REVIEW: WD My Passport Wireless for Travel Photographers

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It has been almost a year since I purchased the WD My Passport Wireless 1 TB hard drive. Now, I am ready to review it and reveal how it has impacted my photography.

REVIEW: WD My Passport Wireless for Travel Photographers

It is rare when a piece of equipment that is not directly related to photography actually affects it on such a profound level. l

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WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive
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WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive
  • SD 3.0 card reader for fast media offloads
  • Wireless 802.11ac to stream 4K videos and view photos with the My Cloud mobile app on iOS and Android* |*4K streaming requires native player on mobile device with codec support for 4K video files and is subject to mobile device capabilities, hardware and software components and configurations.
  • All-day battery (up to 10 hours)* |*Based on streaming HD 720p, 3 Mbps video to one device over Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz single band only. Actual battery life depends on file size, type, format, bitrate, devices connected, Wi-Fi connectivity, settings and other factors.
  • Built-in power bank to charge your phone, action camera and more (with output up to 1.5A)
  • 2-year manufacturer's limited warranty
WD 1TB My Passport Wireless SSD External Portable Drive
  • Built-in SD card reader with one-touch copy button
  • Durable, shock-resistant SSD inside
  • All-day battery (up to 10 hours)* |*Based on streaming HD 720p, 3 Mbps video to one device over Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz single band only. Actual battery life depends on file size, type, format, bitrate, devices connected, Wi-Fi connectivity, settings and other factors.
  • Wirelessly stream 4K videos and view photos with the My Cloud mobile app
  • Import from USB card readers

I spent the last couple of years trying to simplify and streamline my photography workflow starting with my equipment and photo techniques to the finals steps of editing and publishing.

The goal was to eliminate any unnecessary and replaceable pieces of my workflow.

It all started with my equipment when I stopped using graduated filters and replaced them with the digital version in Lightroom. I stopped using a cable release in favor of the 2 sec delay functionality on my cameras.

The next big step in my simplification process was making the switch from a DSLR to a mirrorless. As a result, my equipment became much smaller and lighter.

I also simplified my editing workflow by developing a new editing approach called Lightroom Rapid Editing, which saved me an enormous amount of time on processing.

The only part of my travel photography I could not simplify was the necessity of traveling with a laptop computer. Even though mobile devices have almost completely eliminated the need for a computer, my travel photography workflow was dependent on a laptop.

Since I shoot quite a lot and only in RAW format, each day of the trip requires backup routine to transfer a large number of files to multiple devices. This always requires a laptop or at least a netbook.

When Western Digital released the WD My Passport Wireless with an SD card slot, it immediately sparked my curiosity.

After I realized that it could autonomously transfer the contents of the SD card without the need of another device, I bought it right away.

I later discovered the WD hard drive has even more features and important functions:

  1. It works as any external USB hard drive
  2. It backs up the contents of the SD card automatically and without the need for another device
  3. You can wirelessly backup contents on a mobile device to the hard drive
  4. It allows you to access photos and videos on the drive with a mobile device using a dedicated app. You can also preview the contents of the drive and transfer them to a mobile device, if necessary.
  5. It allows you to stream media (videos, music, etc.) to a mobile device

When I familiarized myself with the features, I was confident that I would use all of them.

After taking the WD My Passport Wireless on five major photography trips, I can say that it has exceeded all my expectations. But, at the same time, I do not use it the way I first intended.

First of all, the WD My Passport Wireless not only eliminated the need for a laptop even on extended trips, it also made my travel routine safer.

My normal travel routine was to wait until the end of the day when I was back in the hotel room to back up the contents of my SD cards using a laptop. I always worried about the possibility of losing hundreds of precious photos if my SD card failed before the backup was completed.

Now, not only I do not need a laptop to back up my photos, but I can do it on multiple occasions throughout the day.

Real life example:

During my Southwest trip, for example, I had about 400 new RAW images on my SD card after spending the entire morning hiking down the Canyon de Chelly. I was ready to drive to the Valley of the Gods for sunset so, while driving, I inserted the SD card into the WD My Passport Wireless and all my photos from Canyon De Chelly were safely backed up to the hard drive.

After I finished the day in the Valley of the Gods, I made a second backup on my way to the hotel. By the time I was in my hotel room, all my new photos were safely backed up on two devices.

After I finished the day in the Valley of the Gods, I made a second backup on my way to the hotel. By the time I was in my hotel room, all my new photos were safely backed up on two devices.

At the same time, I do not use the WD My Passport Wireless to preview and edit my photos while I am on the road. I take a lot of photos and because most of them are either bracketed shots or multi-shot sequences, going through all of them with a mobile device takes too much time. I find it much easier to take an extra shot with my phone and do quick edits in Snapseed.

Also, I have found that streaming movies or music from the device is not very useful to me. I have only used it once or twice while initially testing the device.

To summarize my use of the WD My Passport Wireless:

  1. I backup the contents of my SD cards while I am on the road
  2. I use it as an external hard drive to transfer the photos to my desktop computer when I return home

That’s all. It is plain and simple.

At this point, I do not use the wireless capabilities of the drive at all. I do not even have the WD My Cloud installed on my phone or tablet because I do not currently have a need for it.

After incorporating the WD My Passport Wireless into my travel routine, I now have three variations of my travel photography workflow:

Scenario 1 – Short Trips Without a Laptop

I bring only one WD My Passport Wireless and plenty of SD cards. I often backup the photos to the drive during the day while ensuring I always keep the original photos on the SD cards.

