Western Digital My Passport Ultra Review
- -It's nearly iPhone 5 thin. Easy to slip into a pocket.
- -Supports fast transfer speeds via USB 3.0.
- -Solid bundled software, several color options.
- -The drive is quiet, cool to the touch after lengthy use.
- -The price point is a bit higher than the standard My Passport drives.
I have about 40 USB thumb drives littering my office, no joke. Every time I go to a trade show like CES or E3, I’m inundated with 1GB, 2GB and 4GB drives filled with a handful of press releases, product images and video. I’ve pretty much stopped using these drives for two reasons: I can share small files between my computers using Dropbox and the drives are useless when it comes to transferring large files like massive Blu-ray quality rips or other media.
There are some jobs that just require a portable hard drive — backups for instance. I also prefer using a portable hard drive as a media repository for my WD TV Play or Roku 3. The smaller, the better: mostly because I’d rather hide the device within my home theater setup. Enter the Western Digital My Passport Ultra, a slim portable hard drive that’s ideal for travel and speedy transfers.
Thin Is In
With an identical design style to the My Passport Edge, the My Passport Ultra is a compact device that’s just a bit thicker than the iPhone 5. I had no problem sliding the Ultra into my jeans pocket and carrying it around the office. The portable hard drive comes with a 1-foot USB cable in addition to a soft carry case. The Micro-USB 3.0 port is on the left side of the device near the logo. Both the drive and the cable fit nicely in a side pocket of my Crumpler laptop bag.
The drive is ready to go in NTFS for Windows computers, but there are reformatting options for Macs. Regarding software that comes with the device, WD Security is a useful tool if you want to secure the device with a strong password. WD Drive Utilities allows you to test the drive to make sure it’s working properly and WD SmartWare can help automate the backup process between your computer’s hard drive, Dropbox and the My Passport Ultra. The software can be helpful for anyone who doesn’t understand file systems, but it’s fairly simple to perform a backup manually within your operating system’s interface.
Go Speed Racer, Go!
In my simple speed tests, I used a desktop computer with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 capable ports. The build contains a Crucial 128GB SATA III SSD drive as well as the Biostar FM1 SATA 6Gb/s motherboard.
I used a collection of JPEG photos I shot at a recent wedding which totaled out to 1GB in size. This is what the transfer speeds looked like when the folder was unzipped as well as zipped when transferred to the My Passport Ultra:
USB 2.0: 1GB of photos: 42 seconds
USB 3.0: 1GB of photos: 18 seconds
USB 2.0: 1GB zip file: 37 seconds
USB 3.0: 1GB zip file: 9 seconds
It’s definitely one of the fastest drives I’ve tested when using USB 3.0 and noticeably faster than the 1TB standard My Passport drive I tested last year in addition to the My Passport Edge. It’s also a very quiet drive and produced less heat than other portable hard drives I’ve tested. I would have no problem leaving it plugged in all day, particularly in a complimentary media device like the WD Play.
Should You Buy It?
If you require a portable hard drive that’s easy to carry for business and have a need for speed, the Western Digital My Passport Ultra is definitely your best bet. While the drive is going to be more expensive than the other drives in the My Passport line, the speed difference is substantial. If you are looking for something for more casual use and the occasional backup, the standard My Passport will work just fine.
The drive is currently available in 500GB and 1TB capacities for $99.99 and $129.99 respectively. There’s also a 2TB version of the drive planned for release later this year. Watch Ben’s for sales on the 500GB Ultra in the $70 to $90 range and the 1TB version in the $100 to $120 range. There are multiple colors of the drive in black, gray, blue and red.