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Gear Reviews

Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB – Full Review

By Anthony Thurston on September 30th 2014

The WD My Passport Wireless 1TB

IMG_5206We recently had the opportunity to test and review the new Western Digital My Passport Wireless – the 1TB version (there is also a 2TB version). This is a new external hard drive from Western Digital that comes with wireless access, a built in battery and SD card slot.

When we first heard it was announced, we instantly saw this as an ideal product for photographers out on location. We shared our initial thoughts on the drive last week, and today, we are here with our full review.

03-performance-4-stars
The WD My Passport Wireless 1TB performs great which is why we gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Overall, the performance of this drive is what you would expect from any external hard drive – it’s quick and snappy thanks to its USB 3.0 connection, and the wireless is a breeze as well. As far as we are concerned, the only thing keeping the My Passport Wireless 1TB from being a full 5 out of 5 for performance is the speed of transfer of the built in SD slot.

In our testing, a 16GB Sandisk Extreme (45MB/s) full of 18mp Canon Raw files (also tried this with a budget Amazon branded 16GB SD card) took between 22 and 25 minutes to transfer from the SD slot to the drive. By comparison, moving that same exact data via the USB 3.0 connection onto the drive only took roughly 3 minutes. While transferring that same data off the SD onto my computer, using my PC’s built in SD slot (which uses a USB 2 Motherboard connection), only took roughly 13 minutes.

Western Digital My Passport Wireless
So, while not as fast as we would like the SD transfer to be, it’s certainly not the end of the world. But if you are looking for a lightning fast transfer speed from the SD, this is not going to work for you. Though, if the speed of the SD is not super important to you, then this drive will likely meet all your other expectations, maybe even exceed them.

Finally, in regards to performance, our only other real gripe – besides the somewhat slow startup time – is that the mobile apps don’t have the ability to preview RAW files (not Canon CR2 anyways). So unless you shoot in Jpg, or RAW+Jpg, you are not going to be able to see the images on your tablet or mobile device. We are very confident in our 4 out of 5 stars rating for performance on this unit.

IMG_5207
09-features-5-stars
The features of the WD My Passport Wireless are, simply put, innovative. The combination of having a built in battery, wireless access, and SD card slot are nothing short of brilliant. It is almost tailor made to the needs of a photographer. Taking that a step further, Western Digital doesn’t overcomplicate things. The drive is just as easy to use and access as any other external drive, making this unit particularly exciting. Taking all of that into account, the full 5 out of 5 stars should not be a surprise.

Western Digital My Passport Wireless
14-design-5-stars
The WD My Passport Wireless 1TB is well made and feels great when you hold it. The buttons feel solid and the overall design is very sleek and borders upon being too simple (if that is possible). Basically, there is not much of anything about the design itself that we would change, so a full 5 out 5 stars here.

IMG_5018
18-quality-4-stars
We didn’t quite feel comfortable giving this unit a full 5 out of 5 for the quality, based simply on the fact that it is plastic and doesn’t feel like it could take much – if any – abuse. That is not to say it feels cheap, or that it will fall apart on you. But for a drive that is meant to be taken out and about, we would have liked to see a slightly more robust and rugged build quality.

That said, as far as normal consumer external drives go, the build quality is right up there with the best of them. This is a quality drive that will work well and should hold up well. We would have just liked to see something a little more rugged. Otherwise, we are thoroughly impressed and happy with the build and quality of this Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB drive and think a solid 4 out of 5 stars is fair.

IMG_5189
23-value-4-stars
On the surface, the price on the Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB seems a little high, at $179 it is about $100 more than a standard 1TB external USB 3.0 drive. But when you factor in the innovative built in battery, wireless access and SD slot, the price isn’t all that high.. in fact, we think it is quite fair for what you are getting.

That said, it is pricey enough that it’s hard to recommend it over a standard drive unless you specifically need the Wifi/Battery/SD features. For that reason, we gave the unit a 4 out of 5 stars on value.

Western Digital My Passport Wireless
33-overall-score-4.5-stars
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed using the Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB and we give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, which is a great rating. It is great to see Western Digital come out with a drive that has so many great uses for photographers, from instant on location backup to in home client meetings.

If you are interested, you can pre-order this same 1TB Western Digital My Passport Drive right now over on B&H for just $179, or if you think that 2TB is more your style, that model is available for $219. The drives are expected to start shipping/availability October 6th.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

22 Comments

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  1. Marq Riley

    I received mine last Thursday and tok it with me to a wedding this weekend. I was completely taken aback by the slow SD transfer speed. I actually had to transfer part of a 32GB Sandisk Extreme Plus card (80 mb/s) and started it during the bride’s prep. One hour later it still wasn’t done, so I put it in my bag as the whole circus had to go to the ceremony, leaving it to transfer. By the end of the Ceremony another hour had passed, and it was still blinking white (transferring) so I just switched it off. Back home I checked what it had actually transferred into the SD Cards Import folder: only 78 .mov files with a total size of 5.7 GB. I’ll do some more transfer testing this week, but this is far from ideal, and far from the 23 minutes for 16GB that you mention in the review. Would .mov files take that much longer than raw image files?

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  2. Derek Grant

    I feel the lack of support to view CR2 files on a mobile device a deal breaker for me, the transfer speed from SD is also a tad slow

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  3. Ken Yee

    is the drive replaceable w/ disassembly or are you stuck w/ what’s in it?

