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WD My Passport Ultra review: Compact, easy-to-use, and superfast

The WD My Passport Ultra is a great portable drive, and its included software bundle makes data backup a breeze.

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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.

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5 min read

Editors' note: The rating of this review was updated on May 29th, 2015 to reflect the drive's position on the market in with its successor.

Apart from the Titanium, similar to that of the Edge, the new My Password Ultra now comes with three more colors, including Red, Blue and Black.
8.0

WD My Passport Ultra

The Good

The compact and good-looking <b>WD My Passport Ultra</b> offers fast data speeds, has helpful bundled software, and comes in stylish color options.

The Bad

At launch, the drive's suggested price is slightly higher than those of its peers, and its 2TB-capacity model is not yet available.

The Bottom Line

The WD My Passport Ultra is one of the best portable drives you can buy with software that makes backups fast and easy.

Looks aren't always important for storage devices, but they don't hurt, either, and in the case of the WD My Passport Ultra, looks are a great bonus. This is because the drive has everything else: fast performance, large storage space, and helpful bundled software.

The new drive is the successor to last year's similar-looking WD My Passport Edge. In my testing, it's much faster than its predecessor. The Ultra offers up to 2TB of storage space, comes with WD SmartWare backup software, and is available in four colors: titanium, red, black, and blue.

At the suggested retail price of $100 for 500GB or $130 for 1TB (the price of the 2TB version is not yet available), the My Passport Ultra seems slightly more expensive than its peers. The drive's street price, however, is likely to be lower, as was the case with the Edge.

The WD My Passport Ultra is one of my favorite portable drives for its fast performance, large storage space, and its good looks. It's easy to recommend it, as it ranks among the top drives on the market.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB, 1GB, 2TB

Capacity of test unit 500GB, 1TB

Dimensions (LWH) 4.34 inches by 3.21 inches by 0.5 inch
Weight 9 ounces

OSes supported Windows 2000 or later, Mac OS 10.4 or later
Software included WD SmartWare Pro, WD Utility, WD Security

Design and features
At first glance, the My Passport Ultra could easily be mistaken for the My Passport Edge. In fact, other than the word "Ultra" in place of "Edge" on the casing, the new drive looks just like its predecessor. The drive is very compact and light, but it also feels sturdy.

Unlike the Edge, which only came in titanium, the Ultra also comes in three other colors: red, blue, and black.
Unlike the Edge, which only came in titanium, the Ultra also comes in three other colors: red, blue, and black. Dong Ngo/CNET

The device has a Micro-USB 3.0 port on one side and comes with a foot-long USB cable. This is the only cable you need; it handles both power and data functions. The Ultra works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, but if you want to get the best performance, you need to use it with USB 3.0.

The My Passport Ultra is preformatted for Windows (NTFS), but it can be easily reformatted for Macs (HFS+). The drive comes with the WD SmartWare backup program, as well as WD Drive Utilities and WD Security. By default this suite works only with the drive it's bundled with, but with the Ultra, you can upgrade to the Pro version for free. WD SmartWare Pro works with all external hard drives, including those made by other vendors. With the My Passport Ultra, you can activate WD SmartWare Pro two times on two separate computers.

Though not required to be installed for the drive to work, the bundled software package is useful. WD Drive Utilities contains (as one might guess) utilities that enable you to check on the drive's status, test its functionality, or even reformat it. WD Security lets you secure the drive's content with a password. The drive supports strong encryption, and once you've picked a password, the content is completely inaccessible if that password is forgotten. Both WD Drive Utilities and WD Security are available for both Windows and Mac.

WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox.
WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox. Dong Ngo/CNET

WD SmartWare, on the other hand, is only for Windows. This is not a big deal; on a Mac, you can just use Time Machine with the drive. Backing up data is very easy and intuitive job with WD SmartWare. You can choose to back up folders and files, or it can automatically back up important data, which is very useful for those who aren't as computer-savvy. With the Ultra, WD SmartWare now supports backing up to Dropbox's online service (you do need to have a Dropbox account of your own). In all, the backup software works very well. One thing it doesn't do, however, is back up the entire system as an image for system recovery in case the hard drive fails, or when you want to upgrade your computer to a new internal drive.

WD Drive Utilities is helpful for managing your portable drive.
WD Drive Utilities is helpful for managing your portable drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

Performance
I tested the 500GB and 1TB version of the My Passport Ultra, and it performed very well with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. The drive's 2TB version will not be available until the third quarter of the year.

When used with USB 3.0, the Ultra scored 119MBps for writing (compared with the My Passport Edge, which scored 83MBps) and 118MBps for reading (compared with the Edge's 98MBps). This is the fastest score among the USB 3.0 portable drives I've tested thus far.

When used with USB 2.0, the drive registered 27MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively. These scores were above average for USB 2.0 drives.

Similar to the Edge, the My Passport Ultra worked quietly in my testing and produced no vibration and almost no heat at all.

External hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

WD My Passport Ultra
117.87
118.5

IoSafe Solo G3
110.98
109.1

Toshiba Canvio Desk
103.74
88.9

LaCie FastKey
115.5
87.1

G-Drive Slim
100.3
86.7

External hard drive USB 2.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

Conclusion
Topping my USB 3.0 testing charts, the aesthetically pleasing WD My Passport Ultra proves that stellar performance can come in a very small package. The drive's helpful bundled software also makes backing up data convenient even for novices.

Apart from the Titanium, similar to that of the Edge, the new My Password Ultra now comes with three more colors, including Red, Blue and Black.
8.0

WD My Passport Ultra

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8
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