If you've been following this site, you know that I am frequently preaching the importance of backing up your images. You are also aware that I am a big fan of using the little WD My Passport portable hard drives for this purpose. They are small, light, highly-reliable, available in high capacities and they are very reasonably priced. Those qualities have resulted in over two dozen of these drives being currently deployed here with my current primary WD My Passport external drive having logged over 10,000 hours. That I still have some 256GB models purchased when 256GB was the max capacity available hints at how long I've been using these drives.
When I'm traveling for more than a day and there is a remote chance that I might get an image I care about, my laptop along with at least one (usually two) of these drives typically accompanies me. And, sometimes I take backup capability even for important sub-day shoots. However, it is not always convenient to take my computer with me and even if I have it with me, it is not always convenient to set it up and potentially connect an external drive. Not too long ago, WD introduced their My Passport Wireless Pro drives. I checked them out at the following Photo Plus Expo in New York City and for over a year, have had one of these drives high on my shopping list.
Before I got around to checking that line item off of my list, WD introduced an SSD version of this device, the WD My Passport Wireless SSD. Before proceeding with the review, let's clear up the big question.
The primary benefits of an SSD (Solid State Drive) over an HDD (Hard Disk Drive) are increased speed and durability. With no platters to spin up, no read/write arms to move into place and no file fragmentation issues to be concerned about, an SSD can access files significantly faster. Boot time is much faster, applications load much faster, etc.
With no moving parts to wear, fail and generate heat, durability is increased. With no read/write heads flying a few nanometers over disk platters, impact is far less likely to cause drive damage, again giving SSDs the strong durability advantage especially welcomed in a portable device that is likely to be moved while in use. Another benefit arising from the lack of moving parts is silent operation. The My Passport Wireless SSD is completely silent and that is a very nice feature at quiet events or ... when you are trying to sleep. SSDs are potentially available in a smaller physical size and their lower power consumption means longer battery life and lower usage cost.
SSDs do not hold all of the advantages and the primary HDD advantage is price. The price per GB/TB of HDD storage is significantly lower than that of SSDs. Related is that HDDs are high-volume retail-available in higher per-unit capacities. For this device, the review-time max-available capacity My Passport Wireless drives is 4TB for HDD vs. 2TB for SSD – and the price differential for those two drives is 4x for an 8x per GB difference.
I work exclusively on a laptop computer and I have been using SSDs in my laptops since SSDs were first available. The performance difference I experienced with the HDD-to-SSD change was very significant. But, to this point, all of my external drives were HDDs due to price and available capacities (I have memory cards that hold as much or more than some of the early/affordable external SSDs). Now, with (currently) up to 2TB of capacity available in the My Passport Wireless SSD, very large quantities of even ultra-high resolution images can be stored.
Not long after the My Passport Wireless SSD drives were introduced, I received an invite offering a 2TB version of this drive in return for an analysis and published review. The only stipulation was that I produced an "honest accounting." Well, that arrangement worked for me.
Here is a dense list of the features of this device.
That features list says a lot about the capabilities of this device and ... it has a lot of capabilities.
One of the primary uses for this drive, especially for this site's audience, is storing images, especially those right out of a camera. The My Passport Wireless SSD import process is super simple:
Done. The feature is configurable, but by default, the My Passport Wireless SSD automatically imports all media files not previously imported on any card SD/SDHC/SDXC inserted into the SD slot or any USB storage device (such as a memory card reader) plugged into the USB port. The SSD indicator light stops flashing/turns solid when copying is complete. I don't know how this process could get any easier.
Picture this: You are shooting a very important event, such as a wedding. To keep things simple (fewer memory cards to keep track of), you are using high capacity cards in each of your cameras and you have at least one spare card. Whenever there is even a tiny break in the action, you put one of your in-use cards into the already-powered-on My Passport Wireless SSD, put the spare in your camera and are back in action in seconds. Continue rotating cards through the My Passport until the event is completed and all images are safely backed up. Images are wirelessly available on site for checking/sharing and the drive (or the cards) can be sent home with an assistant/friend/etc. for an immediate off-site backup.
