Here we go again: Western Digital has launched yet another line of portable USB hard drives. The four drives in the My Passport Elite series don’t vary by size, just color. You’re free to select a capacity of 250GB or 320GB in gunmetal gray, old-shoe brown, a soft blue finish, or a sandy red. And as far as we can tell, that’s one of the few differences between this line of devices and Western Digital’s “normal” My Passport Essential drives—the latter having 11 different colors and four different capacity points to choose from.
The 320GB My Passport Elite drive performs nearly identically to its 250GB My Passport Essential cousin. The two are so neck-and-neck in our real-world benchmark that it would be silly to award the Elite major accolades for churning out a PCMark05 score that’s only 30 points ahead. Both of these drives completely fill the USB pipeline--they're the fastest we've seen, but at this point in portable storage, a number of drives are hitting up against this throughput wall. Rest assured, you’ll see no discernable difference between file transfers on an Elite-branded drive versus an Essential drive.
The Elite’s significant difference is that it comes bundled with MioNet, a handy little program that allows you to remote-access the various computers it’s installed on via a single software interface. Gone are the days of having to fire up VNC connections and finagle IP addresses. MioNet makes file-sharing but one word: easy. It’s a great solution for those who want to be able to access their files without having to continually copy up-to-the-minute chunks of a hard drive to the portable device.
While we appreciate the other software bundled on the My Passport Elite, it’s the same-ol’ same-ol’ that we’ve seen from Western Digital for awhile now. The WD Sync utility lets you access your documents, settings, and Outlook files on multiple computers when you plug in your optical drive. It's extremely handy if you regularly use multiple computers, but this software also comes with Essential drives--where's the innovation, Western Digital? On the backup front, the drive's Anywhere Backup application is showing its age: we can name a number of freeware applications that offer increased functionality with less graphical annoyances.
Another major downside with the My Passport Elite is the sheer number of applications it dumps on your system with a standard installation. After we installed all the drive’s bells and whistles, we were left with three auto-loading applications on startup—MioNet, WD Sync, and WD Anywhere Backup. That’s a bit much for a single drive, and makes us wonder why Western Digital just doesn’t consolidate the features of its programs into a single application. It would be a far more elegant solution than the current approach: firing up each program’s interface to see if this, that, or the other was the backup solution we were thinking of.
Speedy, pretty, bundled software accomplishes much
Installation process could be better simplified, multiple programs should be combined into a single shell
WD My Passport Elite
WD My Passport Essential
Seagate FreeAgent Go
HDTach Burst (MB/s)
HDTach Rdm. Access (ms)
HDTach Avg. Read (MB/s)
HDTach Avg. Write (MB/s)
Best scores are bolded. HD Tach benchmarks taken using HD Tach 188.8.131.52.