wd my passport wireless pro review

wd my passport wireless pro review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

This is Western Digital’s second foray into the wireless hard drive market with its My Passport Wireless Pro hard drive. The drive brings some improvements, but also a few stumbles.

Two years ago, the original WD My Passport Wireless was released, sporting a recognizable rectangular design with an SD-card slot and a battery inside. WD’s Wireless Pro ($229.99 for 2TB version, $249.99 for 3TB version we tested) retains the basic concept, but it shakes things up with a new design, new features, and improved hardware inside–notably, a larger battery and higher storage capacity.

It should not be confused with the two-year-old My Passport Pro model ($702.19 at Amazon), which is a RAID model with two drives inside the shell. With the new portable hard drive, it joins a small group of portable hard drives that embrace mobile, personal clouds. Seagate was one of the early players in the connected portable hard drive space, but at $180 for 2TB, the Wireless Plus Mobile Storage drive was Seagate’s top offering. In addition to these, Buffalo, Corsair, LaCie, and Toshiba have dabbled in—and some have already exited—this hard drive niche.

Other drives have targeted folks carrying smartphones and tablets, but WD’s Wireless Pro isn’t just geared toward space-constrained mobile users but also to photographers and videographers looking for a way to transfer images while on the go. According to WD, it changed its focus after discovering that about half of its customers used the SD-card reader to import a “healthy mix” of images and video. The new model adds Adobe Creative Cloud connectivity, 802.11AC wireless, and FTP support for connecting to cameras wirelessly, an updated SD-card slot, and the ability to charge USB devices, such as the GoPro camera (which is notorious for its short battery life).

As a result of these features, WD aggressively pursues photographers and videographers, a unique tactic that tries to fill a void among professionals and enthusiasts alike. WD tries, but if it were truly committed to providing a useful storage device for photographers, the Wireless Pro’s features and software would be even more attractive.

Since we are more-than-casual photographers, we tested out the drive to see how it stacks up against the competition and how well it meets its wireless streaming mission. We tested the 3TB version, which costs $249.99. The Seagate 2TB wireless drive costs about $50 more than the 3TB version, which is $249.99. Read on.

Design and Features

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Except for its color, everything about the Wireless Pro is designed to stand out. Matte black plastic is used for the drive, with a shiny inlaid stripe on top to give it some visual appeal.

It is shaped like a 5-inch square, more like an old CD Discman than a traditional rectangular hard drive. This is also partly due to its thickness, which is 0.9 inches, thicker than most portable hard drives today. It is large, but not cumbersome.

There is a noticeable difference in the drive’s weight. Having used most of the wireless hard drive competitors, we noticed the Wireless Pro’s weight right away. It weighs a hefty 1 pound, whereas Seagate’s Wireless Plus Mobile Storage (2TB) weighs only 0.6 pounds. Although the Wireless Pro has an SD-card slot that most others don’t have, it still feels heavier than you’d expect for a hard drive plus a battery. Was the extra weight caused by the larger 6,400mAh battery, compared to 3,400mAh on the first-gen Wireless drive? We don’t know how long Seagate’s battery can last, since both the Wireless Pro and Seagate claim 10 hours. In our battery tests, the Wireless Pro performed well. (See our Performance section for more information.)

Two mechanical buttons and a USB Type-A 2.0 port are located on the top edge of the drive, along with a USB 3.0 port for easy connection to our laptop or desktop. When viewed from the front of the drive, the left button activates an LED battery gauge, connects to your router via WPS, and starts SD-card data transfer. On/off is controlled by the right button.

One of the handfuls of glitches we encountered with the firmware shipped with the drive was the power button: It behaved inconsistently when powered on, and it took forever to shut down. WD released a firmware update (version 1.01.11) less than a month after the drive was released to consumers, which addressed many of the problems that we encountered during our first test.

By using the new firmware, the drive shuts down in a count of one-two, and a blinking LED indicates that something was happening before it shuts down. It used to take a 3-second hold, plus another 40 seconds to spin down and turn off. Usually, we would doubt that we had pressed the button long enough. Powering up was more consistent, though we had to push a bit harder than usual to get it to turn on. However, after the firmware update, everything changed.

Two additional LEDs appear on the front face in addition to the battery gauge. It’s the WiFi status LED at the top, and the drive status LED at the bottom.

There is an SD-card slot on the left edge of the device, which supports SD 3.0. According to WD, the Wireless Pro supports read speeds of up to 75MB per second and write speeds of 65MB per second. Although these speeds are an improvement over the My Passport Wireless, they still don’t come close to the speed of Ultra High Speed (UHS) and UHS-1 SD cards.

