Hard Drive Review: WD My Passport Wireless PRO
October 12, 2016
Equal parts content protector and media portal, the My Passport can stream an HD video signal or share Internet access to up to eight connected devices.
Wireless hard drives remain something of a niche among storage vendors, but WD has recommitted to the category with a major refresh of its My Passport Wireless drive. Besides sporting a new design, the My Passport Pro delivers improved connectivity, several new features and integration with Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
Like its predecessor, the Wireless Pro offers a built-in SD card reader and can accept images wirelessly, using the My Cloud app (iOS and Android). It uses an 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi connection for improved speed and range. While the internal battery is good for about 10 hours of use, you can also use it to charge mobile devices via USB. It connects to computers via USB 3.0 and there’s a USB 2.0 host port if you want to transfer files from a USB device to the drive. It’s formatted out of the box for both Macs and PCs.
WD’s My Cloud mobile app has also been updated to support Adobe Creative Cloud uploads. Images transferred to the drive can be uploaded to Adobe CC via the app. The My Cloud app also supports uploading to Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive.
Beyond merely storing files, the Wireless Pro can double as an Internet hotspot, providing access for up to eight connected devices. It’s sold in 2TB and 3TB capacities. If you have a wireless camera or use a Wi-Fi accessory such as Nikon’s WT-2 or Canon’s WFT, the Wireless Pro supports wireless FTP transfers for an automated backup.
While the Wireless Pro is ostensibly aimed at photographers and creatives looking for back-up on the go, it’s also designed for casual users and long-haul business travelers who want to take their media on the road. It can stream HD videos to up to eight devices simultaneously and has Plex Media Server software built in to organize your movies with a Netflix-style UI.
The Wireless Pro feels a bit less rugged than its predecessor and much boxier—it’s a 5 x 5-inch square that’s just shy of an inch thick. While it’s thinner than the original model, it’s actually harder to hold securely in one hand since it’s now a square, not a rectangle. It weighs one pound—almost two times heavier than LaCie’s Fuel and Seagate’s Wireless Plus drives.
Outside of a power button, there’s a button to initiate SD card transfers/check battery status when the unit is powered off and LED status lights for remaining battery life, Wi-Fi connectivity and drive status. There’s enough real estate on the drive to make us wish there was a better visual read out of remaining capacity, battery life and drive status (even if an LED display could chew into battery life).
Setting up the drive is simple. Once you’ve powered it up and have the app loaded on your mobile device, it’s a matter of connecting your phone to the drive’s network. Once it was connected, we found both image browsing and video watching to be a relatively smooth and seamless experience. We streamed HD video to three iOS devices and the signal was consistent even across several rooms and one floor.
Battery life will vary widely based on how you’re using the drive. You’ll enjoy a little under 10 hours of HD video streaming. During mixed use—which included video streaming, device charging and SD card transfers—we had about seven hours.
The drive uses a pokey USB 2.0 port for direct connections with other USB devices. That’s not super-fast these days, but many digital cameras are also chugging along in the slow lane so it’s probably not a huge hindrance. Connecting to a PC, you’ll use the faster USB 3.0 spec, although that too is not the fastest connection possible now that USB 3.1 has arrived. The Wireless Pro also uses the older USB Type A connection. On one hand, it makes sense to use a Type A connection given the truly massive installed base of Type A devices (including basically every camera on the market). On the other hand, embracing USB-C would make the drive more functional and future proof, even if it comes at the cost of fussing with an adapter cable.
The My Passport Wireless Pro is the most capable portable wireless hard drive on the market, bar none. Compared to Seagate’s wireless drive, the WD Wireless Pro is more expensive but more feature rich—Seagate’s model lacks an SD card and a 3TB option. LaCie’s Fuel is also cheaper but is also missing the SD card reader and 3TB option, plus it can’t stream to as many devices or support as many active Internet connections in hotspot mode. We wish the Wireless Pro was a bit more rugged and future proof with a USB-C port, but it’s still a very compelling value.
WD My Passport Wireless Pro
PROS: Easy to use; excellent feature set; solid battery life; high capacity, Adobe Creative Cloud integration
CONS: Uses older USB type A port; USB 2.0 speeds for USB device transfers; square shape harder to hold with one hand.
PRICE: $250 (3TB)