Western Digital unveils USB 3.0-equipped hard drives

Western Digital My Passport Essential
On Tuesday, Western Digital introduced its highest capacity line of external portable hard drives with up to 3TB of capacity and a USB 3.0 interface. The USB 3.0 interface, also known as USB SuperSpeed, has a theoretical throughput of 4.8Gbit/sec.

Western Digital said it's already shipping the My Passport Essential portable hard drive; My Passport Essential SE portable hard drives; and the My Book Essential external hard drive.

The USB 3.0 specification offers up to 10 times the bandwidth of USB 2.0, and is backward compatible. However, few desktops and laptops have USB 3.0 ports—the current Mac lineup does not have USB 3.0 ports.

With USB 3.0, a two-hour HD video could be transferred in as little as three minutes. The same two-hour video would take approximately 13 minutes to transfer on a USB 2.0 port, Western Digital said in a statement.

All three drive families come in a variety of capacities, the highest being the My Book Essential, a desktop external hard drive with up to 3TB capacity. The drive also comes in 1TB and 2 TB capacities.

Western Digital is not the first company to release a 3TB external hard drive. In June, Seagate announced the 3.5-inch 3TB FreeAgent GoFlex Desktop drive, which also offers USB 3.0 connectivity.

Western Digital's My Passport Essential portable hard drive is a 500GB capacity drive. The My Passport Essential SE portable hard drive is available in 750GB and 1TB capacities.

All three drive families come with WD SmartWare visual backup software for automatic, continuous backup.

The My Passport Essential is still WD's smallest portable drive, and comes in a variety of colors. The pocket-sized drives are powered directly through the USB cable; no separate power supply is needed.

"With more and more devices like the iPod touch, iPhone 4 and other smartphones adding video-capable cameras, digital video is becoming ubiquitous," Dale Pistilli, vice president of marketing for WD's branded products group, said in a statement. "Most homes already have thousands of photos and music files, increasing the need for storage around the house. Having the extra capacity to store these files and move them around quickly is becoming a big issue for many consumers around the world."

The drives come pre-formatted in NTFS for Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. They require reformatting for Mac OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard.

Western Digital said the suggested retail price for the drives begin at $99 for the My Passport Essential portable drive. The My Passport Essential SE drives range from $130 to $167 and the My Book Essential drives range from $130 to $250.

[Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.]

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