Date: September 3, 2014
Author(s): Tom Roeder
What do you get when you cross a hard drive, an SD card reader, and a Wi-Fi hotspot with cloud capabilities? You get WD’s My Passport Wireless. Available in 500GB ~ 2TB capacities, this My Passport hopes to become the ultimate mobile drive, and it offers even more than what’s immediately obvious. Let’s check it out.
WD is a company well known in the data storage market, from dorm-room dwellers, the weekend warrior, or the enterprise-level cloud network administrator. For many years, the company has had a formidable presence in the storage field, ever expanding its scope into innovating products, giving consumers a plethora of choices to meet their storage needs. In today’s market, high end DSLR cameras and camcorders have made their way into a lot of consumers’ homes. As these devices evolve, so does the size of the files that they create, thus taking up more and more room on tablets and laptops. This progression has not been linear, and consumers are finding that their storage needs are simply not met.
WD saw this as an opportunity to introduce a one of a kind product, the My Passport Wireless. What this device basically is your own portable private cloud. The WD My Passport Wireless is a hard disk drive, with a WiFi hot spot and a SD card slot built in. The upshot for the consumer: you never have to worry about lugging around a big laptop to show friends or family your content. Similarly, in a business setting, you don’t have to worry about sending out emails with Power Point presentations, or most anything.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a gander at the unit itself, and then move our way through the software and setup. Looking at the device, there is an instant familiarity – clean simplicity. The classic WD silver and black.
The front of the unit bears the WD logo and two LEDs – indicating power and WiFi.
The top of the unit is where you will find the power button and the WPS button, used for quick router setup, and of course the data/charging port.
The My Passport Wireless can hook up to 6 simultaneous WiFi connections at once. This means you simply enable the WiFi, have the people that you want to share your content with pair up with the device, and download the selected content.
This can be accomplished across many platforms, including iOS and Android mobile devices, thanks to the WD My Cloud app. For Windows or Mac users, you simply join the device via WiFi, launch your browser, enter “//mypassport” for Windows, or “mypassport.local” for Mac, and from there you can manage the device. Once paired via WiFi, the device will show up as an external hard drive. This device will also stream to your smart TV.
You may be asking yourself why you might need a device such as this, after all, WD already offers a varied selection of fantastic small form factor HDDs, why spend the extra money on this device?
What really sets this apart as I mentioned earlier, is the fact that it has WiFi and a SD card slot. You might find yourself asking, who cares? Picture this – you are out on a photography expedition, you have taken some amazing shots. Your skills on Photoshop aren’t exactly mind-blowing, so you turn to your friend who is with you and is a Photoshop wizard, and ask “Hey Jamie, would you mind going over these shots for me through Photoshop?”. Normally, you would go home, pop your SD card into your reader, grab the images, compress them, then at a glacial pace, upload them to Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud based service. This avenue certainly works, but is very time consuming; not to mention the fact that even the most secure cloud services are under constant attack by hackers all over the world, as the latest news sources will confirm.
Instead of doing all that, your friend whips out his My Passport Wireless, inserts your SD card, and very quickly and securely transfers all your images to his device. This can be done very easily, you don’t even need to have any other device with you. Once you enable this feature through the app, you can have the SD card begin transfer immediately after you insert the card. You can also enable a feature that will erase the content off the SD card once the upload is complete, allowing you to put your SD card back in your camera and keep on going.
By going this route, you do not have to worry about cloud security, hackers, viruses, data center crashes, the NSA’s snooping eyes – nothing at all. This is a completely private data transfer that you have 100 percent control over. And because this is point to point WiFi, there is no need for cell service or Internet what so ever.
Another strength worth pointing out is that this device can stream video for up to 4 devices at once – so if you are on a family trip, 4 different movies to 4 different DLNA capable devices streamed in HD – I call that a big win.
There are a few different software options out there for this device, depending on what you have to work with. WD has made sure to offer software to cover your needs, no matter what they are. Here today I will be using the iOS iPhone app, and the native browser on my wife’s Macbook Air to access the UI in the My Passport device.
If you have other WD devices and are using the WD SmartWare software suite, that program can manage the Passport Wireless as well.
This first shot is using Safari to access the UI on the Passport device. This home screen shows you all the vitals of the device – what your battery’s current status is, detailed capacity usage, and of course the device identification.
The next shot is the WiFi management. Here you can administer and monitor your wireless status. As you can see here, I presently have my iPhone and my wife’s Macbook paired at the same time. As I mentioned before, you can have up to six different devices paired at once.
This page is where you can control all of the administrative options of the device. Here you can add SSH or FTP access if you so desire, change the credentials and so on.
The hardware tab does exactly what you might think it does – manages the hardware. This will give you the state of the battery, and optimization options. This will allow you to change the device’s performance to tailor it to your needs better – you can make the device have a better battery life while sacrificing performance a little, or have it give you all the performance it can and lose a little battery life. There is also a drive lock and power off/reboot.
The next tab is the media tab. Here you can control to allow streaming of content, how much/what kind of media you have, and the SD card control.
The last two tabs are for support and firmware updates.
I ran the My Passport Wireless through a gamut of tests – I paired it to numerous devices: my iPhone 5S, Macbook Air, Microsoft Surface RT. All of these devices paired up with the My Passport very easily and without problems.
Once paired, I found that I personally liked using the browser-based UI to manage the device, rather than the mobile My Cloud app, but they both get the job done just fine.
The device never got hot to the touch, just barely warm after extensive use. There is the familiar “spinning” feeling while this thing is running, which was to be expected, this being a mechanical hard drive after all.
The device boots quickly – less than a minute after pushing the power button the device is ready for pairing. The battery lasted for me as advertised, about 6 hours of continuous streaming use, although depending on the content/number of devices that you are using, your mileage may vary.
Bottom line, this device did everything that I asked it to do, and it did it well. The only thing that I wish was different; this is almost not even worth mentioning, seeing as how WD has no control over this; but I wish there was an easy way to push all the photos from my iPhone to the device, without having to use a computer. There is a workaround that I found, but it really kind of defeats the purpose of having this device. Like I said, this is not WD’s fault – it is Apple’s; with their odd policies that sometimes work against us. Users with Android devices will probably have an easier time with this specific task.
People nowadays create a ton of data. We all take lots of pictures of the kids, pets, vacation destinations, we collect recipes for home-cooked meals, and so forth – and all that eats up a lot of space. Sixteen GBs’ worth of iPad storage doesn’t really cut it anymore. Couple that with research from Gartner which estimates that an average household will own about 3.3TB worth of digital content by 2016 – considering the fact that the common high-end hard drive holds about 4TB total, that’s a lot of data. It’s especially a lot of data to bring with you on-the-go. With this My Passport Wireless, though, that “lot” of data can be stored while away from home, and you should still have lots of room to spare.
When I first received WD’s My Passport Wireless, I admit that I struggled to understand its overall use. But then I read the literature, and I began to understand all of the scenarios where it would fit. In the end, I was a little “over the moon” with the device. With its robust flexibility and capabilities, the My Passport Wireless really does strike me as a well-rounded external storage device, and it’s a far better representation of what wireless storage should be compared to many other solutions we’ve seen over the years.
In the end, I am left with few complaints. WD’s My Passport Wireless is a great solution for those needing lots of data while on the go, especially when multiple people will need to access it once.
That next family flight? This drive has got that covered.
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