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Review: WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive

I’ve always liked Western Digital’s hard drives. The ones I’ve bought for my own use — two internal laptop drives and a 1TB MyBook Studio — have yet to fail me. And their external drives tend to be packaged in smaller enclosures whose designs I prefer over those of other brands.

Their new My Passport Ultra is an update to the My Passport Edge, and comes in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities. Theoretically, it has a data transfer rate of up to 5Gb per second with a USB 3.0 connection, and up to 480Mb per second when using a USB 2.0 connection. In real life, though, the transfer speeds are somewhat slower. We tested read/write speeds with a test folder containing 6.1GB of data — six video files and 400 photos. The speeds we got on three different systems were as follows (in minutes and seconds):

[Photo of WD My Passport Ultra]

Acer Veritron with a Core i3 processor and a standard HDD, using USB 2.0: transfer from/to the My Passport Ultra: 4:06/5:06

Acer Veritron with a Core i3 processor and a standard HDD, using USB 3.0: transfer from/to the My Passport Ultra: 3:12/4:38

MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor and a Sandisk Extreme SSD, using USB 2.0: transfer from/to the My Passport Ultra: 2:35/2:44

You can see that the speed bump from USB 2.0 to 3.0 is real, but the benefits are much more felt in speedy systems (e.g., computers with solid state drives).

The My Passport Ultra comes with a host of extras, the most significant being the WD SmartWare Pro software, which is a separate $30 purchase for other users. Windows users should benefit most from the Ultra as it comes pre-formatted for the NTFS file system, and the feature set of the SmartWare Pro app is complete for Windows users: automatic backups, integration with Dropbox, retrieval of deleted files, etc. The WD Security (for password protection and file encryption) and WD Utilities apps round out the bundled software package.

WD SmartWare Pro

Mac users can easily reformat the drive to use with Mac OS X, and use it with Time Machine for continuous backups. The WD Security and WD Utilities apps are also available for Mac OS X.

The WD My Passport Ultra is not the cheapest portable USB 3.0 HDD on the market, but it isn’t the most expensive one either. All in all, it’s a small, fast, elegantly-designed, and reliable external drive that comes at a competitive price.

SRP is Php4,488 for the 1TB model, and the 500GB model should be around Php3,000. The 2TB model is also available at Php7,488.



Jason de Villa is teacher by day and a geek at all other times of the day. When he’s not teaching, he’s reading and writing about technology, looking for ways technology can help in education. His favorite noodles: Pancit Malabon Express.

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