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Portability seems to be ever more important to creative pros, with powerful laptops such as the MacBook Pro with Retina display often shedding as much weight as possible. Being thin and light often means shedding a hard drive in favor of solid-state storage. That’s great for performance, but it means paying through the nose for space.
If you’re working with massive files on the move, you often can’t do without space and sacrificing performance isn’t an option. The My Passport Pro might be the answer. It’s a Thunderbolt drive that powers itself over a single Thunderbolt cable, and contains two 1TB hard drives. You can choose to have these arranged for performance as a striped RAID 0 array, meaning that you get to use the full 2TB of space and also get the maximum possible transfer speeds. Alternatively, you can have them set up as a mirrored RAID 1 array, meaning that you sacrifice performance and only effectively use half of the storage space. But you get increased safety, because every file is stored on both drives and you don’t lose anything if one fails. A dedicated Mac app makes it easy to switch between the options.
Portability is key. The drive is about 5.5 inches long, 3.15 inches wide and 1.06 inches thick. It weighs 1.01 pounds, which isn’t overly heavy, but when combined with its small size, it feels extremely dense. The solid aluminum exterior adds to this. It feels like a really solid unit to hold.
The Thunderbolt cable is built into the unit, and when it’s not in use, it wraps all the way around the outside in a rubber groove. There’s no Thunderbolt passthrough (adding one would require an external power supply – a mains adapter – making it less portable), so if you’ve got a string of devices, this needs to go at the end. The silver-and-black color scheme reflects its premium standing, which is, in turn, reflected in the price. At $299 for the 2TB version, it’s not cheap, but neither is it totally unreasonable. A 4TB version is also available, priced at $429.99.
Tested in the striped RAID 0 configuration, transfer speeds peaked at over 200MB per second, which is superb for a non-SSD portable drive. Set to mirrored RAID 1, speeds drop to around half. In use, the drive is quiet at first, but the fan at the back can kick up a pretty notable whirr that’s high-pitched, and yes, somewhat intrusive.
The bottom line. On the one hand, you could say that the Western Digital My Passport Pro is just a faster, more spacious portable drive. On the other hand, you might be a creative pro looking at a bus-powered portable striped RAID and thinking “I need this in my life!” And you probably wouldn’t be wrong.
Western Digital My Passport Pro 2TB
Mac running OS X 10.6.8 or later, Thunderbolt port
Great striped drive performance. Good capacity/performance balance. Easy-to-use tools.
Loud fan whirr. Thunderbolt-only configuration. No SSD option.