capsule review

Review: My Passport Studio 320GB

At a Glance
  • Western Digital My Passport Studio 320GB

    Macworld Rating

Western Digital’s My Passport Studio is a portable hard drive that’s bus powered—it doesn’t include a power adapter. The drive ships in a Mac-friendly format, and works with Leopard’s built-in disk back up utility, Time Machine.

The drive uses either a USB or FireWire 400 port on your Mac. The My Passport Studio has a mini FireWire 400 port (a design element I’m not fond of), and this port requires a proprietary cable that has a standard FireWire 400 connector on one end for connecting to your Mac, and a two-headed cable on the other end that connects to both the mini FireWire port and the mini USB port on the hard drive. The cable works fine, but since the My Passport Studio is a portable drive, it means you’re mobile; being mobile increases the chances of leaving the cable behind or losing it. And the two-headed cable isn’t a common cable you’ll find at your local computer electronics store.

Western Digital’s My Passport Studio
The My Passport Studio relies on bus power. It doesn’t come with a power supply.

You can resort to USB if you don’t have the special cable. If your USB port provides enough power, the drive can run off of USB power. If your USB port doesn’t provide enough power and you have a pair of USB ports available on your Mac or USB hub, you can use Western Digital’s optional USB 2.0 Power Booster Cable ($10), which has a single mini USB jack on one end that connects to the hard drive, and a pair of USB jacks on the other end for connecting to a pair of USB ports. However, USB 2.0 performance is slower that FireWire 400, up to 15 percent slower in some of our tests.

As is the case with most portable hard drives, the My Passport Studio’s drive mechanism spins at 5,400 RPM, slower than the 7,200 RPM that most desktop drives run at. Other portable drives include FireWire 800 or eSATA connections to speed up performance, but the My Passport Studio includes only FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. That said, the drive’s performance results were respectable, taking 46 seconds to copy a 1GB folder from the internal hard drive to the My Passport Studio via FireWire 400.

The hard drive’s design is compact and attractive; it looks like an aluminum pocket planner. The drive features a sliding port cover that doubles as a four-light capacity gauge and activity light. To use the capacity gauge feature, you’ll need to install Western Digital’s Drive Tools utility, the only software that ships with the drive. Western Digital doesn’t include any disk utility software or a backup program.

Timed trials

Copy 1GB file to FireWire 4000:46
Copy 1GB file to USB 2.00:53
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 4001:15
Duplicate 1GB file via USB 2.01:22
Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 4002:31
Low-memory Photoshop: USB 2.02:34

Times are in minutes:seconds

How we tested. We ran all tests with drives connected to a Mac Pro Quad 2.66GHz Xeon with Mac OS X 10.5.3 installed and 1GB of RAM. We tested the drive with each available port - in this case, FireWire 400, USB 2. We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac’s hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive’s write speed. We then duplicated that file on the external drive to test both read and write speeds. We also used the drive as a scratch disk when running our low-memory Adobe Photoshop CS3 Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 25 percent.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

Specifications

Price per gigabyte$.69
ConnectorsFW400 (1), USB 2.0 (1)
Rotational speed5400 rpm
Other capacities250GB, 160GB

Macworld’s buying advice

The My Passport Studio is no speed demon, but does offer decent capacity and performance in an attractive, slim design. Though I prefer a standard FireWire 400 port and cable over the drive’s mini FireWire 400 port and two-headed cable, the My Passport Studio is a fine choice for those looking for a stylish drive for file backup and portable storage.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Ships formatted for Mac
    • Bus-powered
    • Capacity gauge
    • Attractive design

    Cons

    • No software bundle
    • Proprietary FireWire cable
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