write speed of around 108 to 113 MB/s while copying from the drive back to the host gave us a constant 113MB/s transfer speed. This isn’t too bad from a 2.5″ mechanical hard drive solution. Though if want to transfer tons of small files around, then a USB flash drive will be more appropriate with much more IOPs and lower access times. Of course we need to compare apples to apples there. You aren’t going to be getting a 4Tb flash drive or SSD USB solution without selling a kidney.
ATTO shows the maximum speeds the drive is capable of. These match up very closely with what we saw with our simple Windows based transfers. Read speeds are slightly ahead of writes as expected, and top out around the 115MB/s mark.
Crystal Disk Mark shows a similar story in terms of sequential read and write speeds, though the random 4k stuff is nowhere near as impressive. Again this is a limitation of mechanical hard drives. A portable HDD like the WD My Passport is not the kind of drive you’d be installing programs on or sharing millions of tiny files from.
Our WD My Passport sample features a very nice 4Tb of storage space. It brings strong encryption capability. cloud storage functionality and is backed up with good, if not mind blowing performance. It’s design will appeal to those who like to bring a bit of style to their gadgets with a range of colors to suit all tastes. It is not the most compact solution on the market, but this is very relative with the 4Tb My passport being around the size of a pack of cards or a cigarette packet. We would like to see a USB Type-C option for use with the latest Macbooks and other 2017 ultrabook type devices that are increasingly shipping without Type-A ports. You could always buy an adapter if this is critical to you though. Of course having 4tb of portable storage that doesn’t require any external power brick is a godsend that was just a pipe dream just a few years ago.
Pricing remains key when evaluating portable storage. The WD My Passport 4Tb drive can be found for $200-$220 SGD making it a good value portable storage option. Load it up with media and it will keep you happy for years to come!
4Tb of storage in the size of a cigarette packet
Bus powered – no external power required
Striking color choices to suit your taste
256 bit AES encryption capability
No USB Type-C option