WD My Passport Ultra Review
Western Digital proves once again that a fresh look, larger storage capacities, and some easy-to-use software are all you need to justify a new hard drive. The new WD My Passport Ultra replaces the previous generation after roughly one year but now comes with extra software, more color choices and includes a new 3TB capacity.
The My Passport Ultra is available in four capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 3TB, which carry the suggested retail price of $80, $100, $130 and $200, respectively. All of the capacities of the My Passport Ultra are currently available for purchase except the 3TB version, which is delayed until later in June of this year.
Western Digital realized than many of its customers own multiple My Passport drives and store different things on different drives. With those users in mind, WD not only offers the new My Passport Ultra in four colors (black, white, wild berry and blue), but WD also offers the optional $12.99 Grip Pack that includes a soft band that helps protect the drive from impact, as well as a matching 18-inch USB 3.0 flat cable. The Grip Pack comes in five additional colors (smoke, slate, grape, sky and fuchsia) so you can mix and match drive colors and Grip Pack colors to easily identify which drive you want if you’re using multiple drives.
We took a closer look at the new 2TB drive in the wild berry color with the optional slate color Grip Pack. In terms of the exterior design, the only obvious change with the new Ultra is that the top color plate has changed from a satin finish with a pattern of dots to a single color with a glossy finish. That new glossy top plate is noticeably more prone to fingerprint smudges, but we’re happy to see clean color rather than the old dot-matrix design on the top of the Ultra.
The optional Grip Pack is a nice addition not only because of the added impact protection from the band around the edges of the drive, but it comes with a matching flat cable which is less likely to become frayed over time from being constantly jammed into your backpack, purse, or briefcase. While we commend WD for offering multiple color options of the Grip Pack, we also feel like the all versions of the Ultra should come with the slate grip band and the flat USB cable as standard. If customers want unique color options then they can spend an extra $13 to get a different color Grip Pack, but the premium Ultra drive should come with the added protection of the grip band at no additional charge.
WD My Passport Ultra (2015) specs
- Drive type: Single-cable Bus-powered portable hard drive
- Connector type: USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
- Available capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB
- Internal drive speed: 5,400rpm
- Capacity reviewed: 2TB
- Dimensions: 4.33 x 3.21 x 0.83 inch (110 x 81.5 x 20.96 mm)
- Weight: 8 ounces (0.23 kg)
- Software included: WD Backup, WD Security, WD Utilities, WD Quick View
- Operating Systems Supported: Windows XP or later; Mac OS 10.4 or later
- Warranty: 3-year limited warranty
That last item in the spec list is one that many people will overlook, but shouldn’t. Western Digital provides consumers with a little extra peace of mind by including a 3-year limited warranty with your purchase of the My Passport Ultra. Most portable hard drives see a lot of use and abuse from regular travel, and while a limited warranty won’t protect you if you drop your hard drive down the stairs, it’s nice to know that WD will repair or replace the My Passport Ultra if it fails due to defects in materials or workmanship during your first three years of ownership.
The WD My Passport Ultra comes formatted with NTFS so Windows users only need to plug in the included USB cable to get the drive working. MacBoook users can easily reformat the drive to work with Mac OS X or simply purchase the My Passport for Mac. The only difference between the exterior of the My Passport Ultra and the My Passport for Mac is that the Mac drive is only available in black and isn’t compatible with the optional WD Grip Pack.
A major update with the new My Passport Ultra compared to the previous generation is the inclusion of the new WD Backup app instead of the WD SmartWare software. WD Backup is a simple backup solution that allows you to choose what to backup and then schedule an automatic back up of those important files. The WD Backup app also gives you the option to back data up all or part of your data to a Dropbox account (purchased separately). Our only minor complaint is that this app backs up files either manually or automatically on a schedule, but it should have the option to automatically trigger a backup as soon a change is made to the selected files.
The new My Passport Ultra also includes the WD Security app which simplifies the process of using the drive’s built-in 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption. Since the app is essentially just providing a simple interface for setting and then using a password to unlock the drive, this encryption solution should be perfectly capable of securing your files without impacting the performance of the drive.
Speaking of performance, there isn’t much to say about the speed of this drive other than “it’s as fast as we expected a 5400 rpm hard drive to be when connected over USB.” The sequential read and write speeds were a modest but consistent 113 MB/sec. The random read and write speeds are far less impressive but still in line with what we expect from the 5400 rpm hard drive due to the limitations of spinning physical media.
While those CrystalDiskMark numbers might not look amazing compared to an external solid state drive (SSD), the reality is that the external USB 3.0 My Passport Ultra is roughly as fast as an internal 5400 rpm hard drive inside a typical budget laptop. You won’t use this drive for recording uncompressed 4K video directly from a 4K cinema camera, but it’s more than fast enough for transferring files or even running your Steam library of video games.
There are only so many things anyone can say about an external USB portable hard drive in 2015. Western Digital once again delivers a fantastic portable storage solution that is easy to use and comes in a variety of new colors and capacities to fit your style and your budget.
The included WD Backup and WD Security solutions are remarkably easy to use but still provide options for more complex custom settings and compliance with workplace encryption requirements. Likewise, the WD Utilities software dramatically simplifies the process of registering your drive for warranty support or running diagnostics if you’re worried about a possible problem.
Despite these positives, the My Passport Ultra is essentially useless to many consumers and business professionals using a variety of digital devices that don’t have USB ports. We’re not just talking about phones and tablets anymore, even the new MacBook requires a special adapter if you want to connect a USB hard drive. A better solution for our modern devices is a portable hard drive that can connect over Wi-Fi such as the WD My Passport Wireless.
Of course, cost is an issue for many of us as well and the new 2TB My Passport Ultra is roughly half the price of the 2TB My Passport Wireless drive. In short, if you’re looking for a simple USB portable hard drive with the best combination of features and affordability then the WD My Passport Ultra is a great choice.
- Multiple colors, capacities and prices for any need or budget
- Simple yet powerful backup software included
- Easy-to-use 256-bit hardware-based encryption keeps files safe
- 3-year warranty
- Glossy top color panel prone to fingerprint smudges
- WD Grip Pack should just be included
- Less useful than a WD My Passport Wireless