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Add FireWire 800, and the Western Digital My Passport Studio could make for the perfect pocket-size external hard drive. Offering FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 connections, this 320GB drive still impressed us with its compact design, decent capacity and performance, and competitive cost per gigabyte. Western Digital lists it for $210, but it can be found online for less (Buy.com, for example, sells it for $185--for 58 cents per gigabyte). If you don't need the FireWire connection and are looking for something even a little more compact and colorful, the USB-only SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry is a good bet. Moving in the other direction, the OWC Mercury is a bit bulkier and costs slightly more per gigabyte, but it supplies FireWire 800. For those looking for the middle ground, however, Western Digital's 320GB My Passport Studio resides in a sweet spot.
|Drive type||External hard drive|
|Connector options||FireWire 400, USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||160GB; 250GB; 320GB|
|Capacity of test unit||320GB|
|Dimensions (LWH)||4.9 x 3.2 x 0.71 inches|
|Notable design features||Sleek aluminum casing with capacity gauge|
|OSes supported||Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X|
|Software included||Hard=drive management tool for Mac|
|Service and Support||5-year warranty|
Design and features
As the name suggests, the My Passport Studio has about the same footprint as an actual passport and is about three times thicker. It's also very lightweight at 6.7 ounces. The drive looks somewhat like a book, with a sleek aluminum casing that takes the place of the cover, and black plastic taking the place of the pages.
The My Passport features dual interfaces: FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. It doesn't offer FireWire 800, which is a bit disappointing as this option allows for the highest possible speed for a pocket-size external hard drive. On the plus side, it has a capacity gauge. It's just a ballpark measurement with four blocks that glow white as you gobble up another 80GB of space. And when not in use, the gauge can be slid to the side to cover the ports, protecting them from dust.
The drive ships with two data cables (FireWire 400 and USB 2.0), a quick setup poster, and a velour string purse. The drive is bus-powered. You just have to plug it into a Mac and it works. Preformatted for OS X, the My Passport Studio needs to be reformatted for use with Windows. This is a very simple process that requires a few mouse clicks using Windows' built-in disk-management utility.
The My Passport Studio is the first pocket-size external hard drive that doesn't come with a power port. This means it relies entirely on the power provided by the computer's port. We didn't run into any instances where the drive failed to operate, but we suspect there might be some computers, especially older computers with USB 1.1 ports, that don't provide enough juice to operate the drive. While the chance of the drive not working with your computer is low, if you can, it's a good idea to test the drive with your laptop before purchasing it.
Cost per gigabyte
At $185, the My Passport Studio serves up its 320GB of capacity at a competitive 58 cents per gigabyte, trailing the SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry and Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini by 2 cents.
|Model||Capacity||Est. street price||Cost per GB|
|SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry||320GB||$160||56 cents|
|Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini||160GB||$90||56 cents|
|WD My Passport Studio||320GB||$185||58 cents|
|Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive||160GB||$100||63 cents|
|OWC Mercury On-The-Go||500GB||$350||70 cents|
|Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External HDD||160GB||$140||88 cents|
|G-Tech G-Drive mini Triple (7200RPM)||200GB||$270||$1.35|
The WD My Passport Studio performed well in CNET Labs testing. We tested the drive using both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 connections.
In USB 2.0 testing, the drive topped our charts on our write test scoring 149.12Mbps, narrowly edging the rest of the compact 2.5-inch drives we've tested. Its read score finished in the middle of the tightly grouped pack.
The My Passport Studio's FireWire 400 performance couldn't equal that of the OWC Mercury On-the-Go but far better than the G-Tech G-Drive mini Triple's FireWire 400 throughput. The My Passport Studio's FireWire 400 write speed was 19 percent faster than writing via USB 2.0.
The drive was quiet and stayed very cool during our tests.
Service and support
Western Digital has a lot of love for the My Passport Studio and backs it up with a generous five-year warranty. This is the longest we've seen for a pocket-size external hard drive. As there's generally not much support needed for external hard drives, the warranty duration is the most valuable support and Western Digital delivers. Nonetheless, the company's technical toll-free phone support is available from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m. CST, Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday. At its Web site, you will find a comprehensive set of Web-based support including downloads, product RMA, a sizable knowledge base, and an online installation guide.