When it comes to portable hard drives, the Western Digital "My Passport" series of external hard drives is perhaps the most successful line of portable external hard drives on the market today. The attractive casing, solid build quality, reasonable speed and good product placement in a variety of stores have made this line very popular.
The all new WD 2TB My Passport raises the bar again with a massive storage capacity as well as USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 transfer capability.
As of this writing I own more than a dozen portable hard drives for storing years of digital photos, my movie library and all those pointless files I've never bothered to delete over the years. Almost half of my portable hard drives are older models of the Western Digital My Passport series, so I was eager to see what this drive brings to the table.
Build and Design
The basic design the My Passport has evolved year after year and the latest generation of My Passports has a boxier, almost industrial design compared to the rounded, glossy external hard drives from previous years. The biggest difference for most consumers who haven't purchased a USB hard drive in recent years is that the newest versions of the My Passport now feature the new USB 3.0 cable (compatible with USB 2.0). This new port gives the hard drive a significant performance boost over older hard drives that are limited to USB 2.0 speeds.
Specifications of the WD My Passport (WDBY8L0020BBK) are as follows:
Capacity: 2 TB
Interface: USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
Dimensions (H x D x W): 0.82 x 4.4 x 3.2 inches
Weight: 0.51 Pounds
Operating Temperature: 41 F to 95 F
Non-operating Temperature: -4 F to 149 F
The engineers at Western Digital consistently deliver a pretty compact and reasonably attractive portable hard drive with every generation of the My Passport.
There are two design changes of note with the latest 2TB My Passport. First, the black version is made from matte black plastics with glossy black accent dots. This means the plastics continue to look fantastic long after you've transported the My Passport in the accessory pocket of your laptop bag or in your purse next to your car keys. After five days of back-and-forth travel to and from work the old My Passport with glossy plastics was completely covered in fine scratches but the new My Passport looks as fresh as the day it was opened.
The second design change with the 2TB drive is a substantial increase in thickness (0.82" versus 0.6"). The reason for the added thickness is due to the fact that the 2TB My Passport uses a new 2TB WD20NMVW drive (with four 500GB platters) which is considerably thicker than the dual-platter Scorpio Black or Scorpio Blue notebook hard drives used inside smaller My Passports.
The enclosure for the 2TB drive might not be as small as most of the WD My Passport drives but Western Digital still correctly describes the 2TB drive as "pocket sized." Compared to my old BlackBerry Bold the 2TB My Passport has a roughly identical length and width but is almost twice as tall/thick.
WD pre-installs two pieces of software with the 2TB My Passport: WD Drive Utilities and WD Security. WD Drive Utilities allows you to perform diagnostics ("quick" or "complete" drive tests to check for bad sectors), set the sleep timer to limit power consumption, use "drive erase" to quickly reformat the drive, or register your drive with WD for customer support.
WD Security is a simple application that lets you lock the drive with a password. You can set WD Security to provide you with a "password hint" if you forget your password but it will not retrieve your password in the event that you forget it. There is a nice bright red disclaimer in the WD Security password setup screen that says, "WD cannot retrieve your password. If you forget your password, you will permanently lose access to your data."
Performance and Benchmarks
The current generation of My Passport drives is available in multiple capacities ranging from 500GB to 2TB at the time of this writing. Our 2TB drive holds about 600,000 high resolution digital photos (saved as compressed JPEGs) or approximately 880 hours of DVD quality video. Translation: The new WD 2TB My Passport delivers the kind of storage capacity that used to be limited to desktops but it fits in your jeans pocket or your purse.
In terms of speed, when connected to a USB 3.0 port the My Passport promises to deliver up to "3x faster transfer rates" compared to a standard USB 2.0 port. This is a fairly realistic claim since most of the USB 3.0 hard drives we've reviewed are between two or three times faster than USB 2.0 hard drives. That said, WD's claims get a little fishy when you look at the product specifications sheet and they mention a data transfer rate of "up to 5GB/s."
The USB 3.0 standard supports a "theoretical" data transfer speed of up to 5GB per second but we've yet to see a single hard drive that can reach the 5GB/s threshold. It's safe to say even before testing that the 5GB/s claim is just based on the theoretical speed of the USB 3.0 connection and NOT the real-world speed of the My Passport drive.
The CrystalDiskMark benchmark measures the overall performance of a drive in terms of transfer speeds (the amount of time it takes to read or write files on the hard drive). For those readers who aren't too familiar with CrystalDiskMark, the information below indicates the new 2TB My Passport delivers impressive performance overall when connected to a computer with a USB 3.0 port and adequate performance when connected via a USB 2.0 port.
2TB WD My Passport via USB 3.0
2TB WD My Passport via USB 2.0
500GB WD My Passport Essential via USB 3.0
500GB WD My Passport Essential via USB 2.0
1TB eGo USB 3.0 Portable Drive via USB 3.0
1TB eGo USB 3.0 Portable Drive via USB 2.0
The new 2TB My Passport is noticeably faster than last year's 500GB My Passport Essential and is also faster than the 1TB Iomega eGo portable hard drive when connected via USB 3.0. On the other hand, the new My Passport appears to be marginally slower than the older My Passport Essential when connected via a USB 2.0 port.
Yes, the 2TB My Passport is more than three time as fast via USB 3.0 than it is via USB 2.0, but it doesn't come close to delivering the "Up to 5Gb/s" operating speed as claimed on the Western Digital website. If you're dying to get an extremely fast USB 3.0 storage solution you might need to consider a USB 3.0 solid state drive (SSD).
Heat and Noise
The latest generation of My Passport drives runs cool and quiet. There isn't very much I can say beyond that. The drive gets "warm" after hours of serious use (backing up two 500GB laptop hard drives) but never gets hot. The average external temperature of the enclosure was 86 degrees Fahrenheit in an office with an ambient temperature of 73 degrees. In terms of noise, even when transferring files, the drive makes only the softest audible noise. Of course, when the drive isn't accessing any files it's completely silent.
Every year the Western Digital My Passport series continues to offer solid value for people who need a portable hard drive. The new 2TB version offers a radical amount of storage for a mobile drive and benefits from USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 compatibility. The My Passport is one of the fastest USB 3.0 hard drives we've tested but the performance is pretty average when connected to an old USB 2.0 port.
Despite the comparatively thick and heavy exterior, the 2TB My Passport drive packs genuinely impressive storage capacity into a small and light package. The speed is also very impressive (similar to what you get from a fast internal hard drive). On the other hand, the price for the 2TB version ($250) is pretty high at the time of this writing.
In short, the Western Digital My Passport makes a great choice if you're looking for a portable storage solution with speed and plenty of storage capacity.