The “My Passport” range of portable external hard drives has been the most successful of Western Digital for several years. With plenty of portable external hard drives to choose from, it is not quite easy for a new release to just stand out from the crowd. However, the Western Digital My Passport Studio seems to succeed quite admirably with a very interesting set of features that is more than just a gimmick. Nowadays, though Mac is fully equipped to make use of all the external hard drives that are available today, it is always nice to find a drive that has been designed especially for Mac. And, the My Passport Studio is exactly of that kind. So, you might be wondering now, what makes an external hard drive that extra Mac-friendly? Well, read on to find out.
As the name of the drive itself indicates, the WD MyPassport Studio Portable Hard Drive has about the same footprint as with an actual passport itself, but just about thrice thicker. The drive is quite light weight at just 6.7 ounces. This drive looks somewhat like a book, just with some sleek aluminium casing instead of the cover and black plastic in place of the pages. This unit is immaculately finished in silver and white plastics. The bottom is likewise simple in design, with four rubberised feet like those found on earlier models. The only thing to see on the bottom of the My Passport Studio is a small white sticker containing the product information, such as the serial number, model number, and country of manufacture.
A very handy feature that WD has included in the drive’s design is the capacity gauge, which is just a ballpark measurement with four blocks that glows in white as you gobble up another block of space (80GB for a drive of 320GB capacity). The capacity gauge also acts as its electronic label, which is like the one found on the My Book Elite. The eInk display is similar to the screens of e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle.
If you have multiple external hard drives, you can label what each one is used for.
The Western Digital My Passport Studio Portable External Hard Drive is available in three capacities of 320GB, 500GB and 640GB.
The Western Digital My Passport Studio provides both USB 2.0 and the faster FireWire 800, but the Essential models sport only the USB2.0. The Western Digital MyPassport Studio features FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB2.0. Like most of the other portable external hard drives, this one too lacks an eSATA. The FireWire 800 makes the device as one of the very few pocket sized external hard drive with the highest possible speed. As we said with the Western Digital My Passport Essential SE, the company is making use of micro USB slots, which are supposedly more durable than the standard USB slots, however, the cables will be really maddening to swap. The company also includes a FireWire 800 to 400 adaptor with the drive and this means, you can make use of the connectivity with older Windows PCs and Macs.
One thing that is really very disappointing about the drive is that, it is the first portable drive that does not sport a power port. This absence makes the drive completely dependent on the power that is provided by your computer’s port. Though we did not run into any instances when the drive failed to operate, but we suspect that there might be a few systems, especially the older system with USB 1.1 ports, that simply do not have enough juice to operate the drive. While the chance of the drive not working on your system is very low, if you can, it is better that you test the drive on your system before making the purchase.
Set-up and Compatibility:
The Western Digital My Passport Studio (320GB, 500GB, 640GB) External Hard Drive comes with a great deal of ease of use. Since the drive is bus powered, all you have to do is, just plug it into a Mac and it starts working straight away. Having been preformatted to be used with the OS X, you have to reformat the drive for it to be used with Windows. The entire process is very simple and requires only a few mouse clicks on the Window’s built-in disk management utility.
Western Digital has not included any formatting utilities, hence, if you are looking to change between Mac file systems and Windows, you will have to do it the old school way. The good news is, all of the included software is sheltered on the drive. Hence, if you do format, you will not lose any of the tools like you would on some of the Hitachi drives.
We tested the Western Digital My Passport Studio with a WDC Scorpio Blue drive inside. The overall performance of the drive was quite satisfactory. The Western Digital My Passport Studio also sports the “Turbo” capability which is supposed to boost the data transfer speeds. This Turbo technology was actually introduced by Buffalo in the year 2007 to increase the data transfer speeds by 60%. Since then, many of the external hard drives offer USB Turbo technology for PC, but it is not always available on Mac. The WD Studio is actually the first drive to offer that offers all FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and Turbo USB as well. In order to make use of the Studio’s Turbo features, you will have to install WD’s drivers. These drivers are available on the drive itself. So, make sure that you do not format the drive without having a look at it first, but you can always download these drivers from the website itself.
Data Transfer Speed:
The increase in speed was proved in our tests too, as it did enhance the connectivity speed by a little. But, even with this small boost, the Studio came out only to be an average performer. In the USB2.0 interface, the drive topped the list of portable drives by scoring 150Mbps, by narrowly edging through the other 2.5” compact drives we had tested. On average, the USB connection was improved by just six percent with the Turbo drivers. But, with the FireWire 400 and 800 connectivity, the results were even less impressive. On average, the connection speed is increased only by 2 to 3 seconds when compared with the results without the Turbo drivers that are installed. The performance could have used a more significant boost with the Turbo capabilities as it was obviously not up to the mark.
The Western Digital My Passport Studio 2.5″ External drive took about 52 seconds to copy a GB file with the USB 2.0 Turbo connectivity. This speed puts the device on par with the competing drives, but its FireWire 400, which took 51 seconds and FireWire 800 which took 41 seconds, are not as impressive as with the USB 2.0.
Noise and Heat:
As far as the heat and noise is concerned, the WD MyPassport Studio managed to be very quiet and also stayed cool through its intense usage. The dive is a very cool one even on high usage.
In the package of the Western Digital MyPassport Studio, you will find the device itself, two data cables for FireWire 800 and USB 2.0, a quick setup poster and a velour string purse.
Warranty and Support:
Warranty, without any doubts, is the most valuable support that a manufacturer can offer and WD delivers. Western Digital has so much confidence on its MyPassport Studio that it backs up the device with a very generous five year warranty. This is one of the longest warranty we have seen a manufacturer offer for a portable drive.
In addition to this, you also get the company’s technical toll-free phone support is available from 8 am till 7 pm, Monday through Thursday, and from 8 am to 5 pm, Friday through Sunday. At its Web site, you will find a comprehensive set of Web-based support including downloads, product RMA, a sizable knowledge base, and an online installation guide.
On paper, the WD My Passport Studio has a lot going for it; being compact as well as offering three different connection types with some healthy storage and the impressive five year warranty. With the FireWire 800 capability, the My Passport Studio Portable External Hard Drive seems to be one of the most efficient drives in the current market. Add to this, the cute design, range of capacities, decent performance and the competitive cost per gigabyte, you are looking at the perfect external hard drive. Unfortunately, all the extra features do affect the price tag somewhat; with the current RRP of £141 you can expect a cost per formatted gigabyte of 64p. However, if you are not in need of the FireWire 800 port and just looking for something more colourful, you can consider the USB-only SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry. However, the MyPassport Studio hits the sweet spot for most and will be a best buy.
WD My Passport Studio External Hard Drive (320/500/640GB) – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||Western Digital My Passport Studio|
|Product Code||320GB: WDBAAE3200ASL
|Hard Disk Interface||FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||0.6 x 3.1 x 5”|
|Capacities available||320GB, 500GB and 640GB|
|Drive Device, Buffer Size||Variable|
|Hard Disk Spindle Speed||7200 rpm|
|Software included||WD SmartWare|
|Compatible systems||Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard
Requires reformatting for Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
|Data transfer rate||480 Mb/s|
|Power Source||USB bus and FireWire bus|
|Power Requirements||100 – 240 VAC|
|Cables included||1 x IEEE 1394 cable,
1 x USB cable
|Package contents||Ultra-portable hard drive
WD SmartWare software (pre-loaded)
FireWire 800 cable
FireWire 800 to 400 adapter
Quick Install Guide