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WD Elements Portable drive review: Large, affordable and versatile

WD Elements Portable drive specs

Drive type Bus-powered portable hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB, 1TB, 1.5TB, 2TB
Internal drive speed 5,400rpm
Capacity of review unit 2TB
Dimensions 4.4x3.2x0.8 inches (11.2x8.1x2.0cm)
Weight 8.2 ounces (234.5 grams)
Software included WD SmartWare Pro (trial)
OSes supported Windows XP or later; Mac OS 10.4 or later
Warranty 1 year

Bare-bones multipurpose drive

The Elements' lack of features can be a good thing. This type of bare-bones design means the drive can work anywhere. A password-protected drive, for example, will need its host to run software to enable you to type in the password before it can get connected. The Element doesn't require anything from the host at all, other than a USB port.

Apart from Windows and Mac computers, where the Elements worked without any issues, I also tried it with a few non-computer hosts; it proved to be compatible there as well. On an Xbox One, the drive was recognized immediately once plugged and once formatted by the game console, I could use it to store games, apps and content for playback. The Element also worked well with routers and media network media players.

Performance

Since the Element houses a low-power internal drive, I didn't expect it to blow me away with its performance, but the drive did quite well in testing nonetheless. Via USB 3.0, it registered a sustained real-world copy speed of more than 95MBps for writing and more than 100MBps for reading. However, these were some 20MBps slower than those of the Seagate Expansion. But overall, these were average speeds for USB 3.0 portable drives, fast enough for all applications that require external storage, including movie playback, backup and app storage.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

Seagate Backup Plus FAST (RAID 0)
222.5
232.74
Samsung Portable T1
158.3
292.42
Brinell Drive SSD
156.4
220.2
Seagate Backup Plus Desktop
150.9
180.45
Seagate Expansion
123.1
127.93
Toshiba Canvio Slim II
118.8
118.49
WD My Passport Ultra
118.5
117.87
WD My Book Duo (RAID 0)
116.7
210.96
Seagate Slim
110.4
111.49
WD My Book Duo (RAID 1)
110.3
149.89
ioSafe SoloPro G3
109.1
110.8
WD My Password Slim
107.7
107.89
LaCie Christofle Sphere
105.5
111.43
SiliconPower Armor A60
104.3
114.48
WD Elements
95.7
102.15
Seagate Backup Plus
90.94
110.1

Legend:

Write
Read

Note:

Measured in megabytes per second

Note that the WD Elements also works with USB 2.0 but at much slower speeds; in the neighborhood of 30MBps for both writing and reading.

Conclusion

The WD Elements Portable drive is an excellent alternative to the Seagate Expansion. While the two drives are very similar in most aspects, the Expansion is faster but the Element is cheaper. Also, in my opinion, the Elements is slightly better-looking.

Ultimately, this is a fast, easy-to-use and versatile portable drive that can effortlessly add a lot more storage, not just to computers but also game consoles and other types of USB-enabled hosts. If you don't plan on using it to store sensitive data, this is an excellent drive to choose. On the other hand, if keeping your data safe from prying eyes in case of loss or theft is a big concern, another drive, such as the Seagate Backup Plus Slim or the WD My Passport Slim will fit your needs better.

Personally, I'm totally happy with the WD Elements Portable drive and have no problems recommending it to most people.

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