Fstoppers Reviews the Ultra-Portable Western Digital My Passport SSD

Fstoppers Reviews the Ultra-Portable Western Digital My Passport SSD

Western Digital’s 1 TB My Passport SSD is the latest in a line of ultra-compact, portable solid-state drives that have come out over the last few years. My personal favorite (at least until this point) has been the Samsung T5 SSD, which I reviewed earlier this year. But Western Digital’s entry in this space is very worth looking into.

The beauty of these devices is in the idealism of the feature set. First, they’re extremely portable. The My Passport SSD is nearly the same volume as Samsung’s, but in a different package. It slims down a half-inch on one side and grows a half-inch on the other while remaining just as thin. But neither is as small as the PNY Elite SSD I have yet to test but have my eyes on, although it tops out at 480 GB and doesn't feature the latest connections. In terms of connectivity, the My Passport is future-proof with the latest USB-3.1 (Type-C) interface. For those with older USB Type-A ports, Western Digital includes a neat little mini-dongle for attaching its USB-C cable to the older interface.

Nearly all of the latest of these ultra-portable SSDs are outfitted with the latest USB-3.1 Type-C connections. Thankfully, both of these come with USB-C-to-USB-C cables with an additional cable (or adapter in the case of the My Passport SSD) for backwards-compatibility with USB-A connections.

Performance-wise, the My Passport SSD does quite well, but there's room for improvement. Every drive will have a standard maximum write speed that you can actually reach. But it’s worth a reminder that in practice, this speed will be slightly or even dramatically slowed by the realities of what it takes to write multiple files. For example, you’re likely not going to get the same speed out of a drive when you copy 500 10 MB files compared to copying just one 5 GB file. So, here are some real-world comparisons.

Formatted out of the box as ExFat, the My Passport SSD wrote at 380 MB/s and read at 388 MB/s with BlackMagic tests on a MacBook Pro. But transferring a folder of 19 files totaling 9.09 GB from that same PCIe MacBook Pro to the drive took 31 seconds at 293 MB/s. A 12.57 GB file took 1 minute 22 seconds at 177 MB/s.

The results from the ExFat-formatted tests aren't bad in BlackMagic's Disk Speed Test. But real-world performance was better with the HFS+ or brand new APFS optimized for SSDs, even though the speed tests might not have suggested it as you can see below.

Formatting to Apple’s latest SSD-optimized APFS really showed off its capabilities. On one hand, it scored slightly slower on BlackMagic’s tests at 295 MB/s read and 379 MB/s write speeds, but real-world performance improved upon the previous scenario, effectively matching the BlackMagic tests with average speeds of 293 MB/s and 292 MB/s for those same folders, respectively.

APFS formatting led to a speed drop in these tests, but improved real-world performance when transferring files in comparison to transfers done when the Western Digital My Passport SSD was formatted in ExFat.

In HFS+, the drive took about a 10-to-20-percent hit compared to the APFS speeds. All of this, including multiple heavy-load photo exports throughout the testing period, got the drive warm but never hot.

In reality, the Samsung T5 still has the edge at least in real-world practice, as I could touch 500 MB/s in some scenarios with that drive, while I still didn’t get too close to the advertised 515 MB/s of the My Passport SSD. It’s hard to call nearly 300 MB/s of real-world, repeatable performance slow, but it’s certainly not the same.

When asked about the difference in speed, Western Digital commented that there will be a firmware update to address the issue. Apparently, this drive doesn't yet take advantage of UASP, a protocol that was typically not found on earlier USB 3.0 devices, but is almost ubiquitous today. It's a bit odd that this drive is advertised with the higher speeds, but wasn't released with the protocol that enabled those speeds. Still, the small form-factor and great name behind it should help this drive out once that firmware update gets pushed out to bring performance parity with similar drives on the market.

The Western Digital does have a nice, modern, dual-tone design with the scalloped metallic and black plastic halves that try to stand out a bit more. But whether or not you prefer the subtlety of the Samsung or the extra touch on this one is something even I’m not quite settled on. Both are quite nice. It is worth noting that the Samsung has an almost entirely aluminum casing that does feel ever so slightly more premium, although it may not look it depending on your preference. I really do think it is still a great design from Western Digital.

Compared to the previously reviewed Samsung T5 SSD, the My Passport SSD is narrower, but longer by almost exactly the same dimensions respectively. Meanwhile, it's within 1/100 millimeters of the Samsung's thickness (basically identical).

Of course, Western Digital has built a name for itself in terms of dependability. The drive also comes with automatic backup software, a three-year warranty, and a software utility that is one of the best-designed Mac utilities I’ve seen: It doesn’t feel like a never-updated relic of older, useless utilities, and I recommend installing it since Disk Utility had some issues reformatting occasionally, while Western Digital’s utility saved me (for the record, I had the same formatting issues with the Samsung drive, so this is likely MacOS or at least APFS-related). Moreover, the utility can enable drive encryption if you don’t prefer doing that part through the formatting choice.

What I Liked

  • Incredible form factor and great overall design
  • New, USB Type-C interface and adapters for backward compatibility included in box
  • Price on par with other options on the market (once speed catches up)
  • Significantly decreases frustrations of editing on an external drive (even at current speeds)

What I Didn't Like

  • Speeds are slower than other drives because a lack of proper firmware that should have been included at launch
  • All-metal construction would have been nice, but also likely more prone to denting, etc.
  • As with all SSDs, it's still a bit pricey (even if it's reasonable by other standards) and should only be considered if really needed

The Western Digital My Passport SSD comes in 256 GB to 1 TB sizes for prices on par with the market from $99.99 to $339.99 and is eligible for free expedited shipping from B&H.

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7 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

I've had the same issues with Disk Utility; using WD's app has worked flawlessly.

Adam Ottke's picture

Yeah. Super odd. But at least that app came in handy. Haven't had any issues since.

mark mil's picture

Ohhh. Thanks. Didn't see this one!

Roger Spring's picture

There is a 2TB version too. just to know...

Adam Ottke's picture

Unfortunately, I don't think there is. Can you link to it? According to their website and other vendors online, a 2 TB version doesn't exist...

Roger Spring's picture

Funny on the WD Homepage it isn‘t available. But our biggest onlineshop in our Country they have it and that‘s wy I thought it‘s available:
https://www.digitec.ch/de/s1/product/wd-my-passport-ssd-2000gb-externe-s...

Alex Armitage's picture

I used portable drives pretty much exclusively for my photo work. Mostly because I travel, so having drives to backup everything too is important. On top of that, I edit on 3 different computers. Definitely looking into one of these for my "active" drive, as I used it all the time.

Also the thought that it isn't mechanical soothes my anxiety of the drive dying from constant moving around.