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Review: Western Digital My Passport Studio 500GB

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At a Glance
  • Western Digital My Passport Studio 500GB

On paper, the My Passport Studio 500GB has a lot going for it. It’s compact, offers three different connection types, has a healthy amount of storage space, and comes with a five-year warranty. On top of it all, the My Passport Studio features what the company calls "Turbo" capabilities that is supposed to boost data transfer speeds. In our time trials, we found the Turbo drivers did boost the speed of the connection a bit, but we found that even with the boost the My Passport Studio is only an average performer.

The external shell is simple, but what the drive lacks in stylistic verve it makes up for in ease of use. Already formatted for the Mac, the My Passport Studio can be easily attached into a computer with your connection of choice—FireWire 800, FireWire 400, and USB 2.0. Like many portable drives, the My Passport Studio doesn’t offer eSATA. No separate power source is required; the drive uses power from USB or FireWire.

Western Digital's My Passport Studio 500GB

Back in 2007, Buffalo introduced USB Turbo technology that supposedly increased USB data transfer rates by up to 60 percent. Now, many external drives offer USB Turbo technology for the PC; it's not always available on the Mac. This is the first drive we’ve reviewed that offers FireWire 800 and 400 Turbo as well. To use the My Passport Studio's Turbo features, you need to install WD's drivers. The drivers are available on the drive itself (so don't format the drive without looking first), or you can download the drivers from WD's Web site.

On average, the USB connection was improved by only six percent with the Turbo drivers. The results with the FireWire 400 and 800 connections were even less impressive; on average, the connection speed only improved 2 to 3 seconds compared to the test results without the Turbo drivers installed.

The results could have used a more significant boost with the turbo capabilities, because the drive's scores were disappointing in our time trials. It took 52 seconds to copy a 1GB file while using the USB 2.0 Turbo connection. This speed puts it on par with competing drives, but its FireWire 400 (51 seconds) and 800 (41 seconds) Turbo copy results were less than impressive. While using the FireWire 800 connection, OWC's Mercury On-The-Go FireWire 800/400 + USB 2.0 ( ) beat the My Passport Studio by a full 6 seconds, or 15 percent. The 1GB Duplication Test and Low-Memory Photoshop Test were all generally a few seconds off the best times posted by other external drives. Interestingly, the FireWire 400 Turbo and USB 2.0 Turbo connections produced very similar scores that were within the margin of error; both finished the duplication test around 1 minute, 15 seconds and took 1 minute, 37 seconds to complete the Photoshop test. Unfortunately, while the scores are satisfactory, the added Turbo capabilities were disappointing.

The 500GB capacity of the My Passport Studio is fairly large for a portable drive, but can’t compete with the higher capacities of non-portable desktop drives. It’s still plenty of space to fit music, photos, and other media but can’t compete with the one or two terabyte capacities of high-end drives. Normally priced at $250, the 500GB My Passport Studio has a price per gigabyte of 50 cents. Western Digital currently is offering a promotional discount that brings the price of the drive down to $200 and the price per gigabyte down to 40 cents. This later price is even more impressive than the Toshiba USB 2.0, which has a price per gigabyte of 45 cents, and lacks the My Passport Studio’s FireWire 400 and 800 connections.

Timed trials

without Turbo with Turbo
Copy 1GB file to USB 2.0 0:56 0:52
Copy 1GB file to FireWire 400 0:53 0:51
Copy 1GB file to FireWire 800 0:43 0:41
Duplicate 1GB file via USB 2.0 1:22 1:15
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 400 1:23 1:16
Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 800 0:53 0:52
Low-memory Photoshop: USB 2.0 1:40 1:37
Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 400 1:39 1:37
Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 800 1:28 1:26

Scale = 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 installed and 1GB of RAM. We tested the drive with each available port—FireWire 800, USB 2, and FireWire 400 to 800 adapter. 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 Chris Holt

Macworld’s buying advice

Despite its claims to faster connection speeds with Turbo offerings, the scores for the My Passport Studio 500GB were only average compared to competing three-port drives. For users looking for a compact drive with a lot of storage and don’t care about having the absolutely best connection speeds on the market, the My Passport Studio is a fine option. If the connection speeds improved, the My Passport Studio would be the market's best option.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Inexpensive
    • Bus powered


    • Turbo feature not as fast as advertised
    • No eSATA option available
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