There are many other scenarios that could be considered, but the point here is that backing up images using the My Passport Wireless SSD is super simple.
After images and movies are loaded on the SSD, accessing them is going to become important. The My Passport Wireless SSD has three connection methods:
Attaching the My Passport Wireless SSD to a computer using a USB 3.0 cable essentially creates a direct-attached drive that can be used for any of the same purposes. Note that the My Passport's Wi-Fi is turned off when USB-attached. This connection method results in the fastest file transfer.
For the Direct Wireless (AP) Connection option, devices wirelessly connect directly to (join) the My Passport's Wi-Fi network.
If the My Passport Wireless SSD is configured to connect to a home Wi-Fi network, all devices on the home network can access the content stored on the drive.
Mobile devices connect to the My Passport Wirelessly using the WD My Cloud app. This app provides many capabilities, including viewing images, including extensive support for RAW image viewing. Files can be transferred to practically anywhere and a full range of configuration options are available via My Cloud. The My Passport Wireless drives are compatible with wireless cameras that support FTP (Nikon WT-2 and Canon WFT included).
Computers wirelessly connect either directly to the Passport's wireless network or to the same home network the Passport is connected to. The Passport will then show up under the computer's "Networks" (I'm testing in Windows 10). There should be a "MyPassport" listed under "Media Devices" (double clicking this device loads the Twonky media server in a browser session) and another under "Storage" (double clicking this device loads the My Passport configuration dashboard in a browser session). There *should* also be a server listed under the Networks tree. Unfortunately, this one was missing and I found no alternative way to wirelessly access the files stored on the SSD from the laptop.
After spending more time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong than I should have, I called WD support. WD provides 30 days of free installation support and promptly answered my call. After a few minutes of troubleshooting, the rep determined that I needed to enable all of the operating system's Server Message Block version 1/CIFS File Sharing Support options from the "Turn Windows features on or off" dialog.
I knew that was a troublesome feature to enable, but I did as requested and rebooted. The laptop could then wirelessly access the My Passport as a network drive with the drive's entire file structure available. This Microsoft Technet blog post makes the security risk of using SMB1 clear. Thus, it seems that WD should be addressing this issue.
Once the computer is wirelessly or USB-connected to the My Passport Wireless drive, the folder structure is used to navigate to the files. The screen grab above shows this folder structure, and notably, the granularity automatically created by this device. SD card imports are separated from USB imports. Each day gets its own sub-folder followed by time-stamped sub-folders, card-identity folders and folder found on the card. Granularity is good for some purposes, but the folder structure complexity can also complicate finding images.
As discussed, a mobile device can connect to the My Passport Wireless SSD using the WD My Cloud app. Using that app, files can be accessed using the deep folder structure shared above, but they can also be accessed as a "Photos" group showing all images in one location. I would like to see the same option available for computers.
Note that the My Passport Wireless SSD arrives configured for immediate use. But, there are plenty of configurable options. To access these features, wirelessly connect to the My Passport and browse to http://192.168.60.1/ (Windows or Mac), http://mypassport (Windows) or http://mypassport.local (Mac). The My Passport Wireless SSD dashboard should then be displayed in the browser.
I'll share many of the options here:
The screen captures should give you a good understanding of the configurability of this device and I won't bore you by repeating the list you can already see.
Compared to the tiny bus-powered portable hard drives such as the WD My Passport portable hard drives, the WD My Passport Wireless SSD is noticeably larger and heavier (16.2 vs. 8.3 oz, 460.3 vs. 235.3g), accounting for the substantial battery and additional electronics required for the wireless functionality.
Part of the size increase is also due to the silicone bumper cover. This cover adds significant impact protection to the drive and the product details indicate that drops up to 1 meter can be withstood, even while the drive is in operation. That distance seemed conservative to me and that cover served as a strong invitation for me to stress-test this device. I highly recommend NOT doing this at home, but ... I repeatedly (3 times) (intentionally) dropped the powered-on My Passport Wireless SSD onto concrete from 6' (2m) and then threw it across the room onto the concrete floor (that was fun and yes, I did cringe). But, it continued to work as-new and there were no marks, even on the cover. Very impressive. Upon taking the cover off, I noticed that one of the plastic clips had opened slightly due to the extreme impacts and ... that of course invited me take the device apart.
The tear-down makes the interior space utilization very clear.
Note that bumper cover is slippery and it is flexible (and rearward removable). Hold around the cover so that fingers grasp the plastic drive inside or, if holding by the bumper cover, grasp firmly. Otherwise, you may be testing the cover's protective capabilities. The cover slides out of the way without great pressure, but it does not slide off easily. Removed, the drive is more compact.
While it is ultra-durable, this device is not weather-sealed.
The cover has openings for easy access to the ports and switches. Easy with the SD card slot being a slight exception. I find it easy to insert an SD card, but the cover needs to be separated slightly for more than a fingernail grip on an ejected card.
Back to the size comparison: the non-wireless drive requires a computer to be useful. If the computer, even a very small one such as the Dell XPS 13 (9360) shown below, is factored in, the overall size comparison swings very significantly in the My Passport Wireless SSD's favor.
Overall, the My Passport Wireless SSD is relatively compact and with the battery size taken into consideration, is not very heavy. Construction appears to be good. Joints are tight and buttons and ports work nicely. An appearance rating is often strongly influenced by opinion. Mine is that, while the device's primary gray color is not very exciting, the darker gray cover with an orange border significantly improves the drive's appearance. I like it.
At first glance, the WD My Passport Wireless SSD appears quite expensive. For the same price, a laptop with an SSD can be purchased. However, that SSD will have a vastly-lower capacity. The laptop will be considerably larger and, while more feature-filled, it will be more complicated. At this price point, it will be far less rugged. I'm visualizing the 6'/2m drop laptop drop test and ... the results are ugly.
When compared to other portable USB 3.0 SSD drives without wireless capabilities, the WD is one of the more expensive models. But, its additional features have great value and are worth the additional cost in many scenarios.
How much is the SSD (vs. HDD) worth to you? That is going to be the big decision-making question for many. If the speed and durability of the SSD is not important, WD's own WD My Passport Wireless Pro line of portable wireless HDDs are going to appear quite favorable from a price perspective. The highest capacity WD Wireless Pro HDD has 2x as much capacity as the WD Wireless SSD and it is currently available for 1/4 of the price.
For those that understand and need the benefits of an SSD, this model is the right choice. Out of the 250 external SSDs currently listed at B&H, three of the WD My Passport Wireless SSDs are among the top 18 best-sellers with the 2TB model taking that 18th position. The 256 GB model is in thirty-something place, but its out of stock status is unfavorable to a higher position.
A wind storm knocked out power for about 24 hours immediately after I captured the product images for this drive, immediately making the benefit of the self-powered feature very real. Fortunately the WD My Passport Wireless SSD arrived with a charged battery and my first use of it was to charge my cell phone.
While that use was very helpful to me at the time, the power bank feature will be more of a side benefit of this device for most. Especially with a substantial capacity SSD available, the WD My Passport Wireless SSD is all about storing and sharing media, including photos and movies. There is perhaps no easier way to load/backup the images from a memory card or other USB storage device. A huge photo and video portfolio becomes easily portable and sharable. You and your travel companions can watch My Passport-stored movies throughout a trip. Store your critical business documents on the SSD or use it for general backup purposes. With Wi-Fi support, you don't even need to be near the device to access what is stored on it.
The WD My Passport Wireless SSD offers substantial storage capacities in an extremely durable package. Those features combined with its Wi-Fi and super-easy file import capabilities will make this device a big hit in many kits.
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