|Introduction and Specifications|
|When USB flash drives first came to market it was a revolution. They delivered a solution that offered much larger storage capacity compared to floppy disks, packaged in something about the size of a person’s thumb. Suddenly, you could just save your papers, presentations, and even a smattering of photos onto a little flash drive and safely take it with you anywhere.
Times have changed, obviously, with the advent of cloud-based storage solutions like Dropbox, but portable storage on a physical device is still as necessary as ever, especially when you need a substantial amount of available capacity for backup purposes. External hard drives are the ticket here, and Western Digital has a teeny-tiny one that offers 500GB of storage in a form factor that fits in your pants pocket with relative ease.
The My Passport Edge obviously isn’t as small as a typical USB flash drive, but it’s actually not all that far off. The chassis measures 3.21 x 0.5 x 4.43 inches (HxDxW)--barely larger than the slim 2.5-inch drive inside--and it weighs just a third of a pound. To put that weight in perspective, that’s about the same heft as a well-appointed cheeseburger.
|A Closer Look & Software|
|The WD My Passport Edge is as compact and slim as can be, and the ghost gray chassis with its rounded edges is understated yet svelte. There are four tiny, sturdy rubber feet on the device’s underside to keep it from sliding around on any surface, and the unit comes with a (roughly) 18-inch USB cable.
The real accessories, as it were, are the software and files that come pre-loaded on the drive, which include a WD SES Device Driver, My Passport Apps for Mac, user manuals in a host of different languages, and WD Apps for Windows (which includes WD Drive Utilites, WD Security, and WD SmartWare)
WD SmartWare is arguably the most powerful tool in the bunch, as it offers backup and restore capabilities, which after all is what many people will use the My Passport Edge for. You can opt for either Category Backup--which automatically “locates, categorizes, and backs up” photos, music, movies, email, documents, and other files--or File Backup, for more specific and fine-grained control.
We ran a quick backup of 8.28GB of data, and it took the drive and its software less than 6 minutes to save it all. Of course, most succeeding incremental backups will go lightning fast, and the drive will automatically run those whenever it's connected to your computer. During the backup process, WD SmartWare offers a graphical representation of the job’s progress, which includes a categorical view of what type of and how many files are being backed up.
One major upside to Western Digital’s built-in backup software is file versioning; you can easily bring back up to five previous versions of any file you’ve saved to the My Passport Edge, and you can restore either individual files or huge batches of files depending on what you need.
If you don’t need any special backup tool, you can always simply drag, drop, and browse for files using Windows Explorer; WD doesn’t force you to use the SmartWare.
WD Security is a simple application that essentially just lets you create a password to restrict access to the drive. (Pro tip: If you keep your external storage with you any time you’re out and about, definitely use this feature.) You can set it so that there’s no password required for a given computer, so you can connect your drive to your own system without either messing with a password or disabling your security.
There are four feature areas of WD Drive Utilities: Diagnostics, Sleep Timer, Drive Erase, and Registration. There’s not much to Registration and Drive Erase beyond the obvious, and the Sleep Timer simply lets you adjust when your external drive will go to sleep when it’s inactive. Under Diagnostics, you can run a SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) test to predict any drive failures, and you can also run a Quick Drive test or a Complete Drive test to further check on the drive’s health.
|Test System and SANDRA|
|Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with an SSD for the OS and benchmark installations. Our testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI mode was enabled. The drives inside the external storage unit were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.
Let’s be clear from the get-go here; the My Passport Edge is not going to smoke any of the drives in our test bank in terms of performance. The HDD inside is a slim 5400RPM job with a SATA 3Gbps interface, which isn't cutting edge by any means. It’s important to keep in mind that the My Passport Edge’s primary strengths lie elsewhere, but we want you to see how its performance relates to other HDDs to get a more comprehensive picture of the unit’s performance.
First we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.
The little 5400RPM My Passport Edge delivered a respectable score in the Physical Disks test and showed a nice balance between read and write speeds. It didn’t come close to the performance of the other drives in our bank, but that’s to be expected.
|ATTO Disk Benchmarks|
|ATTO is a "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.
In the ATTO write test, the My Passport Edge actually delivered competitive scores up to the 16KB range before it planed out at just under 100MBps. The drive started slow on the read test, however, and stayed below the performance of the competition.
|CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to drive performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.
Looking at the sequential transfer test, the My Passport Edge came up well short of the field, although in the 512K test it posted a read score that approached the performance of the green WD drives. As the ATTO tests indicated, this unit does better in smaller transfer sizes; in the 4K write test, the My Passport Edge actually (just about) equaled and bested the WD AV-GP and WD Caviar Green, respectively, and its read score was close to them both. The 4K QD32 test was hard on the drive’s read capabilities, but the My Passport Edge performed very well on the write portion, beating out three of the other drives and scoring right in the middle of the field.
|PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks|
|We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of a hard drive in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.
Overall, the My Passport Edge lagged behind the field in PCMark 7. And it didn’t fare much better in the individual tests, although it posted respectable scores in the Windows Media Center and Adding Music tests.
|Our Summary and Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: The WD My Passport Edge is not exactly a speed demon, and its 5400RPM rating and SATA 3Gbps interface won’t wow anyone with raw performance. That’s not really a knock against the drive though, as it’s not particularly designed for high-end performance. It’s worth noting, however, that the unit does perform rather well with small random file transfers.
Western Digital My Passport Edge
WD didn’t overdo it with the My Passport Edge, keeping the specs modest and price point proportionally in check. This unit is designed simply to offer plenty of bulk storage capacity and optimal portability, and although certain power users may be turned off by the slower 5400RPM drive and a last-generation SATA 3Gbps interface, most people don’t need (or want to pay for) that next level of performance for the majority of applications. Instead, WD wisely included useful backup and security software as well as drive utilities that many users will be very happy to have on hand. If speedier performance is something you really need, there are plenty of other options in WD’s lineup.
You can find the My Passport Edge at various outlets for between about $79.99-$99.99, which is right on par with similarly-appointed external drives.
What the My Passport Edge has going for it is that it’s delightfully compact, offers a more-than-adequate 500GB capacity, and includes useful software, which is sufficient for us to confidently recommend this little backup storage unit.