Scenario 2 – Longer Trips Without a Laptop

I bring two WD My Passport Wireless drives with me and continue to back up the SD cards during the day as I normally do. At the end of the day, I create another backup on my second WD My Passport Wireless drive.

Scenario 3 – Longer Trips with a Laptop

For these types of trips, I only need a single WD My Passport Wireless drive plus an external portable USB drive. I follow my usual backup routine during the day by performing multiple, incremental backups. At the end of the day, I import all the new photos into my Lightroom Travel Catalog and store all the photos on a second external hard drive.

Update (August 2017)

Western Digital released the second edition of the WD My Passport Wireless by adding PRO to the name of the drive. The original version of WD My Passport Wireless was discontinued.

Even though the Pro version looks completely different it did not change the way I use it.

WD My Passport Wireless (left), WD My Passport Wireless Pro (right)

Although the original WD My Passport Wireless was groundbreaking for my photography, it had a number of shortcomings that are typical and expected from a new product.

My primary complaint was the speed of the drive or, to be more accurate, the lack of it.

First, after pressing the Power button, it takes forever for the drive to boot before it becomes fully functional. Second, the process of automatically transferring photos from an SD card to the drive is painfully slow.

At the same time, I have to admit that the drive’s slow speed did not affect my photography because I am rarely pressed with time during my travels. I treated the drive’s lack of speed as an annoyance rather than a design flaw.

I expected WD to address the issue in the second iteration.

I was happy in 2016 when WD purchased SanDisk to address the lack of solid state memory technologies. I was certain that the second iteration of the WD My Passport Wireless would have a solid state drive (SSD) replacing the spinning hard drive, which makes it more compact and more reliable with a longer battery life. I was ready to pay extra for such a drive.

But, WD took a very unexpected direction with the second edition of the WD My Passport Wireless by adding PRO to the name of the drive. What does that mean?

My Passport Wireless Pro

First, let me say that WD addressed most of the shortcomings of the original edition. The speed drastically improved with the Pro.

The startup time is much faster. After replacing a USB 2.0 SD card reader with a USB 3.0 version, the file transfer speed increased by a factor of nearly 3. It is definitely faster.

After upgrading the battery capacity from 3400 mAh to 6400 mAh, the battery life doubled. Now, you can even use the drive as a battery bank to charge various mobile devices using a USB cable.

At the same time, the new Pro edition comes with unexpected and puzzling features.

It still has a spinning hard drive, which was not replaced with a solid state drive (SSD, nor was there an SSD option.

But, what was most surprising is that WD increased the weight and size of the drive. It is now almost twice its size and heavier. This is something I did not expect—I was hoping for size and weight reduction!

After I went through the drive specifications and saw that WD added support for a Plex Media Streaming Server, I realized that the second edition of the drive was not designed with travelers and photographers in mind.

Do not get me wrong, the WD My Passport Wireless Pro is still the central piece of my travel photography and I use it on a daily basis during my travels. I recognize that, for driving trips, the size of the drive is not critical but it does increase the weight and size of my photography bag. It’s bigger size only becomes an issue for longer hiking trips.

Now, I’m waiting for the third edition of the drive with the hopes it will have an SSD option.

The  Negatives:

  1. The initial setup process is streamlined. The simple sticker on the top of the drive with the Wi-Fi password made a huge difference.
  2. Long battery life (up to 11 hours)
  3. Backup photos from any type of memory card using external memory card readers (USB 2.0 only)
  4. Ability to charge external devices using the drive as a battery bank.
  5. Fast file transfer when using the built-in USB 3.0 SD card reader.

The Positives

  1. Uninspiring design
  2. Too big and too heavy
  3. No SSD version
  4. There is still no way to preview RAW images using the MyCloud app

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  • Chris Newham says:

    The story you tell of your journey to a lighter efficient workflow almost mirrors mine I have the full sony equipment lineup but I was able to cut a corner or two though as for instance I invested in your presets rather than developing my own.
    I also got one of these drives after seeing Trey Ratcliff reviewing one and as for you its a revelation and I totally agree with your review I also fly a drone so putting the micro SD into an adaptor and putting into the device is handy to do between flights.

    Couple of things I would add
    1: Yes you can use the drive as a USB drive and note that is is in fact USB3 so that works very nice and fast/
    2: There are several capacites available I have the 2TB unit and there is now a improved version 2 of the device (which I do not have [yet]).
    3: As the unit is charged via the USB cable you can power/charge it from a battery pack so in your case were you pop a card in then drive to the next location if battery power is falling you can also plug it into the battery pack and charge it while backing up as you travel.
    4: I actually have found the streaming to be moderatly useful as I load it up with films which I can watch on my tablet/phone while on the sunlounger on summer holidays
    5: I wish they did a version with an SSD inside.

    Love the presets and the articles on the site.
    Regards Chris.

    • Chris, good points.
      when WD aquired SanDisk I assumed that the new version of WD Wirless would have SSD. Instead they introduced new version which is bigger and almost double in weight with the spinning drive. I am not sure I will upgrade. I want SSD as well.

  • Juan Walker says:

    Hey My Name Is Juan Walker And i would love to download your free presets for lightroom! i signed up and follow your page on here! can you please send me the link to download them! email is Mrjuanswalker@gmail.com

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