WD My Passport Ultra review: Compact, easy-to-use, and superfast

Though not required to be installed for the drive to work, the bundled software package is useful. WD Drive Utilities contains (as one might guess) utilities that enable you to check on the drive's status, test its functionality, or even reformat it. WD Security lets you secure the drive's content with a password. The drive supports strong encryption, and once you've picked a password, the content is completely inaccessible if that password is forgotten. Both WD Drive Utilities and WD Security are available for both Windows and Mac.

WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox.
WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox. Dong Ngo/CNET

WD SmartWare, on the other hand, is only for Windows. This is not a big deal; on a Mac, you can just use Time Machine with the drive. Backing up data is very easy and intuitive job with WD SmartWare. You can choose to back up folders and files, or it can automatically back up important data, which is very useful for those who aren't as computer-savvy. With the Ultra, WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox's online service (you do need to have a Dropbox account of your own). In all, the backup software works very well. One thing it doesn't do, however, is back up the entire system as an image for system recovery in case the hard drive fails, or when you want to upgrade your computer to a new internal drive.

WD Drive Utilities is helpful for managing your portable drive.
WD Drive Utilities is helpful for managing your portable drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

Performance
I tested the 500GB and 1TB version of the My Passport Ultra, and it performed very well with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. The drive's 2TB version will not be available until the third quarter of the year.

When used with USB 3.0, the Ultra scored 119MBps for writing (compared with the My Passport Edge, which scored 83MBps) and 118MBps for reading (compared with the Edge's 98MBps). This is the fastest score among the USB 3.0 portable drives I've tested thus far.

When used with USB 2.0, the drive registered 27MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively. These scores were above average for USB 2.0 drives.

Similar to the Edge, the My Passport Ultra worked quietly in my testing and produced no vibration and almost no heat at all.

External hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
WD My Passport Ultra
117.87
118.5
IoSafe Solo G3
110.98
109.1
Seagate Backup Plus
110.1
90.9
Toshiba Canvio Desk
103.74
88.9
LaCie FastKey
115.5
87.1
G-Drive Slim
100.3
86.7
WD My Passport Edge
97.68
82.6
Seagate GoFlex Slim
101.9
82.4

External hard drive USB 2.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

Conclusion
Topping my USB 3.0 testing charts, the aesthetically pleasing WD My Passport Ultra proves that stellar performance can come in a very small package. The drive's helpful bundled software also makes backing up data convenient even for novices.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date May 15, 2013
  • Hard Drive Type external hard drive
  • Capacity 500 GB