WD My Passport Pro 4 TB review

Western Digital’s slimline Passport drives are a good choice for portable back-ups, but in most respects they’re fairly conventional hard drives. The new My Passport Pro, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.

As the name implies, this new model is aimed at professional users who need high-speed storage – and lots of it. Instead of a solid-state drive with relatively limited storage capacity, the My Passport Pro includes a Thunderbolt interface and twin hard disks that, by default, come configured as RAID 0 (striping) for maximum performance.

You can also use WD’s Drive Utilities software to change configuration to RAID 1 (mirroring) for extra data protection, or plain old JBOD (just a bunch of disks) for more routine back-up tasks. Used this way, you’ll see two separate 2 TB disks available on your OS X desktop. We tested the 4 TB model, which costs £349, but there’s also a 2 TB model comprising two 1 TB disks for £239.

The My Passport Pro draws its power from your Mac’s Thunderbolt port, so there’s no need for mains power. Unfortunately, there’s no USB 3.0/2.0 port, as USB wouldn’t provide enough power for the two internal disks, so that means you can’t use it with older pre-Thunderbolt Macs.

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We were also a little concerned by the size of the cooling vent and fan that are visible on the back of our 4 TB review unit. However, the My Passport Pro ran cool and quiet throughout our tests – in fact, we had to lift it up to our ear before we could hear the quiet whirring of the drive mechanisms.

The only real problem with the basic design is that the My Passport is a lot bigger than the truly portable drives. The 2 TB model measures 28 mm thick, but the sturdy aluminium casing of our 4 TB review unit was a full 43 mm thick and weighed 700 g – more than three times the size and weight of the svelte My Passport Slim.

You certainly can’t slip it into your pocket, as you can with most portable drives, but it is still small enough to carry around in a backpack or briefcase without too much trouble.

And, thankfully, the drive’s performance helps justify that extra size and weight. Western Digital wouldn’t confirm the precise types of drive used in the My Passport Pro but when RAID together they do approach SSD-levels of performance when using the default RAID 0 configuration.  

Our 10 GB batch of small files indicated write and read speeds of 166 and 200 MB/s respectively – about 60% faster than any of the conventional portable hard drives that we’ve reviewed recently.

There was even stronger performance with the larger file sizes like those with which professional users may need to work. Using the Blackmagic disk test the My Passport Pro achieved consistent write speeds of 200 MB/s and read speeds of 205 MB/s – about 20% faster than the Western Digital My Book Studio desktop drive that we use with our office iMac.

OUR VERDICT

Portable drives generally trade performance for portability, but the My PassPort manages to provide desktop-levels of performance wrapped up in a chunky but still portable design. The WD Passport Pro is also quite competitively priced when compared with other RAID drives, making it an excellent choice for professional users who need fast, portable back-up device.

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