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

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The Good The compact and good-looking WD My Passport Ultra 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.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

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.

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.

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