Western Digital My Passport Essential SE External Hard Drive Review

Solid-state drives are striving for a better performance whereas the standard hard drives are pushing the limits of the maximum data they can store.  Memory cards might hold some space, but if there is a need for a large amount of space, EHDs are perfect. One company that has expertise in the manufacture of external hard drives is Western Digital.  The well-known brand has a great network system all around the world to distribute the latest portable storage devices.

Western Digital My Passport Essential SE

WD My Passport Essential SE

Buy on Amazon | $110

Capacity: 750GB | Color: Black

Western Digital’s latest product Western Digital My Passport Essential SE pushes up the storage barrier to newer limits in a 2.5″ hard drive. Available in 2 capacities, 750GB (WDBABM7500ABK) and a 1TB (WDBABM0010BBK), they fit well even into digital camera bags. A stripped-down version of the Western Digital’s My Passport Elite, the company has bypassed the standard SATA 2 circuitry and has a USB built-in directly into the drive making it a shorter one. Not only that, but there is also an extra level of security with password protection and 256-bit hardware-based encryption protecting your data from theft. Available in a host of colors ranging from turquoise to canary yellow, does it really deliver? Read the review to find out.

Western Digital My Passport Essential SE Design:

Stripped Down Version of the Elite:
The Passport Essential SE Hard Drive is built to the same size, weight, and even footprint as its pricier counterpart, the Passport Elite. It essentially is the same drive with the same shape and hence is the Passport Elite in a glossier version minus the small detailed “luxury” touches. The drive looks like an address book and is small enough to be incorporated into your pocket.

The Elite has a single illuminated USB port which turns blue when the drive is communicating with the computer. There is also the Capacity gauge which helps in you to determine how much free space is actually available on the drive.  The simple clutter-free design makes a fashion statement and let us hopes the drive is as simple to use as it looks.

Heaps of Colours to choose from:
WD My Passport Essential SE Portable External Hard drive is available in 11 highly glossy colors and has a wider range of colors than the plain matte finish Elite model.  But the drive is very prone to showing off fingerprints and smudges. Even without the posh look of the Elite, the Essential sports some fun-loving colors and carries the same age-old design ideas that made WD a favorite choice for many people. The minimalist designs are also well thought out though we did think some of the color choices were gaudy and could have been better off.

No USB cover:
Unlike the Elite, the Essential lacks a sliding port cover on the USB 2.0 thus exposing it to the environment. It could have at least been covered by that rubber cover we have seen on the older Passport models. It is not much of a problem if you keep the area around your drive clean and dry.

Connectivity:
The WD my Passport Essential SE has USB 2.0 connectivity and is powered using the port rather than a power adapter. The drives are preformatted and are partitioned just like the internal hard drives making it easy to use by plugging the drive to the PC.

Storage Capacity:
The drive is available in 2 capacities: 750GB and 1TB, with the latter being on the more expensive side.  The 1TB drive is capable of storing a lot of mp3 files, documents, and many high picture qualities. Theoretically, assuming each song is about 4 MB, then the 1TB drive can store about 25,000 songs.

Compatibility:
The WD My Passport Essential SE drive is compatible with XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 in the Windows range and works with Mac as well. Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard are the list of Mac Operating systems it can work on. The file setup is NTFS and if you are a Mac user, all you need to do is to reformat it into OS X’s file system HFS+.

Setup:
The Western Digital My Passport Essential SE belongs to a new generation of External Hard Drives called plug-in drives. All you need to do is to plug the drive to a USB port and you are ready to play.

Western Digital My Passport Essential SE Features:

Utilities:
The WD Essential SE 2.5″ External Hard Drive came preloaded with the following utilities: The WD Sync, WD SmartWare and Google Software. The Google software included has a set of browser tools and other utilities provided by Google such as Picasa Google Toolbar and Google Desktop. Though they are easy to use and highly useful, the suite is not exactly related to storage and seems bloats.

WD Sync:
There is WDSync software preloaded on the drive which allows one to sync up your Outlook or Windows mail email accounts as well as specific file types such as Office and Media. You can also sync multiple types simultaneously. It is basically the same software present on the LaCie Little Disk but is rebranded for WD. One can use the drive on a friend’s computer to sync up your PC files with your friend’s system to make you feel more at home.

