X

WD My Passport Wireless review: A versatile mobile drive for photographers

If you're a photographer who needs a fast and nimble way to backup your shots on the go, the My Passport Wireless is what you've been looking for.

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
8 min read

The WD My Passport Wireless stands apart from other mobile wireless drives in two important ways. Its support for the dual-stream setup of 802.11n Wi-Fi gives it faster speeds than competitors, and the integrated SD card slot makes it a great accessory for photographers who want to quickly back up their shots. It did well in my testing, too, proving itself to be both a very fast portable drive and a capable mobile wireless media server.

wdmypassportwireless-6.jpg
8.0

WD My Passport Wireless

The Good

The WD My Passport Wireless has a built-in SD card slot and supports faster Wi-Fi standard than competing devices. The device is versatile, easy to use, and provides up to 2TB of mobile storage space.

The Bad

The device's battery life is comparatively short. Its mobile app has limited file format support, can be confusing for new users, and takes a long time to load photos.

The Bottom Line

Despite the rather short battery life and confusing apps, the WD My Passport Wireless is an excellent mobile media drive, especially for photographers.

On the downside, its battery lasted just about 5 and a half hours in my trials, which is shorter than some of its rivals. Also, it could deliver a better media streaming experience and the WD My Cloud mobile app needs a sharper interface. To make up for the former, though, the app supports all of the popular mobile platforms including Android, iOS and KindleFire.

Available in three capacities of 500GB, 1TB and 2TB, that costs $120, $180, and $220, respectively, the My Passport Wireless isn't the best deal on the market at launch. All are also available in the UK for £113, £170, and £210. In Australia, WD is only selling the 1TB and 2TB options -- those are AU$249 and AU$299 respectively.

All things considered, if you're looking for a device that can carry a lot of media and works as a backup drive for laptops, digital cameras and mobile devices, I'd have no problem recommending the My Passport Wireless. (For more choices, check out this list of best mobile wireless drives on the market.)

wdmypassportwireless-10.jpg
The My Passport Wireless is basically a portable drive with an embedded Wi-Fi network and a built-in battery. Dong Ngo/CNET

Standard design

The My Passport Wireless is a bus-powered USB 3.0 portable drive that also has an embedded Wi-Fi network and a built-in battery. When connected to a computer, it works as a regular external hard drive, and when running on the battery, it becomes a wireless mobile media server. That means that your normal workflow would go something like this. First, load a lot of media content onto the My Passport. Then, take that content and wirelessly stream it to mobile clients, such as tablets or smartphones. The My Passport Wireless supports up to eight concurrent Wi-Fi clients for data sharing, or up to for clients for HD streaming.

The device is quite compact, measuring just 5 inches long and 3.4 inches wide. Its thickness, however, changes according to which capacity you choose (from about 0.9 inch on the 500GB model, to about 1.2 inches on the 2TB version). On the whole, it's about the same size as competing devices, such as the Seagate Wireless Plus or the Samsung Wireless .

Up top, the My Passport Wireless has a power indicator light and a light showing the status of its Wi-Fi network. The power light changes color according to the battery's charge level: blue is full, green is 75 percent, amber is 50 percent, and red is 15 percent or less.

On one side, there's a standard Micro-USB 3.0 port for both charging and data connections. You can charge the drive via a computer's USB port, a standard wall outlet, or in your car. Just note that a car adapter is not included.

Next to the USB port there are two buttons: the power switch and another control that has a few functions. Pressing it when the device is off, for example, will make the battery level indicator light up for few seconds. On the other hand, pressing it for a few seconds when the drive is on lets you quickly connect Wi-Fi clients.

WD My Passport Wireless specs

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (for both data and charging)
Dimensions 500GB: 5 by 3.39 by 0.86 inches (127x86x21mm) | 1 TB : 5 by 3.39 by 0.96 inches (127x86x24.4mm) | 2 TB: 5 by 3.39 by 1.17 inches (127x86x29.8mm)
Weight 500GB: .55 lb (0.25kg) | 1TB: .60 lb (0.27kg) | 2TB: .77 lb (0.35kg)
Apps included WD My Cloud (Android and iOS)
Capacities / File system 500GB, 1TB, 2TB / ExFAT
Supported operating systems Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
Concurrent Wi-Fi clients supported 8 total, 4 for HD streaming
Warranty 2 years

SD card slot included, faster Wi-Fi support

Despite the standard design, the My Passport Wireless has a few unique features. On one side, the aforementioned SD card slot accommodates cards of any capacity. You can choose to automatically copy a card's contents to the drive as you insert it or you can control the process automatically with the mufti-function button that I discussed above.

Secondly, unlike competing devices that only support the single stream setup of 802.11n, the My Passport Wireless sports the dual-stream setup (2x2) of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. As I said earlier, that allows for faster Wi-Fi speeds,though with a trade off of shorter the battery life. Though the drive has a promised battery life of six hours battery life and 20 hours standby, you'll most likely get less juice in real-world use, especially when you use multiple devices with it at a time.

wd1.png
The My Passport Wireless shares the same WD My Cloud mobile app as WD's NAS server. Dong Ngo/CNET

Out of the box, the My Passport Wireless is pre-formatted in the ExFAT file system, which lets it work interchangeably with both Windows and Mac OS without any restrictions. All you have to do is plug it in using the included USB cable. Note that the My Passport Wireless can't work as a portable drive or a mobile media server simultaneously. You'll need to turn it off and on again to switch between tasks.

