A Photographer's Take on the WD My Passport Wireless SSD

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You know what I never want to bring when I travel or go on vacation? A laptop. I always pack a camera or two, depending on the goal of the trip (and what my wife says), and generally this means some sort of bulky device along with its requisite cables and accessories is tagging along. The WD My Passport Wireless SSD, available with storage space from 250GB to 2TB, is an impressive solution for photographers who find themselves constantly on the move.

WD 250GB My Passport Wireless SSD

It’s compact, lightweight at just 1 lb, with a protective rubber bumper, and offers numerous features that make it possible to back up images and review them without needing a full-size laptop. I’m going through my images by just opening an app on the smartphone. Also, even though I never format memory cards while I am traveling, this device allows me to make sure everything is being backed up to somewhere else. You know, just in case.

How It Works

Essentially, it is a portable hard drive with extra functions. A lot of extra functions. This model is a solid-state drive, meaning it’s faster and equally as dependable as conventional hard drives. Then, there is its wireless functionality, thanks to integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Looking at it, and around the rubber bumper that cradles it, you will find a USB 2.0 Type A, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Micro-B USB, and an SD card slot. Then you have a power button and a one-touch copy button. It’s simple and intuitive.

Inside is a large 6,700 mAh Li-ion battery, which can be used to power up the drive itself, as well as a USB-connected device, such as a smartphone, or recent cameras with USB power support, including the Sony a7 series and Nikon Z series. The output is a standard 5 VDC 1.5A connection, so it’s plenty for your regular devices and means you can replace a portable power pack and hard drive with this single device. During normal use, the drive is rated to last for 10 hours, and with minimal drain during my time with it, I can believe that figure. You essentially have a whole day of use with it.

To really get it going, you want the My Cloud mobile app for your smartphone. You can connect to the drive remotely, access its contents, and perform a range of actions. Setup is a breeze. Once you power on the My Passport, you simply connect to its Wi-Fi network with your smart device and plug in the password supplied with the drive. When you open the app, you should find all your settings.

In Use

To WD’s credit, the My Passport Wireless SSD worked just as the company literature said it would. Connecting via Wi-Fi to a phone or computer was straightforward. The app is sensibly laid out and you can use the device without any extra equipment, if that is how you want to do it. My first test was the easiest, inserting an SD card and copying it over. I popped in a 64GB UHS-II SD card with about 12GB of images and videos loaded on it, and hit the Transfer button on the drive. A series of LED indicator lights shows you progress and I was very impressed that it could complete the operation in less than three minutes. This puts it at around 65 MB/s, as advertised. It was set to transfer files (but not duplicates) automatically as soon as the SD card was aboard. This streamlines the entire procedure of saving your files throughout the day, and you can always double-check everything by connecting your phone and looking at photos in the app.

For the app, it was very easy to navigate folders, select files, copy them elsewhere, etc. It also offers very wide compatibility, meaning that your camera’s raw files can be viewed and copied, as well. I have a variety of file types lying around, and the My Cloud app could read practically any image type. So, you can quickly review and pull some off to edit or send to Instagram. One thing I noticed: it wasn’t fully compatible with Sony’s XAVC S format, though thumbnails did appear, so if you intend to use this mainly for video I would double-check support for your camera before relying on the app alone. Standard video formats are no problem and stream in up to 4K to multiple devices simultaneously.

If I had to find a flaw, I would have to go after its interfaces. It should have USB-C. I think it has been around long enough to ask for it, especially with tech such as this. The micro-USB port used for charging and connecting to a computer is old, and it means I need to find a new cable or dock if I want to hook it up to my MacBook Pro. Along with this, a standard USB port is available for connecting devices that aren’t SD cards, say, an XQD card reader or USB thumb drive. Astoundingly, this is only USB 2.0. This is unbearably slow for anything sizable. Considering the size of a few high-res raw files and 4K video, it is confusing why WD couldn’t opt for USB 3.0, at least.

Most shooters won’t find this to be a problem, since I’m assuming most shooters are working with SD cards, and can plug those in directly. Even the latest medium-format mirrorless cameras from Fujifilm and Hasselblad are using SD slots, and their raw files are supported in the My Cloud app. A major benefit of this model is that it is a solid-state drive. Being an SSD makes it less susceptible to data loss when being moved around—such as when traveling—and light years faster than conventional HDDs.

When plugged into my computer, I was hitting speeds in excess of 350-370 MB/s comfortably, putting it very close to the stated 390 MB/s. If you were out in the field, backing up cards as you went, and then got back to your tent/hotel/plane/wherever and wanted to edit on your computer, the speed of the drive would not limit you, working right off it.

One final thing to note is its support for other services. The My Cloud app offers direct access to many cloud-storage options, meaning you can be doubly sure your files are protected. The drive even works with third-party apps, such as FiLMiC Pro and LumaFusion to shoot and edit video while on the move.

Computer-less backups are not only possible these days, but feature rich. The WD My Passport Wireless SSD is among the best, with outstanding transfer speeds, simple controls, a well-designed app, and a lightweight, yet durable, build. Perhaps the most impressive is how close it is to the advertised speeds, something we rarely see in storage products where theoretical maximum is frequently touted.

It isn’t without its flaws, however, because updated ports would go a long way in making it more versatile and future-ready. I would still declare it to be an excellent solution for photographers who constantly find themselves on the move. I can imagine a point where I can look at files on an iPad, transfer them over, and then load them into a full version of Photoshop. It’s going to be possible soon, and the extra storage space provided by one of these drives can dramatically lighten my travel pack, while giving me extra benefits.

What’s your take on the latest trend of wireless backup solutions? I’m a huge fan of bringing these along when I travel. What do you think? Talk to us in the Comments section!

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12 Comments

Always wanted one of these. Still waiting for the price to drop ...a lot

You mentioned that the portable drive was not fully compatible with Sony’s XAVC S video format. Can you elaborate on what issues you ran into? 

Hi Fernando,

I was able to transfer just fine, and then when I plugged it into my computer the files were perfect. However, if you want to preview the footage via the app I was not able to do so.

Ahhhh that makes sense now. Thank you very much for the prompt response!! And thank you also for the very through review!

So you cant plug a standalone card reader into the 3.0 port at all?

if so that kind of make the devise useless for those of us with high capacity cards.

Hi Daniel,

The USB 2.0 Type-A port will support a standalone card reader. Though you won't get the faster 3.0 speeds you may want with high-capacity cards.

Who really needs faster transfer speeds - plug it in an go have a cup of coffee and chill :-)

Well, and what do you do if you shoot with DSLR cameras that use Compact Flash memory cards? This gadget does not seem to have CF Card slot, does it?

You could plug in a cf card reader to the usb port on the drive and copy via the app.

Yes, you can.  This device is probably 50% larger than I expected it to be, and it's heavy as well.  Since it has an internal battery, and copying files takes a while, you really need to have it connected to power while copying, unless you're copying a small amount of data.  If not, be sure it's fully charged.  My wife has had some app/connectivity issues.  I don't have as much patience as her, and will not use the device.  I still prefer a notebook or tablet for the task, and an external SSD.

As stated by others, you can take a standalone card reader and plug it into the drive's USB Type-A port to work with other types of media.

It is worth checking the WD site for the wireless SSD for card reader compatibility - I used a Sandisk Image Mate All-in-One reader for CF and SD cards on an 8 week trip - while it means carrying an extra device, I found it more convenient than inserting SD cards into the SSD. Once you have MyCloud set up it is a dream - do make sure to follow the set up instructions step by step

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