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The WD My Passport Pro does what it does well, but weighing up the three P’s (practicality, performance and price) it only shines through when it comes to two of them. For the heavy-duty Apple Mac user on-the-go, the WD My Passport Pro’s flaws are minor if they’re even worth pointing out at all. For someone looking for a bit of flexibility, the external drive sings a different song.
We were blessed with a black and aluminium 4TB model (there’s also a 2TB one available) which weighs a hefty 725g — definitely complemented by its bulky body which can’t help but feel like a murder weapon when you’re holding it up in the air (yes, people in the office were looking at me strangely).
A convenient design feature of the Pro is that the Thunderbolt cable is wrapped around its body like a rubber belt. This means no extra cables to lug around — quite a plus for the minimalist-prone Mac users. The possible down-side is if for some reason the one-and-only cable is damaged (falls in a bowl of yogurt, gets chewed by your cockatoo), there’s no way to replace it without cutting the rubber strap off and performing blind surgery.
Practically, the Thunderbolt-only setup means that you suddenly have to start making more Apple friends. “Sorry, Windows colleagues. You’re kept outside of the awesomeness that is my data.” This simple fact is annoying considering the fact that USB 3.0 doesn’t discriminate.
The rubber strap around the aluminium casing additionally acts as protection against bumps and bruises. Keeping in mind that it weighs as much as a pineapple, I highly doubt it will be able to withstand a one metre drop. Oh, and the drive’s roof is plastic.
When unhooking the tethered Thunderbolt cable, it subtly reveals an air vent section so that the 230 MB/s transfers can breath when powered. There’s also a couple dozen holes punched in the bottom which helps a lot with ventilation.
Generally, there’s minimal sound emitted by the unit. Just a little hum you can hear when you hold your ear to it (again, people were staring at me bemused for some reason). After a while of using the bulky workhorse, a small fan does start cooling off the box. As noisy as it is, it only last for a couple of minutes and wasn’t that big a bother in the end.
Out of the box, the WD My Passport Pro is configured in RAID 0 for optimised performance and space. As it’s a dual-drive, you can change it to two independent disks (commonly known as JBOD). And as mentioned above, RAID 0 it will give you maximum transfer speeds of 230 MB/s. Though impressive as that might be, it still hovers around the same figures USB 3.0 would give you.
Conveniently, WD gives you options with this device. On the one hand, the RAID 0 configuration will enable filmmakers, gamers and animators to do what they do best for hours on end. On the other, RAID 1 offers slightly less performance but acts as a safety net in case of drops by mirroring your data across the two drives.
I used the WD My Passport Pro with my MacBook Air as a repository for all company photos, from products to friends. I also threw a couple of HD videos in here and there to see what this bad boy can do. It just swallowed it all up and spat it all out when I needed it. No fuss, no real faff either.
The Thunderbolt-only cable is as fast and convenient as it’s soon-to-be quaint. The latest Macbook — announced just a few weeks ago — comes with one port only: the USB Type-C which is responsible for charging the battery to external monitor support to transferring files. Chances are, we’ll see a Thunderbolt to USB Type-C adapter though, so not all is lost.
Verdict: If you fall within the niche of Mac users looking for a Thunderbolt-only 2/4TB hard drive with a mirroring option, the WD My Passport Pro is certainly for you. Though with the Pro’s price tag of around R5000, you can get yourself Seagate’s Backup Plus 3.5 Desktop and still have enough for the month’s groceries.
This would mean submitting to the hell that is loose power-and USB cables and the sacrifice of pure, rampant speed, but the choice is yours. Personally, we loved the device’s speed but loathed it’s questionable size and weight. It’s perfect for a desk, but not quite an every day runabout.