Western Digital My Passport Essential USB 3.0 Review

by Reads (64,244)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Design
    • 7
    • Features
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • Faster than a standard USB 2.0 hard drive
    • Compact, lightweight design
    • Simple to set up and use

  • Cons

    • Not the fastest USB 3.0 hard drive available
    • Glossy plastics aren't very durable

Quick Take

The Western Digital My Passport Essential still makes a good choice if you're looking for an affordable and portable storage solution.

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 attactive casing, solid build quality, reasonable speed and good product placement in a variety of stores have made this line very popular.

The all new My Passport Essential raises the bar again with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 transfer capability, large storage capacities and a reasonable price.

I personally own more than a dozen portable hard drives for storing years of digital photos, my movie library and pretty much every file 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
In terms of the basic design the My Passport Essential is unchanged from last year’s update to the shape and size of the My Passport line. The biggest difference is that the newest versions of the drive feature the new USB 3.0 cable (compatible with USB 2.0). This new port gives the hard drive a significant performance boost over the previous generation.

Specifications of the WD My Passport Essential (WDBACY5000ABL) are as follows:

  • Capacity: 500 GB

  • Interface: USB 3.0 and USB 2.0

  • Dimensions (H x D x W): 0.6 x 3.2 x 4.3 inches

  • Weight: 0.31 Pounds

  • Operating Temperature: 41° F to 95° F

  • Non-operating Temperature: -4° F to 149° F

  • MSRP: $99.99 (on sale for $79.99 at the Western Digital Store)

Once again the team at Western Digital delivers a pretty compact portable hard drive. The photo on the the left shows the new drive between an Apple iPod Touch and a SDHC memory card. While the size and shape are impressive, the single design element that will probably get a mixed reception is the glossy finish.

Although the glossy plastics used on the latest generation of My Passport hard drives looks fantastic, it isn’t overwhelmingly durable. I transported the My Passport in an accessory pocket of my laptop bag along with some loose papers, a couple of pens, two USB flash drives and a couple of USB cables. After five days of back-and-forth travel to and from work the My Passport was completely covered in fine scrathes.

For comparison, the matte finish on my old two year old My Passport Studio looks cleaner because it doesn’t have glossy plastics that show off scratches and fingerprints.

The enclosure is very sleek and stylish with a minimalistic design and a subtle Western Digital “WD” logo on the top and a “My Passport” logo on the bottom. The simple design is probably one of the main reasons these WD drive are so popular. On one hand, it’s just a rounded box, but what else do you need from a portable hard drive enclosure?

Many older My Passport hard drives feature multiple LEDs or a small LCD that function as a “capacity gauge” to let you know at a glance how much space is left on the hard drive. Unfortunately, the My Passport Essential only has a single white LED on the spine of the enclosure that serves as an activity light.

The LED indicator has the following modes:

Appearance Drive State
Steady Power-on or power-save mode
Slow Flashing System standby
Rapid Flashing Drive in use



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