Between built-in Wi-Fi and SSD caches, external hard drives are gaining in complexity every day. But sometimes, all you need is some extra space for all your files. That's where the Western Digital My Passport Ultra comes in. While it doesn't have any bells or whistles, this small $129 USB 3.0 hard drive packs 1TB of storage in its 5-ounce frame, and delivers fast transfer speeds.
Small and attractive, the My Passport Ultra measures 4.3 x 3.3 x 0.6 inches and weighs 5.5 ounces. The top has a glossy plastic finish with a pattern of dots, and is ringed with a silver-colored border. Our review unit was red, but the drive also comes in blue, black or titanium.
The bottom and sides are a matte black plastic, and a USB 3.0 port sits on one of the short ends. Next to the port is a small, white LED that turns on when the drive is in use.
Western Digital includes a USB 3.0 cable as well as a small cloth carrying case.
The My Passport Ultra is a plug-and-play affair. We simply plugged it into a USB 3.0 port in a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and the drive was instantly recognized. From there, you have the option of installing the included utilities.
Included on the My Passport Ultra are several utilities, including Drive Utility (which lets you format and perform maintenance), Security (which lets you encrypt the drive), and SmartWare, a backup utility that lets you use Dropbox as a second backup destination.
Copying a 4.97GB folder of multimedia to the My Passport Ultra took 57 seconds, a rate of 89.3 MBps. That's about 30 MBps faster than the average of 58 MBps, and more than twice that of the Seagate Wireless Plus (36.4 MBps).
Copying the folder from the drive back to our notebook took 49 seconds, a rate of 103.9 MBps -- more than twice the category average of 39 MBps, and nearly three times as fast as the Seagate (32.8 MBps).
The Ultra did even better when it came to large single files. Copying a single 2.36GB movie to the Ultra took 23 seconds, a rate of 105 MBps. Copying the file from the drive took 15 seconds, a rate of 161.1 MBps.
We also tested the My Passport Ultra using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2, a synthetic test that measures read and write speeds by transferring a 1000MB file in sequential, 512K and 4K block sizes. When transferring the file sequentially, the Ultra managed a read speed of 117.7 MBps. Its write rate of 117.2 MBps is nearly identical.
Using 512K blocks, the Ultra's read/write speeds were 44.37/65.62 MBps. Performance decreased with smaller 4K blocks of data. The Ultra's read/write speeds were 0.54/1.55 MBps.
Our 1TB version of the Ultra cost $129; a 500GB version is $99. Pricing has not yet been set for the 2TB version, which will be available beginning this fall.
Like Moore's Law, the physical size and price of hard drives keeps dropping, while the amount of storage keeps increasing. The Western Digital My Passport Ultra packs 1TB of storage into a pocketable package not much heavier than some smartphones, and its price of $129 is also very reasonable.
For $70 more, the Seagate Wireless Plus also offers the ability to stream files via Wi-Fi to Android and iOS devices -- which, for some, may be worth the investment. You can get a portable 1TB drive for less than $90. But for those who want a very sleek and fast portable hard drive, the My Passport Ultra is an excellent choice.