Moreover, a USB 2.0 host port is now available on the drive, as we mentioned earlier. WD designed the drive so that it can serve as a power bank, which might seem like an odd inclusion until you realize its presence. Basically, you can use a phone or tablet (or a short-lived action camera) to draw power from the Wireless Pro’s battery, although slowly. The port outputs 5 volts at 1.5 amps.

When connecting a power bank, why USB 2.0? WD explained that the Realtek 1195 chip inside the drive only supported a limited number of fast USB ports (two of which were used for the card reader and the USB 3.0 direct-attached connection).

The Wireless Pro boosts the wireless to 802.11ac, allowing 5GHz wireless via 802.11ac and 2.4GHz wireless via 802.11n. For our tests, we connected to our Apple iPhone 6S Plus using the 5GHz band. Even though 802.11ac wireless is a significant improvement, we were not able to gauge how much it affected our experience while we were using it. It can also be used as a wireless drive and an access point for up to eight devices simultaneously. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Setup

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In my experience, My Passport Wireless Pro’s initial setup is fairly straightforward, though I did find myself referring to the manual a couple of times. The WD My Cloud app must be downloaded from the appropriate app store if you’re working from a mobile device. After that, you simply turn on the drive, connect to its Wi-Fi hotspot using a web browser or the My Cloud app, and follow the instructions to set up the drive.

You have the option of connecting to the internet during setup. It does this by acting as a bridge between your computer or mobile device and the Wi-Fi network of your choice. Depending on your current network setup, it can be useful to share the device on the network if you’re on a private network, but if you’re on a public network like a hotel or coffee shop, everyone can see your files.

My Passport Wireless Pro can be connected in three ways after the setup process is completed. 

The first method is via a direct Wi-Fi connection between your computer or mobile device and the Passport. The My Cloud app and a computer can access the contents of the driver whether the Passport is connected to the Internet or not. Assuming you’ve configured My Passport to connect to a Wi-Fi network (and selected the option to share the drive’s contents), any computer on the network can access the drive. It functions in a similar way to a mini-NAS. A USB 3.0 cable can be used to connect the My Passport with a computer. It acts as a normal hard drive in this case, but a direct connection provides the best performance.

Performance

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The original My Passport Wireless was criticized for its slow speed, and Western Digital has clearly improved the user experience in this area. According to WD, the SD card slot can now read data at 75 MB/sec, compared to 10 MB/sec on the original model. In my experience, it takes about 5 minutes to backup a card with 10GB of data using the built-in card reader.

Comparatively, connecting the drive to my laptop via USB 3.0 and copying the same data set to the Passport with the MacBook’s built-in SD card reader took around 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The ratio remained relatively constant across several informal tests. There’s no speed demon on the Passport card reader, but it’s still fast enough for a backup solution I can leave running while I do other things.

Additionally, the device features a USB port for backing up files from CFast 2.0 cards or other media. Sadly, it’s a USB 2.0 port, which means it won’t support the faster transfer speeds we’re used to with USB 3.0. That said, it wasn’t that much slower than using the device’s built-in card reader. As an example, I mentioned above that the 10GB reference data set transferred in about 6 minutes and 30 seconds, compared to 5 minutes for the built-in card reader. However, it seems like yet another missed opportunity considering that media like CFast 2.0 and XQD cards have the potential to transfer data much faster.

Battery life is claimed to be up to 11.5 hours, or 6-8 hours under heavy use, on the My Passport Wireless Pro. As a general rule, I typically got 8 hours of use on a single charge. With the drive, you can charge or power it continuously using the AC power adapter.

Battery Life

Our video-streaming tests showed the battery didn’t live up to WD’s claims. Our standard test file, a rip of The Lord of the Rings trilogy streamed wirelessly to an Nvidia Shield Android tablet, lasted 6 hours and 19 minutes on the My Passport. While that’s enough to get you across the country, it’s not long enough for a full day of use; nor is it even close to the 10 hours WD claims. Nonetheless, it was better than the first-generation WD drive, which lasted 4 hours and 39 minutes. Second place went to the Corsair Voyager Air 2, with 7 hours even, and third place went to the LaCie Fuel with almost 17.5 hours. There’s plenty of space inside that drive for a big battery, though.

Pros Cons
Available in 2TB or 3TB capacities. Bumpy software implementation.
Good battery life for a wireless hard drive. Glitchy experiences, even after a WD firmware update.
Integrated SD 3.0 card slot. Bulky, non-traditional size.

Conclusion

As well as our formal wired testing, we ran some informal tests to test out other aspects of the transfer. A total of 670MB was transferred wirelessly via 802.11ac in 6.5 minutes, averaging 1.7MB per second. We were unable to transfer the entire 59GB set of images from an SD card in an hour, and the first half of the set took 40 minutes. We could not pause or cancel the file transfer, as we did with the auto-backup of our iPhone.