Due to their reliance on spinning platter technology, their small caches and their astronomically high response times compared to SSDs, HDDs have begun to be relegated to merely being mass storage devices, and are no longer the focus of enthusiast-level PC builds. External hard drives, on the other hand, continue to get smaller, sleeker and faster, and there’s still lots of room for improvement for drives that offer better price-per-gigabyte ratios than many flash-based devices. Let’s take a look at WD’s My Passport Ultra 1TB, a USB 3.0-compatible external 2.5-inch drive that packs some punch for its size.

Technical specifications

Rotation speed: 5,400RPM

Connectivity: USB 3.0

Warranty: Three-year limited

Benchmark scores and general performance

Test PC: AMD Athlon X3 445, MSI 970 Gaming, 8GB G.Skill DDR3-2133 (1,600MHz), Sapphire Radeon R7 265, Crucial M500 256GB, Corsair VS550, Windows 10 Professional 64-bit build 10240

Drive setup: 20GB FAT32 partition (1% full), 911GB NTFS partition (30% full)

Read speeds: 110MB/s

Write speeds: 110MB/s

Latency: 16.9ms

Price and supplier information
Supplier: WD
Website: www.wdc.com
RRP: R999

Weighing in at only 156 grams and being roughly wallet-sized, the 1TB Ultra fits quite easily into most pants/jacket pockets. The case is entirely plastic and has a rough finish on the underside to provide more grip, with four rubber feet to prevent slippage.

As far as speed and response time goes, this drive is decently fast. With USB 3.0, transfer speeds max out at around 105MB/s for both reading and writing to the drive. But that only really holds true for bulk transferring large files – smaller files of about 1MB or less typically only copy over at about 30-50MB/s. The drive does ramp up the transfer speed quickly, so there’s not much time spent waiting for it to climb up to speed while you’re copying over your Steam backups.


What’s also welcome is that the drive internally replaces the SATA connector with USB 3.0 for both data and power, so there’s no fiddling with additional chargers or the possibility that the drive could fry itself if the charger doesn’t work properly. However, this does make data recovery a bit difficult, because you’d have to find an identical controller with a USB 3.0 port as well. One thing I’m not sure about is whether the drive supports the UASP protocol or not, since I can’t see the proper drivers being loaded for my system, but it’s still fast enough without support for long command queues.

9WD’s external drive range has never really gripped me, but this 1TB variant, with its high transfer speeds and USB 3.0 support, is good enough to earn itself a value award. This drive has already saved me many hours with transfers from PC to PC or my PS4, and comes recommended if you want something that just works.

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