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We tested all three versions of Western Digital’s 500GB external drive, the My Passport Essential, Elite, and Studio--and each had something going for it. First, these drives were the top USB performers in their category. If you don’t care about FireWire performance, these are the speediest USB hard drives.
The Essential, as its name euphemistically suggests, is the bare bones, USB-only version of the drive. Its case design is simple but not simplistic, with clean lines that don’t look out of place next to a Mac. While our test unit came in MacBook Pro-compatible silver, the Essential is available in a variety of colors. It has a single, exposed mini-USB connector, with the drive’s status LED right next to it, and four rubber feet to keep it from sliding around on a desk.
The Elite is slim like the Essential, but has a sliding door over its mini-USB connector. The open door also contains the status LEDs. For Windows users, the Elite provides additional software for backing up and syncing, which obviously doesn’t recommend it to the Mac-using populace. WD touts the “soft touch” finish of the Elite, and while it feels a tiny bit softer to the touch, it didn’t do much for us. However, since this finish is grippier, WD eliminated the rubber feet found on the Essential and Studio. We liked the sliding door that offers added production to the USB connector, but whether the drive’s price difference compared to its simpler sibling is worthwhile will depend on your budget.
From a capacity and performance perspective, the WD drives we tested were largely the same. The Studio is Western Digital’s top-of-the-line offering and is aimed squarely at Mac users. It has FireWire 400 and 800 and USB ports, and is therefore somewhat thicker than the other two My Passport models. It comes preformatted as a Mac drive and has a sliding door similar to that on the Elite. Unfortunately, in our testing the Studio was nearer the rear of the pack both for FireWire 400 and 800 performance, so the price difference for this drive doesn’t really pay off.
COMPANY: Western Digital