With so many choices in the marketplace, portable hard disk drives have become somewhat of a commodity, differentiated mainly by their storage capacity and price. When that happens - it becomes a race to the bottom. The emphasis shifts from making better products to making cheaper products. Performance and quality suffer as a result. That's why it's always nice to see any attempt to arrest, if not reverse, this downward spiral.
The 2 TB Western Digital My Passport Wireless (WDBDAF0020BBK) is a brand new twist to the ubiquitous portable hard disk drive. It is more than just a portable hard disk drive with a WiFi module tacked on though. It is really more like a mobile NAS with wireless capabilities.
Powered by a Texas Instruments AM3352 "Sitara" system-on-a-chip which is based on the ARM Cortex-A8 microprocessor with 512 MB of memory and 128 MB of flash storage, the My Passport Wireless is a miniature computer in its own right. You can connect to it directly using WiFi, or set it to serve as a WiFi hub for multiple devices. You can even use it as a portable media server.
The My Passport Wireless also has an SD Card slot, which allows you to quickly copy or move your photos and videos (at up to 25 MB/s) to the My Passport Wireless' internal hard disk drive. It is also possible to directly access the SD card contents wirelessly. And thanks to its 3,400 mAh internal battery, it can remain on standby for up to 20 hours, or stream 4 HD videos simultaneously to multiple devices for 6 full hours.
We do have concerns about its wireless performance though. In our tests, which replicates real world condition in which there are often multiple USB 3.0 devices in the surrounding area, we only managed to clock a peak read speed of 2.1 MB/s (16.8 Mbps) and a peak write speed of just 800 KB/s (6.4 Mbps). At those speeds, you will need at least 8 minutes to read, or 44 minutes to write, just 1 GB of large files. To put that in context - filling up all 2 TB will take at least 29 days, and copying out the entire drive will take 11 days.
Fortunately, the My Passport Wireless also comes with USB 3.0 connectivity. This allows for much faster transfers of your files, reducing the time it takes to fill up the drive to just 6.5 hours and allowing you to copy it out entirely in just 6 hours. So while the wireless connectivity is useful in the field for sharing files on-the-go with multiple devices or users, it is still not the best option for transferring large amounts of data. You will still need to rely on USB 3.0.
Ultimately, the My Passport Wireless should be considered as a mobile wireless NAS and not just a wireless version of the portable hard disk drive. Its forte is allowing multiple users or devices to access the same set of data or storage on-the-go. That is a key point that is sure to be missed by consumers.
If you are the only one using the drive, you are better off with the classy My Passport Ultra Metal / Anniversary Edition or the original My Passport, which are not only cheaper and more compact but also faster. But if you need to share a common storage pool with multiple users, or need a portable media server, the My Passport Wireless is tailor-made for you.
For the next generation, we hope that Western Digital would look into supporting both UHS-I for faster transfers and the SDXC standard so that larger capacity cards can be used. It would also be a good idea to improve its WiFi capability by adopting the latest 802.11ac standard, or at least adding support for the 5 GHz band and 40 MHz channel.
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Western Digital My Passport Wireless Review
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