Portable hard drives typically distinguish themselves in one of two ways: Speed or capacity. With its brisk USB 3.0 interface and plentiful 2TB of storage space, the Western Digital My Passport (which retails for £170) approaches this proverbial fork in the road and takes both paths. It's huge and quick, which is really what most users look for in a portable drive. But that's all it has going for it, sadly, as this product doesn’t quite shake the market up as much as it could. That’s not to say it isn’t a fine drive that, thanks to its large capacity, will undoubtedly leave users satisfied for a very, very long time.
The My Passport 2TB is, true to its name, roughly the size of a passport. However, assuming you haven't travelled to every single country on the planet, it's a bit chunkier than your average passport at 2cm thick. Weighing a scant 220g, you can easily toss it into your bag or chinos without adding any noticeable heft.
The My Passport takes most of its design cues from Western Digital’s My Passport Studio, feeling appreciably sturdy thanks to its compact size and smooth rounded edges, though the latter's anodised aluminium chassis accounts for a slightly heavier and overall more attractive final product. That isn't to say that the My Passport device is an eyesore – far from it. Its plastic chassis sports a pleasingly smooth matte finish on its edges and underside, which contrasts nicely with the dotted pattern that adorns the lid. As was the case with the My Passport Studio, an embossed WD logo on the lid is noticeable but doesn't detract from the drive's aesthetics.
There's a USB Micro-B port at the rear of the drive alongside an activity indicator that flashes intermittent bursts of white light whenever the drive's in use. There's a supplied cable to use with the drive's USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port, but as far as connectivity goes, that's about it – the My Passport 2TB doesn't support FireWire 800 like the My Passport Studio. If you're content with limiting yourself solely to a USB interface, then this shouldn't be a major issue, obviously. On the other hand, if your decision hinges on versatility and future-proofing, then Western Digital’s offering falls down here, and you should be looking at an alternative such as the Seagate Backup Plus. This drive is highly flexible in terms of interface options, thanks to its interchangeable USM adapter.
Not that the My Passport lacks versatility altogether. There's pre-installed software contained on the My Passport 2TB, including WD Drive Utilities (Diagnostics, Sleep Timer, Drive Erase), the WD Security app for hardware encryption, and WD SmartWare. The latter is an easy-to-use backup program which boasts a newly revamped interface that makes backing up data and retrieving deleted files fairly straightforward endeavours. It's an impressive program, though not quite up to par with the Seagate Dashboard software included with the Backup Plus, which incorporates social networking features into the user interface to a remarkable degree.
The My Passport 2TB proved a speedy performer overall, especially when using USB 3.0, naturally enough. In our PCMark 05 test, it churned out impressive scores of 6,016 (USB 3.0) and 3,078 (USB 2.0), putting it within close striking distance of the Backup Plus (which hit 6,436 via USB 3.0, and 3,125 via USB 2.0).
Using USB 3.0, the My Passport drive copied our 1.22GB test folder in a brisk 15 seconds. This puts it exactly level with the Backup Plus' USB 3.0 transfer speed, which was also bang on 15 seconds. To look at another comparison, the Clickfree C6 Portable external drive (1TB version) took 17 seconds. It’s also worth noting that the My Passport's USB 3.0 transfer rate outperformed the 2TB My Passport Studio's FireWire 800 transfer rate by a solid 4 seconds (the Studio drive took 19 seconds).
Predictably, USB 2.0 yielded slower speeds for the My Passport 2TB (38 seconds), but nonetheless the device sprinted past the others in its class by varying degrees. It edged past the Backup Plus with two seconds to spare (40 seconds), and outdid the Clickfree C6 Portable (41 seconds) by three seconds. At the very bottom of the heap, the Western Digital My Passport for Mac 1TB, with its sole USB 2.0 connection, took 47 seconds, finding itself significantly outpaced by the My Passport 2TB.
Rather than reinventing the wheel or introducing any ground-breaking innovations to the realm of portable hard drives, the Western Digital My Passport 2TB simply tweaks what already exists. This is not a bad thing – far from it, since most users are mainly concerned with speed and capacity, and it nails both of these aspects. That said, it's nowhere near as versatile as the Seagate Backup Plus, which successfully combines future-proofing sensibilities with innovative social networking aspects. Still, that doesn’t stop the My Passport 2TB being a fine choice for your next external hard drive, providing you’re okay with sticking to USB.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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