Hard drives are cool again. What used to be just a repository for data has evolved into a multifunctional device that can store data, back up your memory cards in the field without a computer, charge your phone, and even act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro can do all those things, making it an intriguing option for those of us who desire portability and capability in one device.
The hard drive is very well equipped. Check out its specs below:
- 2 TB and 3 TB capacities
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- USB 3.0
- 6,400 mAh battery with up to 10 hours of battery life
- SD 3.0 card slot
- USB 2.0 port for file transfer and backup
- LED lights for battery, Wi-Fi, and transfer status
Unboxing and Setup
The drive is small and solid. The black plastic finish is attractive and unobtrusive. Overall, I would trust it to handle basic knocks and life in the field (as it's intended for).
Setting it up is about as simple as can be. The box comes with the drive, USB cable, charger, and a quick install card. From there, I simply powered it on, opened up the mobile app, selected the drive's network, then entered the password on the card and chose the network I wanted to connect to. One small hiccup I ran into was an inability to select a hidden network; I had to unhide my home Wi-Fi network so I could choose it to connect to. It wasn't a big deal, though, and as soon as I did, the hard drive was up and running without a problem. This setup process can also be done with a computer.
From there, I navigated over to the drive's web management software in my browser. Western Digital's dashboard is easy to use and informative.
As you can see, you're immediately presented with a quick overview of all the drive's stats, including remaining capacity, battery charge, and Wi-Fi status. The icons along the top make it very simple to set up or change any aspects of the drive you wish to. In the Wi-Fi section, you get a breakdown of devices connected to the drive and vice versa. In the Admin section, you can change the hard drive name and enable SSH and FTP access, allowing you to wirelessly transfer files from any device that allows FTP connections, including many Wi-Fi-enabled cameras.
The Hardware tab allows the user to optimize the drive for battery life or performance and to lock the drive from working with a USB connection. The Media tab contains settings for the Plex media server, Twonky server, and options to automatically import from SD cards and connected USB devices, including the option to delete the files from the cards after import to free up space. Last are the Support and Firmware tabs, which contain options to test and update the device.
In practice, performance was good. To begin, I worked with a folder of 219 raw files totaling 6.29 GB, giving the following results:
- Transfer from computer to drive via USB 3.0 connection: 0:58 (108 MBps)
- Transfer from drive to computer via USB 3.0 connection: 1:14 (85 MBps)
For Wi-Fi, 151 raw files totaling 4.48 GB were used.
- Transfer from computer to drive via 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi: 31:05 (2.4 MBps)
- Transfer from drive to computer via 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi: 38:00 (1.96 MBps)
Wi-Fi file transfer speeds were about double to triple the speed when using 5 GHz, but there's a bit of a penalty of range. On the same token, your Wi-Fi performance will be highly dependent on how close you are to the router.
Using the built-in reader and USB port, I transferred a folder of 185 raw files totaling 5.38 GB. The four battery lights double as transfer indicators, making it easy to see when it has completed.
- Transfer via built-in SD card reader: 1:32 (58.5 MBps)
- Transfer via USB 2.0 port: 3:11 (28.1 MBps)
Of course, using the built-in card reader is preferable, both from a performance and from a convenience standpoint, as you'll need to bring along a card reader if you're using something other than an SD card. That being said, I really can't overstate how nice the ability to back up memory cards instantly is. It offers great peace of mind. For example, I drop the drive in my bag and pop my memory cards in while driving from the wedding ceremony to the reception, and I already have a backup before I've even made my way back home.
Battery Life and Other Features
The unit comes with a 12 W power adapter (5.1 V at 2.4 A), giving it a fast recharge time of about 2.5 hours. Battery life was quite good; in heavier usage, I was easily able to get 7-8 hours, and in a more normal scenario, I had no problem getting the rated performance. My only complaint is that the power cord is a smidgen short, though it does contribute to the portability of the setup. Charging devices worked perfectly well (5 V, 1.5 A), though of course, you lose battery life if you do this. Nonetheless, I rarely needed the full battery life, so it was actually quite convenient to back up memory cards and top off my iPhone in the process.
Connecting any USB storage device to the drive (or using the built-in card reader) makes it instantly pop up and function as a separate drive on your computer. This was useful in that it allowed me to use the drive as a card reader, making it a clutter-reducer (though I still need a dedicated reader for CF and CFast cards).
The Wi-Fi hotspot feature worked perfectly well and without any extra thought; I simply connected to the drive and was off and running. Similarly, the mobile app is easy to use and closely mimics the web dashboard, also allowing for easy access to files and automatic backup of phone photos and videos should you desire. Lastly, the Plex media server worked beautifully. While it's not a feature I personally use, I had no trouble setting it up and streaming to my devices in about five minutes. For those who travel a lot or have an extensive media library, it's useful and convenient. Note that you'll need to convert your media before you put it on the drive.
Overall, the Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro is a great option for those who need portability, versatility, and a high degree of capability. What's more is that all those capabilities are implemented in intuitive ways that just work as you'd expect. This makes it a strong contender for anyone who wants in-the-field backup capabilities combined with a full feature set.
What I Liked
- Very easy to set up
- Dashboard software is straightforward and presents information well
- Charges quickly and battery life is good
- Speeds over USB 3.0 connection are good
- Memory card backup is very simple and fast
- Doubles as a card reader
- Turns any connected drive into a wireless drive
- Charges mobile devices
What I Didn't
- No option for connecting to hidden networks
- Power cord is a smidgen short
- Wi-Fi transfer speeds can be a bit slow
- Transfer speed of files from non-SD memory cards is limited due to USB 2.0 port
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