The My Passport Series from Western Digital combines a portable hard drive, a battery, and a card reader. That combination provides several different ways to use it. You can use it to carry around a copy of all your files in case you need them offline. You can use it as a basic media server to watch moves or listen to music offline. And you can use it to backup from your other devices like phones and cameras.
My primary interest in it is a way to backup photos and video footage while traveling. I’ve reviewed several other portable memory card backup devices, and this is another in that series. Of secondary interest to me is using it as a wifi hard drive for storing movies and files for watching offline while traveling. So it’s those uses, and with those priorities, that I’m focusing on here.
There are various versions of the Wireless Pro available, but the only difference between them is in the capacity of the internal hard drive. The one I’ve been using is the 4TB version. It also comes in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB versions. But the price is so similar between all of them that the 4TB version provides by far the most bang for your buck. At the time writing, the 1TB version is priced at $150, while the 4TB is only $48 more.
WD My Passport Wireless Pro vs WD My Passport Wireless
I reviewed the older, simpler [My Passport Wireless](https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/wd-My Passport-wireless-review/) a few years ago. The Wireless Pro is conceptually the same but comes with a new design and extra features. B & H Photo sent me to test out.
Like the older model, this one has both a hard drive (magnetic HDD, not SSD) and a lithium-ion rechargeable battery inside. But the battery in this one is much larger (6400 mAh) than the small one in the older model, and it’s that bigger battery that makes the Wireless Pro significantly larger than the original Wireless. It’s about the size of an external DVD drive (or a Sony Discman, if you remember those).
In addition to the larger battery that provides much longer battery life, the new model has larger hard drives, faster hard drive interfaces, a USB 3.0 input, and tweaked interfaces. It also looks quite different.
Backing Up Photos and Videos from SD Memory Cards
One of the core features of the My Passport Wireless Pro is that it includes a memory card reader to copy directly from a memory card to the internal hard drive. And it’s the addition of the card reader that adds real value for my purposes over simply using an external hard drive and external battery.
The reader has only one slot, and it only format it supports is SD (SD, SDHC, and SDXC standards). If you’re using a GoPro or another type of action cam, there’s no built-in microSD slot, but you can put the microSD in an SD adapter cartridge. It is technically possible to read from other kinds of memory cards, such as CompactFlash, but to do that, you need to plug a separate USB card reader into the USB 2 port.
With the built-in SD card slot, WD claims transfer speeds of up to 65 MB/s read and 40 MB/s write. The speed of the SD card, of course, will be a big factor in whether you get close to that.
To get a sense of its real-world speed, I filled up a 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro U3 card with Nikon NEF files. With a rated read speed of 95MB/s, this particular model of the Extreme Pro card is by no means the fastest SD card available, but it still provides a reasonable, practical measure. And it’s also the same kind of card I used in the review of the older model, so it’s a useful side-by-side test.
Backing up the entire card took around 28 minutes, which is much faster than the older model (which took about 1 hour and 11 minutes for 64GB). You might well get faster speeds when transferring from a newer, faster SD card.
When downloading from a memory card, you have a few options. You can set it to start downloading automatically as soon as you insert an SD card. And you can have it do a traditional copy that leaves the version on the SD card or have it do the equivalent of a move operation that deletes the files from the memory card once they’re downloaded.
There’s no screen on the device, so it’s not glaringly obvious how the status of the download is going. But there are two ways to get a progress indicator. The first is with a row of four blue LED lights on the device. Flashing indicates that the file transfer is in progress, and the number of lights indicates how far through the process it is (i.e., 1 light is in the first 25 percent, while showing 4 lights means it’s in the last 25 percent of the process and near completion). A second way is through the mobile app. During a transfer process, you can use the app’s file browser to navigate to the target folder, and there’ll be a thin line that serves as the progress indicator.
While there’s much to be said for simplicity, I would have liked to see a few more features when it comes to downloading. Most importantly, it lacks any verification tools. That’s something that other devices in this area have. They compare the copied version to the original version to make sure that the copy is accurate and complete. That adds time to the process, but it’s a crucial safety mechanism when you need assurances that the files are okay. There’s also no ability to back up simultaneously to a different external drive. You can technically do that, but you have to control it through the mobile app, and then you’ll still be limited to USB 2 speeds.
The SD card reader, then, is a very useful feature, but it lacks the kind of flexibility and safety mechanisms that, to my mind, are needed to earn the “Pro” label.
A defining feature of the My Passport Wireless Pro is that, well, it has built-in wireless. Specifically, it’s wifi (802.11ac).
It’s two-way wifi. What I mean by that you can create a direct two-way connection between your devices and the My Passport to create a private, closed network. You can also, optionally, connect the My Passport to an existing wifi network, which you can use to connect it to the internet and take advantage of the cloud backup capabilities.
That built-in wireless capability enables a few different ways of using the device. Functionally, it all goes through the free WD My Cloud mobile app. It’s through that app that you change the device’s settings, browse the filesystem, and view the media.
Cloud backup. The My Passport Wireless Pro can perform two types of cloud backup.
