The WD My Passport Ultra is the fastest portable hard drive that Western Digital makes. Despite this, it’s quite small and light, runs silently, and isn’t too expensive. If you’ve got a USB 3.0 computer and don’t mind paying a little more than other drives cost, the My Passport Ultra should keep you happy.
WD My Passport Ultra: Design, features, and setup
The WD My Passport Ultra looks very similar to the My Passport Edge from 2012, except it’s now available in red, blue, black and silver.
Our 1TB test drive is the larger of the two capacities currently available — the other is a slightly cheaper 500GB. There’s a 2TB model on the way in a few months. WD includes a soft protective pouch for carrying the drive and its USB cable around in.
Being a USB 3.0 drive, the My Passport Ultra uses the long, skinny USB 3.0 connector on one of its shorter edges. Apart from a power/status light, it’s the only feature on the otherwise buttonless, display-less drive.
WD bundles a 50cm-long cable with the Ultra; since it runs off USB bus power there’s no need for a secondary power adapter or Y-split USB cable.
The drive comes pre-formatted for Windows systems, and Mac OS X will also be able to access files but not write them without a simple re-format process. A PDF user’s manual — in 24 languages, no less — is on the drive, although we’re guessing that if you’ve managed to plug the drive in and get it working enough to be able to see the manual, you’re doing just fine already.
The My Passport Ultra comes pre-loaded with Western Digital’s SmartWare, Security and Disk Utilities programs, both for Windows and OS X — for disk monitoring, setting a user password, and automated backups.
These utilities are useful, don’t pop up unnecessarily, and are relatively lightweight to install and use. They’re nothing too exciting, but SmartWare’s automated backup process and Dropbox syncing might come in handy for some users.
WD My Passport Ultra: Performance
The Ultra performed well in our real-world and synthetic benchmarks — apart from solid-state drives, it’s the fastest USB 3.0 drive we’ve tried out.
We managed to hit USB 3.0 read and write speeds of 114MBps and 111MBps respectively, which is hugely fast for a relatively cheap and high-capacity storage device. USB 2.0 speeds, relevant if you’re only able to transfer to the drive using an older computer, are a middling 33MBps and 29MBps.
1TB, by Western Digital’s count, is enough to hold 200,000 photos, 76 hours of video, or 250,000 music tracks. Realistically this is more than enough space for the average user, unless you’ve got a particularly large downloaded movie or TV show library, in which case you should be looking at a desktop backup solution rather than a portable one.
The My Passport Ultra is pretty fast for a spinning-disk portable drive, and it offers all the advantages of having such excessive storage capacity in the palm of your hand.