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WD My Passport Studio series (Autumn 2011) review: WD My Passport Studio series (Autumn 2011)

WD My Passport Studio series (Autumn 2011)

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.
Dong Ngo
4 min read


WD My Passport Studio series (Autumn 2011)

The Good

The <b>WD My Passport Studio</b> features all-metal scratch-resistant housing and supports FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 connections. The drive offers very good performance.

The Bad

The My Passport Studio is comparatively expensive and doesn't have USB 3.0.

The Bottom Line

Mac users who need a fast portable hard drive will find it in the new My Passport Studio. Windows users should look elsewhere for a better deal.

The previous model of the My Passport Studio, which was released more than a year ago, made one of the most versatile portable storage solutions of its time. Because of the current popularity of USB 3.0, the new yet still FireWire- and USB 2.0-only My Passport Studio is now rather limited in terms of connections. The drive, however, still manages to remain original by coming in a sturdy and scratch-resistant all-metal casing that's also very good-looking. Most importantly, it offers very good performance.

Preformatted for Mac and costing $180 for 1TB (or $160 and $130 for the 750GB and 500GB versions, respectively), the new My Passport Studio is comparatively expensive and suited mostly for Mac users. With a nice design and large amount of storage, it will likely offer power users who travel frequently what they need. Windows users, however, should check out other drives such as the Seagate GoFlex Turbo or the Hitachi Touro for both the faster USB 3.0 connection and better prices.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options FireWire 800, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB, 750GB, 1TB
Capacity of test unit 1TB
Drive size 2.5-inch
Dimensions (LWH) 5 inches x 3.3 inches x 0.7 inch (0.9 inch for the 1TB)
Weight .56 pound
Notable design features Sleek all-metal casing
OSes supported Mac OS X 10.4 and later
Software included WD Utility, WD Security
Service and support Two-year warranty

Design and features
The new My Passport Studio looks great. The drive's housing is made entirely of metal in two colors: black on top, and the rest in white. On the top side, the drive has two FireWire 800 ports and one USB 2.0 port. There's also a tiny blue indicator light that's visible only when lit up. The drive also works with FireWire 400, but you'll need a cable for that. The Studio comes with just one USB 2.0 and one FireWire 800 cable. It's bus-powered with either, meaning you won't need a separate power adapter.

Unlike the previous model, the new My Passport Studio doesn't come with an electric label or a storage gauge. It's just a simple, yet very good-looking, portable drive. Preformatted using HFS+, it works immediately with a Mac, running OS X 10.4 or later. On the drive, you'll find the installer of the WD Drive Utilities and WD Security applications. The former is a set of tools for diagnosing, reformatting, or setting up the sleep timer with the drive; with the latter you can create a password to enable the drive's encryption to protect data from unauthorized access.

While the new My Passport Studio can be easily reformatted using NTFS to work with Windows, the fact that it lacks USB 3.0 means that Windows users should look for other options. The reason the drive doesn't support USB 3.0 is likely because Mac computers generally don't support this peripheral connection.

The new WD My Passport Studio offered good performance in CNET Labs' testing. We tested the drive with both USB 2.0 and FireWire 800, and it performed according to our expectations.

In tests using USB 2.0, the drive scored 26MBps for writing and 33MBps for reading, about average among USB 2.0 portable drives we've tested. In tests using the FireWire 800 connection, it scored much higher than the rest of the USB 2.0 drives, at 69MBps for writing and 79MBps for reading. Compared with USB 3.0 drives, these numbers, as expected, were noticeably slower; however, for Macs, which don't support USB 3.0, these speeds are the next best thing after Thunderbolt.

It's worth noting that you won't likely find a single-volume Thunderbolt storage solution anytime soon because the technology offers much higher bandwidth than that of an internal drive. For this reason, most Thunderbolt storage devices will be in the form of multiple-bay drives, such as the Promise Pegasus, designed to aggregate the speed of the internal drives to match that of the connection.

The WD My Passport Studio became a little warm after operating for a while in our testing, but it remained very quiet and emitted almost no vibration.

CNET Labs portable external hard-drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Clickfree C6 (USB 3.0)
WD My Passport Studio (FireWire 800)
WD My Passport Studio (USB 2.0)

Service and support
Western Digital backs the new My Passport Studio with just a two-year warranty. This is disappointing, as with external hard drives, the warranty is the most important factor when it comes to service and support. The company's technical toll-free phone support is available from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT Friday through Sunday. At its Web site, you'll find a comprehensive set of support tools, including downloads, product RMA, a sizable knowledge base, and an online installation guide.

Good-looking, sturdy, and offering decent performance, the new My Passport Studio makes a very good investment for Mac users. Windows users, however, should keep looking for a drive that offers USB 3.0 connectivity at a better price.


WD My Passport Studio series (Autumn 2011)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Support 7