Western Digital announced the world’s first Thunderbolt portable RAID storage drive a few weeks ago. It’s the My Passport Pro. I couldn’t wait to mention it too, so I wrote an early post even before I begun trying out the new My Passport Pro. It’s something that will definitely pique the interest of mobile power users.
The My Passport Pro is first-of-its-kind on two counts. As a portable hard disk, it’s the first with a Thunderbolt interface, and it’s also the first with RAID built-in. Of course, the last bit about RAID does mean that there are really two hard disk drives inside the enclosure. Now, the two drive RAID system does run off the power from the Thunderbolt interface, without needing a separate external power supply.
A product like the My Passport Pro has a well defined target audience: mobile power user who needs plenty of high-speed storage. Powerful notebooks nowadays are shedding internal hard disk drives in favour of SSDs, which unfortunately aren’t all that big in capacity. External disks are usually slow. The My Passport Pro gives big capacity and high-speed.
You’d need a Thunderbolt equipped notebook, of course. One often tends to think about MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros when talking about Thunderbolts, but today, there are several other Wintel notebooks with Thunderbolt interfaces, including those from Acer, Asus, HP and Lenovo.
I have a MacBook Pro with Retina Display. All the testing in this review is on this notebook. Connecting a Thunderbolt drive is easy, just like USB portable drives. There are no drivers to install, and no special software required. The My Passport Pro comes pre-formatted for the Mac. Just plug in, and Mac OS X instantly shows it in the Finder. You’d use it just like any other USB portable drive, including, of course, remembering to eject the drive before you disconnect the cable.
Physically, the My Passport Pro is very well built. It feels very solid and sturdy, thanks to an enclosure made out of aluminium. With two 2.5″ hard disk drives inside, the My Passport Pro is on the heavy side at 460g. Measuring 140mm x 80m x 27mm, it’s also a little thick. But hey, you need space to contain two hard disk drives in there.
Western Digital made a wise design choice to integrate the Thunderbolt cable into the enclosure. This way, you don’t have to remember to bring along a separate cable, and knowing this is hardly something as common as USB, you’d be hard pressed to find one to borrow in case you forget yours. The My Passport Pro’s Thunderbolt cable wraps around the sides of the enclosure, which nicely doubles up as a bumper.
There’s an internal fan in the enclosure to help cool down the disks if they are used intensively. It doesn’t normally run, at least not when the drives are pretty much idle. But when they do kick up a whirr, such as when I ran benchmarks, some people may find the noise distracting.
I’ve mentioned that the My Passport Pro is a RAID drive. Western Digital lets you configure a few modes using the WD Drive Utilities app (preloaded on the drive in a DMG image):
- RAID 0 – Striped mode, usable capacity is the sum of both drives
- RAID 1 – Mirrored mode, usable capacity is that of one drive
- JBOD – Each hard disk drive is accessed independently, just as if you’ve plugged in two separate portable hard disks
If you’re unfamiliar with RAID, basically RAID 0 gives you performance, while RAID 1 gives you redundancy. With RAID 1, your data is still safe even if one disk fails.
The WD Drive Utilities app also lets you check SMART status and run drive tests.
Thunderbolt is supposed to give you performance. So the big question now is, how well does the My Passport Pro fare? Let’s see what Blackmagic Disk Speed test says.
In RAID 0 (striped) mode, reads and writes at about 220 MB/s. Very impressive.
In RAID 1 (mirrored) mode, reads and writes are a little over 110 MB/s. That’s still quite impressive, and better than most USB 3.0 portable hard disk drives.
Let me say again that these are really awesome speeds. The My Passport Pro will appeal to mobile professionals who really need high-speed access to large storage. I can think of photographers and videographers who need to work on their content in the field.
One of the features I’ve come to like about in several of the Western Digital’s external storage solutions is hardware disk encryption. Sadly, the My Passport Pro doesn’t support hardware encryption.
The My Passport Pro is an impressive Thunderbolt portable RAID storage system. The 4TB drive (2x 2TB) sells for S$699 and 2TB drive (2x 1TB) sells for S$499.
- Impressive speeds
- Integrated Thunderbolt cable
- Well made enclosure
- No hardware encryption
I’d think it’s a little pricey too. However, considering that there is nothing to compare with, it’s up to you to decide whether the speed is worth the price premium.