Another round of testing for external drives as we continuously look for the most formidable drive that can deliver all of your needs with solid speed, durability and capacity–all while not burning a hole in your pocket. We found WD’s newest Passport external hard drive to be a winner, as it nailed all of our requirements well enough to call it the perfect all-around external solution.
I am going to break it down into categories to point out what we liked about this drive, including the platforms we tested it against.
Durability and Design
The drive has a nice rugged and heavy-ish design to it. It gives the feeling that it can take getting pushed around and scratched up without ever failing in its duties. This of course does not include drops, as any spinning drive is going to hate you if you drop it from a distance of, well, anything (try not to drop your hard drives).
The connection in the back is a microUSB type 3. Similar to regular microUSB or any other thin-profile connector, it is small and fragile. Always something to keep in mind when it comes to placing your drive somewhere (just like you would a phone or tablet) where it won’t get bumped around (despite its durability). The other end of the cable is a regular USB type A connection for your PC, console, etc. The cable is included in the box. No additional cables or needed (nothing that needs wall power).
The new design features a 50/50 split with the top half being smooth and the bottom half a textured style. Quite similar to the design of the Xbox One S when you think about it, you can tell who they are trying to sell to this round. The design is good on the eyes and wouldn’t stick out too badly because of this (if it’s placed in the open, such as next to a gaming console).
There is a wide range of six different colors to choose from, allowing you to customize it to your visual needs. We have both the black and the white models to test out. They also come in red, blue, yellow and orange. The two drives we have matchup quite nicely to their Xbox One S counterparts when it comes to design and color. Gives you the idea that they were made for each other.
This is where they really shine. One of the most important attributes of a hard drive is its read and write speeds. Especially if you are using it for working with video or enjoying your favorite games. It isn’t an SSD, so you won’t see speeds comparable to what you would find in SSD, but for a spinning drive for its size, it comes in at speeds expected out of a USB 3.0 wielding drive.
We got speeds all over the board from the drive depending on various conditions we tested it against (small to large file transfers, few files to large groups of files, encoding video directly to the drive and so forth). We found we got as high as 120-130MBps .
It performed better on the Xbox One S than the default internal drive inside of the console. Again, not as well as an external SSD, but a good balance between the two options. We found that games transferred to and from the drive much quicker than the internal drive, and games launched quicker as well (as much as 40% quicker).
For the current average price of $119, 4TB is a great value for such a small drive that provides an acceptable amount of speed. We found a few drives that performed a little faster than the WD, but they were about $60-80 more expensive and averaged around 2TB in capacity. This made the WD a perfect balance for both price, speed and space.
If you find yourself working on your computer encoding 4K material, then space is definitely a requirement for you. The same applies for avid collectors of information (such as movies, music and so forth), as well as gamers.
We found ourselves pitting the drives against the Xbox quite a lot, so you are going to see a lot of references to such. One of which is the size of some of today’s games. For example, Halo 5 weighed in just below 100GB when we transferred it to the drive. Taking into account that it is 10% of a single TB, 4TB begins to look like a must if you find yourself collecting a lot of games on your console. This is because with today’s consoles, games have to be installed to disc to help improve load times as well as the necessary frame rates during play. Ten games later and you have already consumed a TB. Take into fact that you don’t ever get a true 4000GB out of 4TB due to actual byte size (1024) in the math of things, as well as manufacturing error margins. A 1-2TB drive just doesn’t cut it for hardcore gamers. With WD’s 4TB Passport, you can continue to rack up those games without having to buy extra drives for quite awhile (if at all).
WD’s Passport drive proved to be an all-around solution for every system we tested it against. All Windows machines we plugged it into offered instant recognition of the drive. You can of course choose to format it however you like, but it was plug and play right out of the box (which is always a plus for an external drive).
Testing it against one of our Linux machines yielded the same results. It seemed to recognize the drive immediately without any reformat requirements. The same mostly applied to the Mac environments. The drive seems to function just fine on any Mac. However, you do have to format it using the Mac OS Extended file system to get it to work.
It functions just fine on both the new Xbox One/One S and Playstation 4 systems, allowing you to use it as extended space for your games. Of course a format would be required to use it for games/app storage as any external drive.
All-around, the latest WD Passport external drive proves to be a great mashup of value. Plenty of speed, lots of capacity, cross-compatible to all your favorite systems and consoles, and it looks good to the eyes. I wish we had a few more of these kicking around to play with (given, I’m sure we will over time).
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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