Data Backup:
Data backup is usually tiring but it is essential. Thanks to the WD SmartWare on the EHD, one can store all photos, music and all other files. Thanks to a visual interface, one can see all the drives that are connected to your system. The WD SmartWare scans your entire computer and finds all your personal files and emails. There is a content category gauge that shows how much information is backed up in each category. To see the file count, one needs to move the mouse towards the category. All you need to back up your files is click Run Backup and WD SmartWare would automatically start.  The color of the category gauges keeps changing during backup. When finished, there is a status screen and information about the backup.

Once the first backup is done, files will be automatically backed up every time one makes a change or add a file. One can categorize data on the basis of the file extension and choose which type of files to back up. However, unlike the HP SimpleSave Portable, you cannot setup your own extensions. That means all obscure media formats will be listed under as other. Every change you make to your computer is watched by SmartWare. Sequential backups for up to 25 versions of the same file are provided.  So you can safely assume that data will never be lost.  What one does not have on the Essential when compared to the Elite is WD’s Anywhere Backup application which is not really a big deal.

Data Encryption:
Western Digital’s encryption software allows users to take confidential data and one can protect their data with 256 bit AES hardware encryption for optimal security. There is password protection available as well so that only the owner will be able to access all the files on the EHD.

No need to Power:
The Essential is powered totally via the USB connection, providing a single cabled solution that makes the drive far easier to use.  However, it would be a problem if you are the type of person who carries a portable notebook that runs on battery power. However, we found no issues when connected to a notebook when both of them are running on Power.

wd my passport essential colours

Performance:

When compared to other portable external hard drives, Western Digital My Passport SE seems sluggish for small file sizes. But it is sufficient for data backup and transferring of media files with large file sizes. Because it uses a USB 2.0 instead of an eSATA interface the theoretical transfer speed should be around 60 Mbps.  While copying a file of 5GB size, it took about 3 minutes with a pretty decent average speed.  The HDTune benchmark is an indicator of the overall performance of a drive both in terms of transfer of speed and CPU usage. The Passport Essential had an average of about 28.5 Mbps compared to the internal drive’s 27 Mbps.  Not only did the drive best the internal unit in terms of transfer speed, but also is seamless to use. It had absolutely no time lag while handling huge video files.

Heat:
The Passport Elite SE USB 2.0 Hard Drive had an impressive record in its ability to control heat dissipation and we expected the Essential to follow its footsteps. While the operating temperature was claimed to be between 5 and 40 degrees centigrade, the maximum we obtained after that one hour action was about 34 degrees – warm enough to be noticed.

Sound:
The Essential has a plastic cover that is an excellent sound insulator. All sorts of drive noises were inaudible in a normal environment even while putting an ear on the case. Even in a quiet room, we were struggling to hear the Passport Essential SE External Drive on work.  Moving the device when in use has no effect on a pitch which is a good sign that the actual drive’s moving parts are well constructed.

wd my passport essential package

Accessories:

There is a neoprene zipper pouch provided along with the drive-in which one can tuck the drive when not in use. Apart from that, there is even a spot provided for the 1 USB cable.

Warranty:

The Western Digital My Passport Essential SE has a warranty of 5 years. The Western Digital site offers web-based support and allows you to access downloads, the product RMA, FAQs and an installation guide as well.

Verdict:

Most of us thought that the Elite was a bit too expensive and the guys at Western Digital launched a newer and more trimmed down version of it. So is it any good? It sure is. Okay, maybe canary yellow is not the best choice for the color of an EHD, but there are 10 more colors. Though not as “stylish” like the Elite, it still looks simple and clutter-free. It is easy to set up and is compatible with a lot of Operating Systems. It offers a lot of useful utilities such as the WD SmartWare which is a great backup solution. It does a decent job in reading and writing huge files and the 1TB size is simply tempting. Sure there are better and faster drives than this in the market, but this is perhaps the only drive with such a huge capacity. If storage is your prime concern, then we suggest you go for this.

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