It seems inconceivable that the WD My Passport Wireless is the company's first wireless hard drive.
WD and Seagate are, after all, the Coca-Cola and PepsiCo of the hard drive industry. Yet Seagate, Corsair and SanDisk all launched wireless storage devices before WD did.
These wireless storage drives alleviate the storage squeeze in smartphones and tablets. They also enable easy sharing, media streaming and file transfer between mobile devices.
WD attempts to differentiate itself from its competitors by adding SD card support to its wireless drive. This feature is not found on the Seagate Wireless Plus, although it is supported by the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive. However, the SanDisk drive is probably not WD's main rival, as it is limited to just 64GB, while the WD wireless drive comes in 1TB or 2TB sizes locally.
Slot an SD card into this WD drive and it will automatically copy the card's contents to the hard drive. You can switch off this function and press a button instead to start copying files, but you cannot choose to copy specific files.
Even when the SD card is inserted into the drive, you cannot browse the files on it. You have to copy them to the WD before using the WD My Cloud mobile app (iOS and Android) to view them.
The other key feature of the WD drive is that it supports a faster wireless standard (dual-stream 802.11n) than its rivals. It can connect wirelessly to eight devices and stream high-definition (HD) videos to four devices at the same time. These devices can still browse the Internet via Wi-Fi as the WD drive generates its own hot spot to share an existing Internet connection.
Like its competitors, the My Cloud app supports only the streaming of file formats native to the mobile device.
While this is fine for common formats such as AVI, you will probably need a third-party media player app for ones such as MKV.
The settings on the WD can be configured via the My Cloud mobile app or a Web browser on a PC. The Web interface is clean, with a good overview of the drive's storage capacity and battery status. Interestingly, you can lock the drive so its contents cannot be accessed via USB cable, but you have to do so wirelessly and protect this feature with a password. This is a useful security feature should you misplace the WD drive.
Streaming performance was typical - there was no lag while playing a 720p HD video. File transfer via USB 3.0 also matched the competition at about 110MB/s.
However, the WD lasted only 6hr 30min in my video-streaming test. This seems short compared with the 10 hours touted for the Seagate drive.
Photographers will like the SD card feature on this wireless drive. Battery life, however, could be better.
Price: $299 (1TB), $399 (2TB)
Interface: USB 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n)
Value for money: 4/5
This article was first published on Nov 5, 2014.
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