My Passport AV Media Drive


Here's what you do: transfer video (photos and music, too) from a Windows or Mac computer or directly from a 2010 or later model-year Sony camcorder with the Direct Copy feature to the AV Media Drive. Then you plug the drive into any USB port-equipped consumer electronics device capable of decoding at least one of the media formats you use. You've just freed up valuable space on your camcorder or computer, and now you can enjoy all that good stuff on your TV.

 Monolithic looking in its napkin holder-like stand, the My Passport AV Media Drive from Western Digital is a 320-Gigabyte hard drive that's actually no larger than a half-inch stack of 3 x 5 cards. Powered through its USB 2.0 interface, the drive is intended as a source component for the increasing number of TV sets, Blu-ray Disc players, camcorders, game consoles, and media players that can decode digital video.

While USB ports are standard on computers, they've only started showing up on TV sets and other home theater components relatively recently. And just because there's a USB port in place doesn't mean the firmware in the equipment will recognize and play a particular file format from the storage device, be it a memory stick, camera, or hard drive you've plugged in.

To help answer the question about whether a USB port on a non-computer product will play some types of video, Western Digital has issued a short list of TV set models and other CE devices that the company knows are compatible with its My Passport AV Media Drive. A spokesperson says the list will likely be expanded as more TVs and players are tested.

WD-blessed TV sets are the JVC LT-32P689, Samsung LN32A550, and Phillips 42PFLA332D. The anointed Blu-ray Disc players are Sony's 2010 models including the BDP-S370, BDP-S470, and BDP-S570. The chosen Blu-ray Disc home theater systems are Sony's 2010 model-year BDV-E370 and BDV-E570 models. Then, there are the game consoles: Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.

WD TV Live HD Media Player with remote and optional Passport drive in stand

Your best bet in terms of playing the widest variety of formats from a My Passport AV Media Drive on almost any TV is by connecting through a media receiver such as the WD TV HD or WD TV Live HD Media Players. (The former plays plugged-in media, while the “Live” version also streams content from your network or the Internet.) They each have a pair of USB inputs to accept storage devices. A USB input is irrelevant on the TV since both WD TV players connect using HDMI or A/V cables.

Unlike writing content to the drive at your computer, play back in front of your big-screen TV is meant to be experienced beyond arm's length. For sitting back and enjoying the show, the AV Media Drive isn't itself equipped with a remote. However, the remote that comes with your TV, Blu-ray Disc player (see the remote below), or media player (like the one above) should spare you the burden of getting up.

Because a USB cable carries both data and power, the AV Media Drive doesn't occupy an electrical outlet. This makes the My Passport AV Media Drive especially unobtrusive in a plug-intensive home theater. To offload video from one of those Sony camcorders, you will need to plug the camera into a power outlet rather than tax its battery. (Still, as a 5400 revolutions per minute drive, the A/V Media Drive uses less power than a 7200RPM drive, yet it's no less capable for real-time recording and playback as a 7200RPM drive.) You won't think twice about tossing an AV Media Drive in your camcorder case since it adds only 6.3 ounces. Western Digital includes an adapter cable for Sony camcorders.

The Sony HDR-CX300 features Direct Copy to an external hard disk

By the way, after video has been transferred to the AV Media Drive and deleted from the camcorder's internal memory, you can still play the video back through the camera. You can watch scenes on the camcorder's own screen or on a big-screen TV using cables from the camera. In this scenario, the camcorder is essentially a media player.

According to Western Digital, the AV Media Drive runs a bit quieter than earlier My Passport drives due to the higher tolerances for vibration built into the AV drives. This means there won't be drive access noise competing with a tender moment in the video.

There's a white LED positioned next to the USB connector. That way you can see when the drive is being accessed if you're so inclined, but because the light is on the back it shouldn't annoy viewers in a living room environment.

A word to techies concerned that the A/V Media Drive comes formatted as a FAT-32 device rather than the newer NTFS format. Both Windows and Mac computers can read and write FAT-32 disks regardless of the format of their internal drives. FAT-32 is more compatible with a wider variety of devices. So, don't be put off by the Sony BDP-S370 (above) requirement that if you want to enjoy music, photos, and video from the front USB slot, the "USB device must be formatted FAT-32."

As for your choice of colors, unlike other My Passport drives, Model T-black is the only option. At least Western Digital has decided to be more generous with the USB cable on the AV Media Drive. The 1 meter (approximately 3-foot) length should go a long way to plugging in the drive without it necessarily dangling off a high-placed USB port. Of course, B&H will be happy to sell you a 7-foot cable for even greater reach.

The My Passport AV Media Drive is Western Digital's sleek conveyance for transferring video or other content from a computer or directly from particular camcorders to a highly portable hard disk ready to play in a growing number of USB-equipped home theater components.