I’ve been testing Western Digital’s new My Passport Wireless Pro for several weeks, and it quickly became technology that I carry with me every day in my pack. I’ve used it at the office, on airplanes and in the field for backups, and it’s the kind of device you didn’t know you needed until you have one.
The Wireless Pro is at its core a portable hard drive, currently available in 2TB and 3TB models. It’s a lot more than a garden-variety mobile drive, though. First, there’s an integrated SD card reader, and the drive can be set to automatically backup photos when a card is inserted. There’s also built-in WiFi, and that’s where this drive starts to get really interesting.
A Wireless Hub For All Your Devices
To set up the Wireless Pro, you first download the My Cloud app (free) for your smartphone or tablet. Alternatively, you can configure the drive via your computer’s browser, but the device is clearly intended for mobile use, and most of your interaction with the drive will be through the app. You can connect the drive directly to a computer via USB, and it will behave as any other external storage device, though the only time I used this feature was to copy backed up files from the drive to my computer.
The next step in setup is to power up the drive and connect your smartphone or tablet to the WiFi network it creates. It supports both 802.11ac and 802.11n for compatibility with most devices. Once connected, launch the My Cloud app and you can start configuring the drive.
Next, you’ll want to connect the Wireless Pro to a local WiFi network, if available. This is one of the key features that makes this drive so useful. Once you connect it to a network with internet access, the Wireless Pro will act as a hub, so that every device connected to it can share that data connection.
My primary use for the drive is to serve as a field backup solution for photos, so I set it to allow the SD card reader to automatically ingest files when a card is inserted, which it does at a speed of about 75MB per second. You can also import from compatible card readers and cameras via a USB port (which is slower at around 25MB per second), and this too can be set to happen automatically.
Connect To The Cloud
The killer feature of the My Passport Wireless Pro and the My Cloud app is cloud connectivity. Through the app, you have access to several popular cloud storage systems, including Dropbox, Google Drive and Adobe Creative Cloud. What’s awesome about this is you can view and manage the files you’ve stored on those platforms and upload copies of the files you’ve imported to the Wireless Pro directly to your cloud accounts, giving you a second, remote backup.
I’ve used this feature several times now with both Creative Cloud and Dropbox. The process isn’t immediately intuitive—you touch and hold to select a file or folder, choose “Copy” from the presented commands, select the cloud service you want to use, then click “Paste.” To check the progress of uploads, go to the “Activity” tab of the app’s main menu.
Uploading images from the drive to a cloud service in the current version of the app (4.4.6) may fail—especially if you’re uploading multiple large files at once—if you haven’t properly set the drive’s cache, which is not something immediately obvious to do. After learning this, I set the cache to the max limit of 64GB and haven’t had problems since. If an upload does fail, tap “Clear cache” in the settings before trying again. If you want to upload many gigabytes of photos, I recommend doing this in smaller batches of a few hundred megabytes each.
Features For Work & Play
The Wireless Pro has enough battery capacity for about 10 hours of continuous use. I got close to that, though to be accurate, I robbed some of the power to charge my iPhone. That’s right, the drive’s 6400 mAh battery can also be used to recharge USB devices like smartphones. I really appreciated this feature during a recent flight on an airline that apparently doesn’t realize it’s 2016 and tech-laden travelers expect an outlet at every seat.
On the same flight, I also used the Wireless Pro to stream the movie “Airplane!” (a personal favorite when enduring modern air travel) to my iPad. This is a great feature if your tablet or smartphone has limited storage capacity available. You can load the drive with movies and music, and stream them seamlessly to your mobile device.
Overall, the My Passport Wireless Pro is the most multifunctional external storage solution I’ve ever used. My one criticism is that the process of uploading files to cloud services is somewhat inelegant, but this could be addressed in a future software update. With terabytes of capacity, the ability to ingest files from SD cards and USB cameras, act as a WiFi hub, connect to the cloud and serve media wirelessly to tablets and smartphones, there’s really no other device like it.