WD My Passport Studio Portable External Hard Drive Review

Are you on the lookout for the NextGen portable HDD from Western Digital? Well, you are in for a treat then, especially Mac users! Well, the manufacturer has unveiled two of their new generation My Passport Drives – My Passport and My Passport Studio for Mac. While the latter is designed to cater to people on the go and have the need to transfer huge amounts of data constantly like artists, photographers, and videographers, the former has been designed for Mac users looking at storing massive amounts of data packed in a super-compact lightweight disk. Featuring two ports for the FireWire 800 together with USB 2.0 interface the WD My Passport Studio (in the discussion today) also packs a password protection and encryption software and comes in a whopping size of 1TB and 500GB. Again, it is the high-end of the two drives that have an anodized all-metal aluminum chassis with rounded sleek edges.

WD My Passport Studio

Buy on Amazon | $120

Capacity: 1TB | Color: Metal black

Well, these two drives sure do put the old general Mac externals out to pasture and for a good reason, we think! WD sure does seem to have paid a lot of attention to detail in designing the My Passport Studio as it boasts of a minimalist feel throughout, looking and feeling robust, yet seems sophisticated with even the indicator light on the rear of the drive kept tiny such that it doesn’t really offend. So, before we delve onto an elaborate review, let us take a quick peek at the My Passport Studio’s specs, shall we?

Western Digital Studio Specs:

  • Capacity – 500GB / 750 GB / 1TB
  • Weight 334 g
  • Interface – Dual FireWire 800, USB 2.0
  • Measurement – (H) 0.9” x (L) 5.0” x (W) 3.3”
  • HFS+ Journaled Formatted (can be reformatted for Windows)
  • Operating 41° F to 95° F
  • Non-operating -4° F to 149° F
  • No power adaptor required
  • WD Security / Drive Utilities
  • Compatible with Apple Time Machine

Design and Feel

As mentioned above, the My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drive doesn’t just boast of a sublime design or build credentials but feels rock-solid too as the hard disk cargo comes encased in a solid lump of metal that is machine-hewed. Well, it might not be indestructible per se, but the CNC-machined aluminum casing is good enough to manage bruises and bumps just fine and maintain the drive nice and safe. The drive not giving up with twisting or bending the case and the parts not squeaking or rubbing together goes to prove this point fairly well. It is good to see that Eschewing WD has chosen to ditch the plastic exterior that we saw in its elder sibling, My Passport Essential and have opted for an all-metal brushed aluminum exterior with a matt black lid. This two-tone design looks to be a fab with the black casing spilling over the ports in the rear and the bottom and sides sporting an Apple Silver. More importantly, it is not fingerprint-hungry. In contrast to the Iomega Helium Portable Hard Drive, which feels and looks like a hard brick, the My Passport’s enclosure has been slightly curved along the edges.

WD My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drive

Now getting to the evident causality of the drive – its weight, all those mobile power users for whom every little gram counts, you might wanna look away now as the My Passport Studio weighs a whopping 334 grams. On the flip side, with great mass comes great amounts of authority ain’t it? Yes, it does! This 1TB portable drive sure does stretch your coat lining a wee bit, but it does feel solid and durable.

Getting to the drive’s rear, you are greeted by a single micro USB 2.0 port along with 2 daisy-chainable FireWire 800 ports together with a white/blue activity light. Unfortunately, WD has decided to exclude using a wider USB 3.0–compatible connector in this hard drive. Well, a USB 3.0 port would be a nice feature to have both for cross-platform usage and for possible future Macs.

Again, with the drive being powered via the USB/the FireWire port, it saves the hassle of lugging around a bulky power cord. That said, the USB port is micro USB connection, a neat touch indeed, especially with many users having gotten over with outdated dated miniUSB cords. A trivial thing perhaps, but we still get to see new drives released with old interface designs.  Towards the bottom one can note the 4 rubber feet that are near-flush along with the basic drive certification info/serial number sticker sitting comfortably on a recessed area. As the My Passport Studio is pre-formatted for Mac, there is no hassle of reformatting it. Again, it also packs the required cables too (with the exception of the FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 cable), together with the warranty booklet and a guide for Quick Installation. Additionally, there is also a full digital version of the manual that comes with the drive itself or you are given the option to download the same from the Western Digital website too.

Now while other manufacturers have taken measures in ensuring that users do not tamper with the drive inside, the My Passport Studio Hard Drive begs to differ here. All it takes to rip the drive apart are just four Torx screws at the bottom of the casing. Upon removing these screws, the case gets ripped into two revealing the WD10TPVT 1TB Scorpio Blue hard drive clocking inside of it. The drive boasts of an 8MB cache, a spin speed of 5200 RPM together with a SATA 3Gb/s interface. The drive and added PCB containing the ports are further secured by a metal caddy and unscrewing 6 more screws dislodges the drive from the caddy. Ironically, aside from the fact that the whole process is fairly simple, the Western Digital My Passport Studio External Hard Drive is probably one of those rare gadgets that allow users to so easily swap drives, probably with something that performs better, if they so choose.

