Some developers refresh their product lines infrequently, only changing their formula when they’re able to dramatically improve performance or offer new features. In contrast, others release new editions of their line seemingly every year, continually evolving their line as a car company would. Western Digital falls into this latter category, but that doesn’t mean their latest My Passport Studio portable hard drive isn’t a huge leap forward for the portable line. Thanks to an innovative new display and some solid connection speeds, the My Passport Studio is a solid successor to Western Digital’s tradition.
The latest My Passport Studio offers a dual interface design with FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 connectivity. The drive also comes Time Machine ready and offers capacities of 640GB, 500GB, and 320GB. The unit we tested had 640GB of storage.
The unit itself is slightly shorter and more rounded than the previous version, weighing in at 0.4 pounds and with dimensions of 3.3 by 0.7 by 4.8 inches. It feels flimsy in your hands but survived several of our drop tests with no ill effects. The My Passport Studio is light enough to put in your pocket and take with you anywhere.
The My Passport Studio features a sleek silver aluminum exterior with white trim and a new smart display. Even when unplugged, you can view the white on black customizable label. The display can reveal what’s on the drive, to whom it belongs to, or indicate some other message to its owner. Meanwhile, the display also lets you know the available capacity and security status of the drive.
The My Passport Studio features a 2.5-inch drive with a 8MB cache and a 5400-rpm drive mechanism. The drive offers both USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 ports, though users can also achieve FireWire 400 connectivity with a FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 cord (not included).
With only a 5400 rpm mechanism and without eSATA connectivity, it’s not surprising that the My Passport Studio did not achieve the best times we’ve seen in our lab tests. The My Passport Studio finished our 1GB copy test in 31 seconds while using its FireWire 800 connection—6 seconds behind OWC’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro Mini ( ), our top product for portable hard drives.
The My Passport Studio fared better in our duplication tests, finishing the test in 39 seconds with its FireWire 800 connection enabled. That’s actually a second better than the Mercury Elite AL Pro Mini. Unfortunately, the low-memory Photoshop tests proved to be comparatively difficult for the My Passport Studio; its FireWire 800 score was 20 seconds slower than the Elite AL Pro Mini’s.
Why the up and down times? The AJA tests only complicate the narrative: the My Passport Studio has slower read speeds than the Mercury Pro with its FireWire 800 connection. However, My Passport Studio produced better write times than the Elite Al Pro Mini. This is impressive considering the My Passport has a 5400-rpm mechanism, compared to the Elite AL Pro Mini’s 7200-rpm mechanism, and the copy tests (usually a pure write test) are worse for the My Passport.
|Copy 1GB file to USB 2.0
| Copy 1GB file to FireWire 400
| Copy 1GB file to FireWire 800
| Duplicate 1GB file via USB 2.0
| Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 400
| Duplicate 1GB file via FireWire 800
| Low-memory Photoshop: USB 2.0
| Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 400
| Low-memory Photoshop: FireWire 800
How we tested. We ran all tests with the drive connected to a Mac Pro Quad 2.66GHz Xeon with 2GB of RAM running OS 10.6. We tested the drive with each available port. 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 CS4 Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 300MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 25 percent.—Macworld Lab testing by Chris Holt
| FireWire 400
| FireWire 800
The 640GB My Passport Studio will set you back $200, giving it a price per gigabyte of $.31. That’s pricey, even for a portable drive. LaCie’s Rikiki ( ), for example, is a measly $.22 per gigabyte. The My Passport Studio comes with a three-year warranty.
Macworld’s buying advice
Western Digital’s My Passport Studio provides satisfactory (though not exceptional) speed, a strong warranty, and a convenient digital label. If you’re a fan of Western Digital’s line of drives, you’ll appreciate the company constantly seeks to improve their storage solutions and the digital label is just that—an upgrade. If you’re not a fan, however, you’ll likely wonder why you’re paying so much for such unexceptional performance.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]