WD USB 3.0 Drive Goes For Mobile Photogs
By Greg Tarr On Apr 4 2011 - 3:01am
LAKE FOREST, CALIF. —
Almost a year after
the first USB 3.0 PCI cards and motherboards
started to appear in the market, Western Digital
recently started shipping a series of highcapacity
hard disk drives that make use of the
high data-rate interface.
Among the highlights of the line for photographers
is the ultra-portable My Passport Essential
SE series featuring a compact
pocket-sized design that is ideal as
a mobile storage platform for traveling
lensmen, among other users.
Versions are available in 500GB,
750GB and 1TB capacities, and a
variety of color options.
As the name implies, the drive
was tailor-made for portability. It
fits in a jacket or pants pocket and
is powered solely by the MicroUSB
3.0 connection to the PC, requiring
no wall plugs or adapters.
It is encased in a smooth rounded
plastic hard shell, with the USB
connector positioned as the only
port on the device.
The 1TB drive tested stores a ton of photos
in any format, in addition to music, movies or
data files, and can alternately be used as a hard
drive backup for a laptop, notebook or even a
desktop PC using the supplied backup software.
As with all of its hard drives, Western Digital
installs on the drive its WD SmartWare software
with automatic backup functionality. It’s
relatively easy to set up and get started, though at 1TB
it still requires a somewhat long backup processing time
depending on how much data is involved.
The software was designed as a backup tool for emergency
data restoration, so files are archived in compressed
form and not easily accessible for everyday access.
To access files archived using the SmartWare will require
going through a somewhat lengthy retrieval process
to uncompress data. That’s probably something you are
not going to want to do on a regular basis, so files that will
be frequently accessed from the device are best
stored without the SmartWare, uncompressed,
or in compressed form using a common ZIP
The beauty of the My Passport Essential
1TB drive is the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 interface
offering what Western Digital said is
three times of speed of similar USB 2.0 devices.
The drive is also powered by the USB
connection, unlike devices based on similarly
speedy eSATA or Ethernet ports, giving it easy
The SuperSpeed USB 3.0 spec supports a data rate
of 4,800Mbps (about 572MBps), and the PC connector
end is backward compatible with USB 2.0. A special micro
port is found on the hard drive, requiring the use of
the supplied USB 3.0-cable or similarly compatible thirdparty
USB 3.0 cable supporting the new wiring standard
and full duplex operation.
Western Digital includes a 16-inch MicroUSB 3.0 cable
with the drive, which is a bit short to reach around behind
many desktop PCs, but third-party replacements are not
common yet and still somewhat pricey, so guard it with
As for the practical advantages of the USB 3.0 port, a
simple test using the HD Tune utility found only a slightly
faster transfer speed in a head-to-head matchup against
a several-year-old USB 2.0 80GB HP PD0800 Pocket
But while the WD drive didn’t exactly blow the doors off
the HP drive in speed, it made up significant points in size,
storage capacity and price.
Moving a 5.12GB sample of photo, movie and music
files from a several-months-old Windows 7 USB
3.0-ready gaming PC to the My Passport Essential SE
took approximately 3.35 minutes. Moving the same sample
to HP Pocket Media Drive over USB 2.0 ports took
That’s probably not enough of a reason in itself to replace
a functional USB 2.0 drive, but at a mere $160 suggested
retail (as low as $100 street), it makes little sense
to go for anything but a USB 3.0 unit like the My Passport
Essential, even if you don’t have the supporting PC hardware.
This way the drive will be forward compatible with
your next PC, yet it will still work over the USB 2.0 ports
on your current machine.