For one, you can back up the data from the hard drive to a cloud service of your choice, with major cloud services supported such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
For another, you can use the My Passport Wireless Pro as a private cloud network, or what Western Digital calls “My Cloud.” By that, I mean that you can back up your phone’s photos and videos wirelessly to the hard drive and then access them with other devices. That’s especially useful in situations where you don’t have a fast enough connection or a large enough data plan to back up directly from your phone to something like Google Photos. So you can have peace of mind of having a second copy of your photos and videos. It also means that you can share with other devices or other people who are within wifi range (password-protected, of course).
Digital Media Server. With an internal hard drive up to 4TB, there’s plenty of room to load it up with videos or music for watching or listening offline. That can be a useful feature when traveling. It’s worth mentioning, though, that although it uses Plex software, it’s a stripped-down version of Plex and doesn’t include processor-demanding features like transcoding video formats.
Battery Life of the WD My Passport Wireless Pro
WD calls it an “all-day battery” or “up to 10 hrs.” If you read the fine print, it says that those claims are “based on streaming HD720p, 3Mpbs video to one device over Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz single band only. Actual battery life depends on file size, type, format, bitrate, devices connected, Wi-Fi connectivity, settings and other factors.”
Watching 10 hours of video straight isn’t especially relevant to my needs. I tend to use it more for backing up photos and occasional video streaming. That more stop and start usage, as well as more power-hungry operations like downloading from the memory card, will reduce the battery life. As will connecting multiple devices at once. So the 10 hours of use is a best-case scenario, but for my purposes, at least, I’ve been getting a few hours less than that. But it’s long enough to be useful for long-haul flights and for backing up multiple memory cards full of photos.
Oh, and the battery is not removable.
System Requirements: Windows or Mac / DLNA/UPnP or Plex-enabled devices for streaming
Hard Drive: 256 MB of cache memory / 1TB-4TB capacity (depending on which bundle)
- 1 x USB 2.0 (host port)
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 1 x SD card slot
- Integrated 1×1 Wireless-AC
Data Transfer Rate:
- USB 3.0: up to 800 Mb/s
- USB 2.0: up to 480 Mb/s
- SD 3.0: up to 100 MB/s
- 802.11ac: up to 433 Mb/s
Memory: 512 MB
Processor: RealTek RTD1195PN
Battery Capacity: 6400 mAh
Power: 90 to 260 VAC, 47/63 Hz
Dimensions (L x W x H): 5.0 x 5.0 x 0.9″ / 12.7 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
Weight: 1.0 lb / 0.5 kg
What’s in the Box
In addition to the My Passport Wireless Pro device, there’s a USB cable for charging or connecting to a computer as well as an AC wall adapter.
I was somewhat surprised that it doesn’t come with a case. That seems to me a pretty obvious thing for a device that’s pitched for travel and on-the-go usage. But if you want it in a case, you’ll have to pick up something separately.
WD My Passport Wireless Pro Instruction Manual
There’s no product manual in the box–only a very brief quick start guide. But you can find the detailed manual online here.
The instruction manual doesn’t list RAW files among the image formats it can read, but it can read at least some. To be clear, it’s not a matter of copying and backing them up–it will copy and backup all standard file extensions. The issue is whether it can render previews or playback certain image file formats. I’ve been using it with Nikon NEF files, and it can successfully render high-resolution previews. But it’s very slow to open them, taking several seconds per file. The compatibility with these files appears to be related not to the app itself but the host operating system (such as IOS or Android). But I haven’t tested that aspect extensively and can’t say definitively what other RAW file formats it will work with.
A cost-effective battery-powered device that can quickly and reliably back up photos from a memory card while traveling doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do. And, indeed, the technology for it has been around for several years. But for whatever reason–maybe it’s simply that the market isn’t big enough–it’s surprisingly hard to find a good solution. My current favorite, the NextoDI ND2901, is desperately in need of updated specs, but they’ve decided to discontinue it. The ColorSpace UDMA3 is feature-rich and has a lot to commend it, but I was underwhelmed with its reliability as a robust backup device. There are others available, but they tend to be expensive and geared more toward video. The Gnarbox is another innovative option, but its emphasis is more on mobile editing of action cam footage, and it comes with much smaller SSD storage sizes.
The WD My Passport Wireless Pro doesn’t have some of the advanced features of those devices, such as supporting multiple memory card formats and error checking. But it’s an intriguing option as a simple way to backup SD or microSD cards on the road.
Unfortunately, there are areas I’ve found it to fall short. In my experience, the wifi connection has been very flaky, often disconnecting for no apparent reason. The mobile app isn’t bad, but it’s very slow to open files and navigate the filesystem, even when connected over the 5Ghz frequency. And even if I only used SD and microSD cards exclusively–I don’t–the absence of file comparison tools or error checking simply don’t give me the peace of mind I need for backing up photos on the road. I’d also prefer the speed and security of an SSD, but this particular model only supports HDDs, and there is another model that specifically has the different power configuration to support SSD; it’s also more expensive.
Despite all of that, the reality is that the WD My Passport Wireless Pro is currently one of the best options for backing up memory cards while traveling, offering a good combination of features, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. I realize that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s more a reflection of the state of the market at the moment. Here’s hoping that more options will come in and force some competition to shake things up a bit.
You can find the WD My Passport Wireless Pro at B&H Photo with 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB versions ranging from $150 through just under $200.