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WD Elements Portable drive review: Large, affordable and versatile

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The Good The WD Elements Portable drive offers a large amount of storage space for a low cost. Its simple design allows it to work well with computers, game consoles and other type of hosts.

The Bad You have to pay extra to use its included backup software after the introductory 30-day trial. The drive has no security features and carries a short warranty of just one year.

The Bottom Line Though not the fastest on the market, the WD Elements' large capacity makes it an excellent deal considering its low price.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8
  • Support 5

The WD Elements is a compact yet high-capacity external storage device that won't dig a hole in your wallet. At a street price of just $55/AU$99 (converted that's £37) for 1TB, it's easily one of the cheapest portable drive on the market. You can also get the 2TB version for $85, or the 500GB for just $50.

The catch is, in my testing, the drive's performance wasn't as fast as its intended rival, the slightly more expensive Seagate Expansion. Not only that, it carries a short 1-year warranty, has no other added value such as security, and includes only a 30-day trial version of the WD SmartWare Pro backup software.

However, like the Seagate, the WD Elements' simple design enables it to work well with both computers and games consoles as either storage expansion or a backup drive. That said, if you're looking for an easy way to carry data around, or extend the storage of your Xbox One, the Elements is an excellent buy. On the other hand, those needing features like security, backup software and a longer warranty should check out other options on our list of top portable drives on the market.

The WD Elements is a simple, straighforward portable drive. Josh Miller/CNET

No bells or whistles

Basically, the Elements is WD's answer to the Seagate Expansion drive. Both of them are low-cost, high-capacity and easy to use USB 3.0 external hard drives.

On the outside, the Elements looks similar to the higher-end portable drives from WD, such as the WD My Passport Slim, with rounded corners and a smoothly finished surface. Measuring 4.4x3.2x0.8 inches (11.2x8.1x2.0 cm), the compact drive is small enough for you to easily tuck it away in your pocket. Compared to the Seagate Expansion, it's slightly shorter and thicker, but overall it's better looking.

On the inside, however, it houses a low-power standard laptop hard drive that spins at just 5,400rpm, slower than drives that spin at 7,200rpm. This generally translates to slower performance. The drive doesn't support encryption for security, either, meaning you shouldn't put sensitive data on it.

The Elements is preloaded with a trial version of the WD SmartWare Pro, which will cost you another $20 if you you want to use it beyond its 30-day trial period. Higher-end portable drives from WD includes the full version of this software for free.

And out of the box, the Elements comes with a standard foot-long Micro-USB 3.0 cable and nothing else. But you don't need anything else to make it work, either.

The drive is preformatted for Windows and will work right away when you plug it in. For a Mac, you will need to reformat it to HFS+. You can also format it to exFAT file systems if you'll want to use it interchangeably between Windows and Mac computers.

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