Aluminium Enclosure in My Passport Studio Drive

Features & Extras

Now every time you decide to connect your Mac to the My Passport Studio, WD’s unlocker software promptly greets you by asking you to type in a preset password before it lets you use the drive. But if you are looking at a way to get around it, then you might have to use the provided WD Security app. After having installed it, you are allowed to either change the password or totally terminate the Unlocker from showing up. While some of us might appreciate the extra security provided by WD here, many users would only be too happy if WD had let the customers decide on whether they prefer having a security app or not as against forcing them to install some additional software to deal with a pre-installed app.

The included software on the drive looks to be much improved in comparison to the older WD external drives that packed a stuffed cross-platform Mac/Windows app. Installation interface in Adobe Flash, it required admin rights for being set up and installed files deep down your PC that devoured processor and memory resources even when the drive was not connected. Well, now what we have is an OS X app that is suitably coded, in fact, two of them, one that takes care of basic functions while the other looks after security.

There is this WD Drive Utilities that is a simple app boasting of 4 functions. For starters, there is this Diagnostics Section that checks the SMART status running a rapid disk test or scanning a disk completely for bad sectors if any. Then comes the Sleep Timer that helps with setting an idle time prior to the spindown, for say, 10 mins, 15 mins, 35 or 45 minutes or never. Third would the dangerous Drive Erase that can erase all of your data on the disk for good. Finally comes the Registration section that gathers your contact details.

In contrast to its older sibling the My Passport Studio 500GB, 750GB & 1TB Hard Drive neither has a storage gauge or an electric label. It is pre-formatted for HFS+ (Mac’s native OS) such that it can be used right out of the box with Time Machine.  Well, if you are not so keen on using Time Machine, the drive still works perfectly fine as a transport or storage drive, but then it lacks any other backup software that could pose to be a problem if you are someone who is still using Mac OS X 10.4 or earlier. A drive image file on the disk contains a drive health utility, a Western Digital Plus Turbo utility, which helps speed up some disk operations, a Security app that comes in handy for hardware encryption together with user manuals in many languages. Now even as it is fairly easy to reformat the hard disk using NTFS and make it Windows compatible, the fact that it is devoid of USB 3.0 would mean that Windows users need to settle for other options. The reason for the drive not supporting USB 3.0 is probably because of the fact that Mac computers normally do not support this peripheral connection.

Clocking inside the My Passport Studio would be a WD 2.5in Scorpio Blue SATA disk. Instead of the latest 9.5mm variant (WD10JPVT) that earned itself a Recommended award recently, it is the plumpy 12.5mm (WD10TPVT) version that is ticking inside this hard disk. Even as it is tagged slow by the WD specs when compared to the all-new 9.5mm version, it still manages to perform way beyond the potential of the fastest 800 FireWire interface. Now if you are wondering whatever happened to WD’s pledge of Thunderbolt’s benefits (that was launched on Apple PCs in Feb last year) – well the arrival of a Thunderbolt port on a storage device looks to be a long overdue.

WD My Passport Studio 1TB Mac Portable External Hard Drive

Performance

For the techno-buffs, you might be interested in knowing that it is a powerful chip controller, an OXUF943SE, from the Oxford Semiconductor that serves as a primary interface between the SATA disk and the USB and FireWire ports that faces the user. Results suggest that MacBook Air/other OS platform users might witness impressive write/read speeds of 28MBps and 38MBps respectively via the micro USB port. Well, that might surely seem slow by modern interface standards, but that is the best you can expect from a USB 2.0. On the contrary, things start looking better with the FireWire 800 connection with the read/write performance measuring 76MBps and 69MBps respectively.  Again, this is the next best thing to thunderbolt that Mac users can expect to have particularly with its lack of support for USB 3.0. It would be worth mentioning that the My Passport Studio does get a wee bit warm after being operated for a while, but remains fairly quiet and doesn’t really emit any vibration or whatsoever.

Warranty & Service

There is a 2-year-warranty offered on the My Passport Studio that looks to be kind of disappointing because it is the service and support that plays a vital role when it comes to external hard drives. Anyways, there is toll-free support over the phone offered by the company that can be availed of from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. together with online support by way of comprehensive tools on their website that includes downloads, substantial knowledge base, an online installation guide along with a product RMA.

Verdict

Robust, good-looking and performs decently is how we would like to describe the My Passport Studio, which looks to be the best bet for Mac users. We are okay with forgiving WD’s continuous omission of Thunderbolt for the simple reason that the disk proves to be a tough example of ultra-modern engineering even as it stretches the pocket, but is definitely worth every pound and gram.  With its amazing FireWire performance and a couple of worthy software up to its sleeve, all of which come neatly packed, it sure does raise the stakes for pocket drives as this. That said, Windows users; nevertheless, should continue their hunt for better deals, particularly a drive that is USB 3.0 compatible.

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