Familiar, but confusing mobile app

The My Passport Wireless shares the same mobile app with My Cloud's NAS server. While that won't pose a problem for anyone familiar with the app, new users will find it a bit confusing at first. Blame the app's design, which splits the Settings menu into two setting sections, one for the app itself and the other for the device. Also, while sometimes it uses icons to indicate the function of a button, other times it marks buttons with text. It won't take new users a long to learn the app, but there is a learning curve.

That said, the app is much better than when I first used it on the My Cloud server. For example, content stored on the drive is now automatically organized into three categories: Photos, Music, and Videos. There's also a search function, which is very helpful.

After the app starts, it will display everything stored on the My Passport Wireless. You then can browse each folder one by one. Interestingly, however, you can't use the app to browse for the content on an SD card. As a result, you'll first need to copy or move the contents of the card onto the My Passport Wireless before you can view the photos. That's both inconvenient and counter-intuitive since most of the time I want to quickly preview the photos before backing them up.

What's more, viewing a connected mobile device's library also is convoluted. When you want to back up content from your tablet to the My Passport Wireless, you first need to click on an unnamed and rather obscure button in the top right corner of the app's interface. Only then can you select the Upload command on a drop-down menu. Then, a new window will open, bringing up even more steps to complete before you can actually back anything up. Again, this is quite inconvenient. Nonetheless, the backups worked well and quite fast in my testing, especially for photos.

wdmypassportwireless-5.jpg
The My Passport Wireless' power light changes its color to indicate the battery level. Dong Ngo/CNET

Limited streaming file formats

Similar to the Seagate Wireless Plus, the My Passport Wireless' mobile app only lets you stream file types that are natively supported by the mobile device itself. For other file types, such as the open-source Matroska multimedia container (MKV), or XviD, you'll need to use a third-party mobile apps.

It's a worse story for documents, unfortunately, as the WD My Cloud app doesn't have built-in support for any documents types at all. If you don't have third-party apps that can open Word, Excel or PDF files, you're out of luck.

Internet sharing and common NAS functions supported

The My Passport Wireless can connect to another Wi-Fi network and relay its Internet connection to any clients on its own. In my trial, it connected to any Wi-Fi networks, including those that required a password.

On top of that, it also can connect as a client to a Wi-Fi network. In that case, it functions as a regular NAS server that supports standard file sharing and DLNA steaming protocols. From a connected computer, such as a laptop, you can access its files via Finder (on a Mac) or Windows Explorer (on a Windows computer). And strangely, in this scenario only, you can access files on an inserted SD card directly.

Performance

As a portable drive, the My Passport Wireless did very well in my testing. Via USB 3.0, it registered sustained speeds of 11oMBps for writing and 112MBps for reading, making it one of the fastest on the market. The drive also works with its USB 2.0 port, averaging around 33MBps.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

WD My Passport Wireless 109.9 112.39Samsung Wireless 108.7 112.3Seagate Slim 110.4 111.49Seagate Wireless Plus 109.5 109.75WD My Passport Slim 107.7 107.89Corsair Voyager Air 104.6 107.45LaCie Fuel 104.7 106.89
  • Write
  • Read
Note: Measured in megabytes per second

As a mobile wireless drive, the My Passport Wireless also did very well. From a mobile device, HD content loads relatively fast and the streaming was generally smooth in my testing. Photos, however, took quite a while to load and I don't like that the mobile app must download an entire photo before displaying it. There's no caching for images, either, meaning photos that you've already viewed take as long to load again as they did the first time.

As a mobile NAS server, the My Passport Wireless worked quite well with photos and documents. When I played back an HD movie from a laptop, the connection was too slow for the video to play back smoothly. This is likely because the device's bandwidth is not fast enough to support screens larger than those of mobile devices.

The My Passport lasted about 5 and half hours in my testing on a full charge. This wasn't the worst battery life, but not the best I've seen either. ( The Samsung Wireless , for example, lasted close to 7 hours.) I did notice that the internal drive on the inside ran almost constantly, even when there was no other activity (possibly the reason why battery life wasn't better). The LaCie Fuel and the Samsung Wireless, for example, come with a variety of ways to conserve the energy, a feature that the My Passport Wireless lacks.

On the other hand, the My Passport Wireless' Wi-Fi range was very impressive with an effective range of around 100 feet, the longest for a device of this type. For the best HD streaming, however, you want to be no more than 50 feet away.

Conclusion

In the world of wireless mobile drives, the WD My Passport Wireless is rather late to the game, but it's worth the wait. The addition of the SD card slot makes it as versatile as the SanDisk Media Drive , yet at the same time still has a lot of storage space.

The WD My Passport Wireless is far from perfect, however, mostly thanks to its comparatively short battery life, and the week mobile app. Hopefully, these will improve via future firmware and app updates. But if you can't wait, even in its current state it's still one of the best mobile wireless storage drives on the market.

wdmypassportwireless-6.jpg
8.0

WD My Passport Wireless

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 9Performance 7Support 7
laptop
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping