Monday, Western Digital joined Seagate in breaking the half-terabyte barrier for portable hard disks, with its rollout of two new 500GB portable hard disks, My Passport Essential and My Passport Elite. For those with slightly lower capacity requirements (and a bit less ready cash), WD also offers these drives in 400GB (and lower) capacities.
My Passport Essential's 500GB version costs $199.99, compared to My Passport Elite's $219.99, while the 400GB versions run $179.99 and $199.99 respectively. As we told you in our review of the 320GB version of My Passport Elite back in April , the Elite and Essential drives differ primarily in cosmetics and software bundle: Elite offers backup and file-sync software as well as the MioNet remote access program (which we liked), while Essential offers only file-sync software.
However, Elite now offers an additional feature: plug it into a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and you can play media files stored on the Elite through your console. Elite offers a 5-year limited warranty, while Essential's limited warranty is only 3 years.
So, how do the three contenders for the 500GB portable championship, WD's My Passport Essential and Elite drives and Seagate's new FreeAgent|Go drives, compare feature-wise?
Price: Western Digital wins here, with its Essential model coming in at $199.99 and Elite model ringing up at $219.99, compared to Seagate's FreeAgent|Go taking a deeper cut of the paycheck at $239.99.
Warranty: WD Essential's three-year limited warranty falls short of its Elite stablemate and Seagate's FreeAgent|Go offering, both of which offer five-year limited warranties.
Docking Station: FreeAgent|Go wins, as neither WD model offers this option. Keep in mind, though, that the docking station adds $29.99 to the cost of your drive.
Backup/Sync Software: Seagate easily wins over WD Essential, as Seagate offers both sync and backup programs, compared to Essential's offering only sync software. While both FreeAgent and Elite offer both backup and sync software, Seagate ekes out a narrow victory over WD Elite by virtue of offering 256-bit encryption, compared to WD's 128-bit encryption in both Elite and Essential's file sync software.
Remote Access Software: WD Elite beats Seagate soundly in this category by offering MioNet remote access software, and unlike with earlier WD drives, MioNet access is free (read more about it in our April 2008 review of the 320GB version of My Passport Elite).
Media Playback on Console Games: Once again, WD Elite beats Seagate by supporting playback on PS3 and Xbox360 consoles.
Size and weight: FreeAgent|Go is slimmer (12.5mm versus WD's 15mm) than its WD rivals, and weighs a bit less (.16kg versus WD's .18kg), so Seagate wins here.
It's a wonderful world when you can choose from three palm-sized 500GB external hard disks. Which ones do you like, or would you rather have more capacity and less portability? Hit the Comments button and tell us all about it.