X

WD My Passport Pro review: Well-designed, capacious, and fast

Looking for a fast portable drive to use with your MacBook without having to spend a lot? The WD My Passport Pro might just be what you've been looking for. Here's CNET's full review.

Dong_Ngo.jpg
Dong Ngo
Dong_Ngo.jpg

Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

See full bio
4 min read

The WD My Passport Pro is more than just the first 4TB Thunderbolt bus-powered portable drive on the market, it's also one of the fastest Thunderbolt drives available.

mypassportpro-7.jpg
8.5

WD My Passport Pro

The Good

The WD My Passport Pro is fast, portable, and has some of the largest storage capacity you can find. It supports multiple RAID setups, has a well-designed built-in Thunderbolt cable, and is comparatively affordable.

The Bad

The drive doesn't support USB nor does it have an extra Thunderbolt port. The 4TB version is bulky.

The Bottom Line

The WD My Passport Pro is an all-around excellent storage solution for any Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, particularly the MacBook Pro or Air.

Hosting two internal drives, the Passport Pro allows users to arrange them in different RAID setups or as separate volumes. In my testing with the default configuration of RAID 0, the My Passport Pro proved to be the fastest hard-drive-based Thunderbolt portable drive to date. On top of that, the rugged and convenient design -- even if it's a bit bulky -- means that you won't need a separate Thunderbolt cable.

If you don't mind the lack of USB support, the My Passport Pro is one of the best portable storage devices Mac users can get, especially at its current price ($430 for 4TB or $360 for 2TB). For more choices, check out this list.

mypassportpro-9.jpg
The My Passport Pro comes in a 2TB (left) and a 4TB versions that have significantly different levels of thickness. Dong Ngo/CNET


Convenient and rugged design

As mentioned, the My Passport Pro comes in two capacities of 4TB and 2TB. Both versions are almost the same size (5.6 inches long by 3.5 inches wide), but at 1.7 inches deep, the 4TB drive is some 25 percent thicker than its little brother. It's also significantly heavier at 1.6 pounds, compared with the 2TB version, which was just 1 pound.

Drive type Bus-powered Thunderbolt portable drive
Connector options Thunderbolt
Available capacities 4TB, 2TB
Product dimensions 5.6 x 3.5 x 1.7 inches (4TB) or 1.1 inches (2TB)
Weight 1.6 lbs. (4TB) or 1 lbs. (2TB)
Capacity of test unit 4TB
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Warranty Three-year

The 4TB version has more girth because it houses two 15-mm internal drives (2TB each), whereas the 2TB version houses two 9.5-mm internal drives (1TB each). That said, the 4TB My Passport Pro is one of the bulkiest bus-powered portable drive on the market. Still, it's not huge and you can still carry it around quite easily.

The My Passport Pro comes in an all-aluminum chassis that's sturdy and good-looking. This casing also works as the drive's heat sink. On its underside, there's small area of openings for the air to come in, and on the front, there's a little ventilation fan that only runs when the drive gets hot.

There's no Thunderbolt port on the drive; instead, it comes with a built-in Thunderbolt cable that's always attached to the drive. This cable, when not in used, can be tucked away in the groove that runs around the sides. This is a great design that keeps the drive both aesthetically pleasing and convenient to use. Seriously, you don't need to carry any cables with this drive at all.

On the other hand, without an extra Thunderbolt port, you can't connect another Thunderbolt device to it. That means that in a daisy-chain setup (you generally can connect up to seven Thunderbolt devices together), the My Passport Pro can only be used at the end of the chain.

mypassportpro-7.jpg
The new portable drive has a nice built-in cable design for ease of use, and a little ventilation fan to keep the internal drives cool. Dong Ngo/CNET

Flexible RAID support, no USB

The My Passport Pro is bus-powered, meaning you won't need a separate power adapter to use it. In fact, all you have to do is plug the drive right take it out and plug it right into a computer. And that computer needs to be a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac (all newer Macs support Thunderbolt), since the My Passport Pro, disappointingly, doesn't support USB 3.0. With this caveat, this is very much a Mac-only storage device. Why? In most Thunderbolt-enabled Windows computers, you can use the Thunderbolt port only for display and not storage.

Out of the box, the My Passport Pro's two internal hard drives are combined into a single HFS+ (Mac file system) RAID 0 volume. This means you'll get the most storage space, which is the total of the two drive combined, and the top performance. RAID 0 generally heightens the risk of data loss since if one drive fails, you'll lose data on both, but, you can easily switch to use the two drives in a RAID 1, or as two separate volumes. (Read more about RAID here.) You can do this by using Mac OS' included Disk Utility tool or the WD Drive Utility tool preloaded on the My Passport Pro itself. In all, the new drive is most flexible portable bus-powered storage device to date in terms of how you want to use its internal drives.

In general use, however, I'd recommend using the drive in RAID 0, mostly to take advantage of its performance. Just make sure that you use it either as a backup drive, or, in case you use it to host hot data, make a backup of its content regularly.

mypassport.png
You can quickly change the RAID setup for the drive using the included WD Drive Utility. Dong Ngo/CNET

Excellent performance

I tested the My Passport Pro in RAID 0 and it was very fast, restringing the sustained copy speed of 180MBps for writing and 170MBps for reading.

In fact, compared with other hard drive-based, bus-powered portable storage devices, it's the fastest. There are a few other portable Thunderbolt devices I've seen that are faster but they all use solid-state drives on the inside and therefore much more expensive while offering much less storage space.

CNET Labs Thunderbolt performance

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ 284 308WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo 192 178WD My Passport Pro 180 170LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 179 181WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo 156 167Elgato Thunderbolt SSD 130 169Drobo Mini 106 95Pegasus J2 84 153
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabytes per second

The drive is also very quiet. During my testing process, it never became hot enough to trigger the ventilation fan. Note that if you use the drive in RAID 1 or any other setup, its performance will be equal to that of the any single internal hard drive, which is not exactly slow, but will defeat the capability of the Thunderbolt connection.

Conclusion

The new My Passport Pro delivers in all most all categories for a portable storage device: It's capacious, fast, very convenient to use and quite affordable. While it's not the fastest and most compact drive I've seen, the combination of what it has to offer more than makes up for these minor shortcomings. The SSD-based Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+, for example, while much more compact and faster, only has just 512GB of storage space and costs much more at $900.

All that makes the My Passport Pro the best portable storage device to date for mobile Mac users.

mypassportpro-7.jpg
8.5

WD My Passport Pro

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 9Support 7