Part of the My Passport family of external hard drives, which also includes the Elite line that offers a different finish and more protective features like encryption, the Western Digital My Passport Essential is a good bet for the typical consumer looking to keep files backed up at home or school.
The My Passport Essential looks very simple: it measures 5.0 x 3.1 x 0.6 inches, which makes the drive look and feel more like an address book than a hard drive. The device has only one glowing-white status light and a mini-USB plug that connects to the included USB cord. It's also available in 11 colors, ranging from black to yellow to turquoise, making it not only a hard drive but a style statement, too.
WDSync software preloaded on the drive lets you sync up your Outlook or Windows Mail e-mail accounts as well as specific file types including Office and Media, or "All File Types" for syncing multiple types simultaneously. It's the exact same software as on the LaCie Little Disk but rebranded for WD. If you're using the WD My Passport Essential on a friend's computer, you can even use the drive to sync up your native PC's wallpaper so your friend's system feels more like home while you're using it.
There's also the option to install a host of Google Software applications directly from the device itself. Some may see this as bloatware, but we appreciated the quick access to Google Toolbar, Picasa, and Google Desktop on a fresh hard drive.
Using a USB 2.0 connection, we were able to write a 5GB file to the drive in 6 minutes and 20 seconds, or 13.5 MBps, which is nearly a minute and a half slower than theBuffalo Ministationand 36 seconds slower than theLaCie Little Disk. It read a 5GB file to our computer in 3 minutes and 23 seconds, or 25.2 MBps, just 6 seconds slower than the fastest bargain hard drive we've tested, the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini.
We love the colors that WD makes available for the My Passport Essential family, and its included backup solutions. Plus, you get an additional 40GB of storage over the LaCie little disk for $10 less. But while the My Passport Essential's read speeds are very good, you'll find yourself waiting around while you copy data from your notebook's hard disk to this external drive.