The portable storage market has changed dramatically in recent years as fewer people need USB drives for their PCs and more people want to expand the storage on their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Western Digital hopes to satisfy everyone with the My Passport Wireless, a single portable drive that can be used wirelessly with any device that has Wi-Fi. This drive even has solutions for photographers and for old-school users who prefer the reliability of a USB port.
At the heart of the My Passport Wireless is a standard hard drive with a built-in rechargeable battery and a Wi-Fi (802.11n) network card. WD claims the battery will last for 20 hours with mostly idle use or 6 hours with continuous video streaming. WD went one step further than the competition by adding a full-size SD card slot, allowing you to transfer images and video simply by popping your camera’s SD card in.
Tablet and smartphone users who can’t connect to a standard USB drive can wirelessly connect to the My Passport Wireless using WD’s My Cloud mobile app. This easy-to-use app allows you to securely access data stored on the drive and backup any data from your mobile device. On that note, the My Passport Wireless functions as a Wi-Fi hub so you can stay connected to the Internet when you’re connected to the drive. The My Passport Wireless can share a single Internet connection with up to eight devices simultaneously.
WD currently offers this all-in-one wireless solution in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities. We will be looking at the 2 TB capacity drive in our review.
Build and Design
At first glance the WD My Passport Wireless looks very similar to WD’s other portable storage drives … just noticeably thicker. The drive features a matte black plastic top with silver plastic curved trim along the edges and bottom. The only hint that this is more than just a thick USB drive is the pair of LED status indicators (one for the battery and one for the Wi-Fi) on the top and the SD card slot on the side.
The front edge of the drive features the typical USB 3.0 cable connection as well as buttons for power, WPS, and battery status. The bottom of the My Passport Wireless only contains four small rubber feet and a space for the serial number and product information.
The drive itself feels relatively solid but we would have liked to see some rubber bumpers on the sides or corners to protect the all-plastic exterior from the inevitable knocks it will receive as a mobile device. We forgive WD’s engineers for not using a metal enclosure because that would have likely interfered with the Wi-Fi signal strength and increased the overall weight.
WD My Passport Wireless Specifications
Capacities and models:
- 1 TB (WDBLJT5000ABK): $179
- 2 TB (WDBDAF0020BBK): $219
- Wi-Fi mobile storage drive
- USB cable
- USB power adapter
- Quick install guide
Dimensions and weight:
- 1 TB (L x W x D) 5.0 x 3.39 x 0.96 inches, .06 lb
- 2 TB (L x W x D) 5.0 x 3.39 x 1.17 inches, 0.77 lb
Warranty: Worldwide 2-year limited
WD My Cloud iOS app
As previously mentioned, the My Passport Wireless is designed to work with Android and iOS mobile devices via the My Cloud app. This app lets you control the drive’s various settings and access the documents, music, images, or videos stored on it.
What really makes the My Cloud app so appealing is the ability to condense all your various cloud storage locations into a single place. You can use this app to sync Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive for easy access in just this one interface.
The mobile app works seamlessly for Android and iOS, but we had repeated problems with the WD app for Windows 8.1 running on an Asus Transformer Book T100. Thankfully, the T100 keyboard dock has a standard USB port, so we could use the My Passport Wireless like a regular USB drive. We were also able to wirelessly connect our Windows PCs to the drive via the browser-based dashboard instead of the Windows 8.1 app. Still, WD needs to work on the Windows 8.1 app so that it’s as trouble-free as the My Cloud app for iOS and Android.
The browser-based management software that we used with the Windows PCs, and MacBook is less attractive than the My Cloud app, but it’s still easy to use. Just type in the IP address for the My Passport Wireless or select the My Passport Wireless Wi-Fi network and visit mypassport/UI/ and you’re all set. The Home tab displays your current storage use, available space, battery life, and network status.
The Wi-Fi tab gives you more detail about the network and provides a useful list of devices that are connected to your My Passport Wireless. This comes in handy if you’re traveling with the drive and are worried about other people accessing your data.
The Hardware tab provides more granular data about the current battery level and lets you change the drive’s optimization settings to Performance or Battery Life to get some extra time out of a single charge while traveling. In addition, the Hardware tab allows you to remotely lock the drive and power it off in the event that it’s stolen or goes missing.
The Media tab lets you disable DLNA streaming (enabled by default) and you can also see how much storage space is being used by various file types. This tab is also where you can set SD cards to be automatically imported when you insert them into the drive, and you can decide whether you just want to copy the files from the SD card or if you want to permanently move them to the My Passport Wireless (this option erases the original files from the SD card).
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 test results
The overall performance of the My Passport Wireless drive is perfectly in line with what we expected from a USB 3.0 portable drive … assuming you’re connected via the provided USB cable. If you’re accessing files or streaming content wirelessly, you need to know that the data transfer speed is limited by the wireless transfer speeds of your device, the strength of your Wi-Fi connection, and the available bandwidth from the My Passport Wireless (assuming it’s sharing a connection with multiple devices).
CrystalDiskMarktest results show 50 MB sequential speeds of 104.7 MB/s read and 98.07 MB/s write, while the 512K random transfer speeds measured 41.85 MB/s for reads and 26.33 MB/s for writes. As usual, the 4K random transfer speeds are much slower at 0.601 MB/s for reads and 0.379 MB/s for writes. Again, this is in line with the performance we expect from a standard hard disk drive connected via a USB 3.0 port.
In terms of real world, anecdotal observations of performance, we didn’t have any noticeable lag when streaming 480p, 720p, and 1080p videos from the My Passport Wireless onto an Android tablet. The video and audio playback remained stable even when we accessed the drive at the same time with a PC and downloaded several PDFs.
The WD My Passport Wireless is quite simply the best portable storage solution we’ve seen to date. This one device works as an all-in-one storage solution for anyone looking to back up their data whether they’re using a PC, Mac, mobile device or even a photographer who wants to save a copy of images from an SD card.
We tested the device with several PCs, a MacBook Air, an iPhone, and two different Android tablets and found the Wi-Fi connection from the WD My Passport Wireless was extremely reliable for transferring files or streaming video content. Of course, you can also use the provided USB 3.0 cable for faster data transfers if you have a device with a full-size USB port and don’t want to mess with a Wi-Fi connection.
The biggest surprise was that the exceptional battery life from the built-in rechargeable battery even after streaming a feature-length movie. Of course, that battery is also likely to blame for our one point of criticism about this device: It’s noticeably thicker and heavier than any other portable storage solution we’ve reviewed in the last seven years.
That said, the WD My Passport Wireless drive takes up less space in a bag and weighs less than a notebook, and some users in fact decide to carry this drive along with a smartphone or tablet instead of hauling a laptop around.
In short, we highly recommend this portable storage solution. The 1 TB version is priced at $178 but the real value is the 2 TB version that we reviewed for about $219 (double the storage for just $40 extra).
- Easy-to-use software (for iOS, Android and browsers)
- SD card slot for rapid data transfers
- Reliable Wi-Fi connection
- Excellent battery life
- Thick and heavy for a portable storage device
- Windows 8.1 app isn’t as user friendly
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