WD MyPassport Ultra review: 500GB of speedy, compact pleasures

WD Ultra drive

WD Ultra drive

People would think I’m mad but I love reviewing hard drives. There is nothing simpler, more efficient and necessary than a hard drive. And Western Digital makes some of the best portable drives you get, such as the My Passport Ultra over here, a 500GB USB 3.0 drive that’s very slim, pleasing on the eye, exceptionally fast and costs only US$79.99. Outside of the Western Digital bloatware, there’s nothing wrong with this drive. So let’s dig into it and see what secrets it holds.

Speed machine

WD doesn’t promise any speeds on the box so I had to independently test the drive with Blackmagic Speed Test (it’s free). The highest speeds I could get was 122MB/s write and 123.3 MB/s read speed. So in reality, this makes the transfer of data exceptionally fast and pain-free. To copy over a 6.5GB HD film, it took all of twenty seconds.

Drive test

Svelte hardware

The Ultra is wonderfully designed. Plug the USB cable into the drive and then the computer, lay it gently on its belly and let the Ultra do its business. The only indication that it’s on is the now iconic WD access light that glows whiter than the devils smile. If you’ve never seen this light in action, it’s quite a treat. The LED light glows especially brightly at night for some reason, as if there’s a waning moon setting behind the laptop.

The design of the Ultra is excellent. It’s very light at 230g and is no larger than say a leather wallet. The Ultra I had was lovingly coated in ruby red, with tiny little dots running down the front of it. Kind of looks like the code from The Matrix running down the drive, and I’m cool with that.

Enter the cloud 

Here’s something potentially fantastic. The Ultra, if the option is selected, can backup all data to your DropBox account. Now, the point of a hard drive is to semi-permanently store content. But there’s always those special files that need to remain safe. Enter DropBox and the Ultra. Select the files and folder you want to synch with DropBox and every time you plug the drive in, it’ll upload the files to the cloud, if any changes have been made. This happens with WD SmartWare Pro, which is not to my taste but does its job well enough.

Verdict: The 500GB Ultra is a mere US$79.99. That’s under US$100 for an exceptionally fast drive. It’s almost impossible to fault the Ultra, but it loses a point because of the cheap looking pouch it comes with. What type of a gadget lover stores a drive in a pouch – not this one.

Score: 9/10


Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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