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  4. Chris Kwock

    Did you try putting a card with data already on it in the slot again? I’m just wondering what it does with duplicates. Like how Lightroom won’t import the duplicates.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah Chris, when you auto import it just takes the entire contents of the SD (including Magic Lantern and Canon folders, not just the images) and places them in time-stamped folders. So if you stick the same SD in , it will just copy the same information to another folder. So no duplicate protection, but it does keep things separate.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Anthony I actually kinda like how that works, because it would allow me to just re-download a memory card any time I want to be absolutely certain I get my images safe and sound. Especially with 1-2 TB at my fingertips, as I would probably never need to consume more than a few hundred GB on a trip.

      =Matt=

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    • Chris Kwock

      thanks for the reply! I picked one up for my trip to Japan and it just got delivered yesterday so I’m eager to try it out. I’ll have to think out the best way to do my back-ups since I have 2 64gig cards but am worried I might go shutter crazy up there. If it’s a slow transfer off the card too I might not want it to ever transfer a full card over lol.

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  5. Daniil S

    This HD was mentioned recently on fstoppers and I just went on WD’s site to pre-order 1TB. The timing happened to be perfect for my upcoming trip to Japan. However, I didn’t expect this product to be so PERFECT. It does exactly what I need while is easy to use.

    This device is basically a computer in small form sans the monitor. I’m not kidding you, sporting a Linux under the hood with all the regular software you would find on a desktop running Ubuntu. The web interface is written in PHP. The most important discovery for me was how SD cards were being read. I was afraid of missing files or it not recognizing the images. After looking in, it is using rsync to copy data from SD card to the internal disk. This is important because rsync is the standard for differential backups/syncs in any kind system (be it bank or even simple site). Makes me feel very secure about files. This could also be the reason copying is a bit at slower rate as rsync needs to do things prior the copy and CPU on that machine is not as powerful as your desktop. In my personal opinion, its not that big of a deal.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Hi Daniel. Yeah, I agree that its not a huge deal, the speed of the SD transfer, but I know that there are people who were hoping for a quicker transfer. Maybe a Sports photographer for example, wanting to take their card out at halftime and transfer the files onto the drive. This simply wouldn’t be fast enough to accommodate that, if the photographer wanted to use the same card for the second half. So, there are situations where a speed boost would help, but in general situations, its not a huge deal.

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    • Daniil S

      I think this product is not aimed at the market outlined. A sports photographer would probably be provided with more proper tools to do his job; a wedding photographer would have a bunch of cards so he could shoot while copying is going on. This is more for people who don’t want to carry huge laptop with them on the trip. Again, here speed seems to be limited by CPU provided to the software and it all runs off a battery while desktops/laptops usually get unlimited power to themselves and a CPU that can handle the load.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Wow that’s good to know, I’m personally happy to put up with a bit longer transfer time, if it allows for secure data verification! I do still wish there was an option to just rapidly dump the card to the drive, though, in the event of a low battery or something…

      Still, good to know!

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    • Matthew Saville

      And also, I agree, I think this device was mainly designed for the casual traveler or pro who can back up their data in more reasonable “down time” periods. Pro sports photographers are usually going straight to a laptop in order to turnaround images to editors / publications, (and some use those uber-expensive high speed wifi transfer accessories I bet) …and as a wedding photographer, well, I just shoot on dual card slots and pack enough memory to shoot for2-3 days straight without formatting anything. I would, however, love to have such a device for my adventures in landscape / timelapse photography, as it is quite easy to consume hundreds of GB of data in just a few days time…

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  6. Kayode Olorunfemi

    Funny I was thinking a solution like this last week… I will definitely be getting one sometime soon, will save me logging a macbook around the place.

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  7. Landon Wise

    Are you able to tell when a card is done transferring without it being plugged/connected to anything?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yes, the WiFi light (which is normally blue) turns white and blinks while the transfer is happening, and then returns to being blue after it is complete.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Landon, this is a concern I had originally when I heard of a device that could automatically backup your photos, but yet didn’t have an LCD display.

      The bottom line is, for the utmost level of safety you’ll want to keep a smartphone or tablet with you, and at the very least use their app to verify the file counts using the wifi, even if you can’t actually verify the integrity of the files due to the lack of RAW thumbnail compatibility.

      For things like data verification, thumbnail viewing, and even on-location memory card recovery, I highly recommend the HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA instead. However I’m sure that in the near future WD will improve their compatibility / mobile app to allow for such things, it shouldn’t be too hard to implement!

      =Matt=

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  8. Damion Christie

    Awesome review….Any idea when the 500GB models will be out..I personally don’t need 1TB on location for any shoot

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Nope, B&H doesn’t even have the 500GB models available for pre-order. So I am not sure what the deal is with those.

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  9. John Cavan

    I’m kind of hoping that SD transfer rate is a defect that could potentially be updated via firmware otherwise I might die of old age by the time it transferred a bunch of D800 images… Still, looks pretty darned useful as a device, my opinion hasn’t changed there.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, it all calculates out to like 10MB/s, which is not good at all. Hopefully its a firmware thing and not a hardware limitation.

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  10. Brandon Dewey

    Great Review!

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