WD My Passport Wireless review: A versatile mobile drive for photographers

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.0
  • Design and setup: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Reviewed:

The Good The WD My Passport Wireless has a built-in SD card slot and supports faster Wi-Fi standard than competing devices. The device is versatile, easy to use, and provides up to 2TB of mobile storage space.

The Bad The device's battery life is comparatively short. Its mobile app has limited file format support, can be confusing for new users, and takes a long time to load photos.

The Bottom Line Despite the rather short battery life and confusing apps, the WD My Passport Wireless is an excellent mobile media drive, especially for photographers.

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The WD My Passport Wireless stands apart from other mobile wireless drives in two important ways. Its support for the dual-stream setup of 802.11n Wi-Fi gives it faster speeds than competitors, and the integrated SD card slot makes it a great accessory for photographers who want to quickly back up their shots. It did well in my testing, too, proving itself to be both a very fast portable drive and a capable mobile wireless media server.

On the downside, its battery lasted just about 5 and a half hours in my trials, which is shorter than some of its rivals. Also, it could deliver a better media streaming experience and the WD My Cloud mobile app needs a sharper interface. To make up for the former, though, the app supports all of the popular mobile platforms including Android, iOS and KindleFire.

Available in three capacities of 500GB, 1TB and 2TB, that costs $120, $180, and $220, respectively, the My Passport Wireless isn't the best deal on the market at launch. All are also available in the UK for £113, £170, and £210. In Australia, WD is only selling the 1TB and 2TB options -- those are AU$249 and AU$299 respectively.

All things considered, if you're looking for a device that can carry a lot of media and works as a backup drive for laptops, digital cameras and mobile devices, I'd have no problem recommending the My Passport Wireless. (For more choices, check out this list of best mobile wireless drives on the market.)

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The My Passport Wireless is basically a portable drive with an embedded Wi-Fi network and a built-in battery. Dong Ngo/CNET

Standard design

The My Passport Wireless is a bus-powered USB 3.0 portable drive that also has an embedded Wi-Fi network and a built-in battery. When connected to a computer, it works as a regular external hard drive, and when running on the battery, it becomes a wireless mobile media server. That means that your normal workflow would go something like this. First, load a lot of media content onto the My Passport. Then, take that content and wirelessly stream it to mobile clients, such as tablets or smartphones. The My Passport Wireless supports up to eight concurrent Wi-Fi clients for data sharing, or up to for clients for HD streaming.

The device is quite compact, measuring just 5 inches long and 3.4 inches wide. Its thickness, however, changes according to which capacity you choose (from about 0.9 inch on the 500GB model, to about 1.2 inches on the 2TB version). On the whole, it's about the same size as competing devices, such as the Seagate Wireless Plus or the Samsung Wireless.

Up top, the My Passport Wireless has a power indicator light and a light showing the status of its Wi-Fi network. The power light changes color according to the battery's charge level: blue is full, green is 75 percent, amber is 50 percent, and red is 15 percent or less.

On one side, there's a standard Micro-USB 3.0 port for both charging and data connections. You can charge the drive via a computer's USB port, a standard wall outlet, or in your car. Just note that a car adapter is not included.

Next to the USB port there are two buttons: the power switch and another control that has a few functions. Pressing it when the device is off, for example, will make the battery level indicator light up for few seconds. On the other hand, pressing it for a few seconds when the drive is on lets you quickly connect Wi-Fi clients.

WD My Passport Wireless specs

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (for both data and charging)
Dimensions 500GB: 5 by 3.39 by 0.86 inches (127x86x21mm) | 1 TB : 5 by 3.39 by 0.96 inches (127x86x24.4mm) | 2 TB: 5 by 3.39 by 1.17 inches (127x86x29.8mm)
Weight 500GB: .55 lb (0.25kg) | 1TB: .60 lb (0.27kg) | 2TB: .77 lb (0.35kg)
Apps included WD My Cloud (Android and iOS)
Capacities / File system 500GB, 1TB, 2TB / ExFAT
Supported operating systems Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
Concurrent Wi-Fi clients supported 8 total, 4 for HD streaming
Warranty 2 years

SD card slot included, faster Wi-Fi support

Despite the standard design, the My Passport Wireless has a few unique features. On one side, the aforementioned SD card slot accommodates cards of any capacity. You can choose to automatically copy a card's contents to the drive as you insert it or you can control the process automatically with the mufti-function button that I discussed above.

Secondly, unlike competing devices that only support the single stream setup of 802.11n, the My Passport Wireless sports the dual-stream setup (2x2) of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. As I said earlier, that allows for faster Wi-Fi speeds,though with a trade off of shorter the battery life. Though the drive has a promised battery life of six hours battery life and 20 hours standby, you'll most likely get less juice in real-world use, especially when you use multiple devices with it at a time.

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The My Passport Wireless shares the same WD My Cloud mobile app as WD's NAS server. Dong Ngo/CNET

Out of the box, the My Passport Wireless is pre-formatted in the ExFAT file system, which lets it work interchangeably with both Windows and Mac OS without any restrictions. All you have to do is plug it in using the included USB cable. Note that the My Passport Wireless can't work as a portable drive or a mobile media server simultaneously. You'll need to turn it off and on again to switch between tasks.

Familiar, but confusing mobile app

The My Passport Wireless shares the same mobile app with My Cloud's NAS server. While that won't pose a problem for anyone familiar with the app, new users will find it a bit confusing at first. Blame the app's design, which splits the Settings menu into two setting sections, one for the app itself and the other for the device. Also, while sometimes it uses icons to indicate the function of a button, other times it marks buttons with text. It won't take new users a long to learn the app, but there is a learning curve.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Data Link Protocol IEEE 802.11n
    SuperSpeed USB 3.0
  • Compatibility Android
    Apple iOS
    Game console
    Mac
    PC
  • Total Storage Capacity 2 TB