Each extra ounce you add to your travel bag means a heavier burden to carry--so everything in your pack should be well worth the load. The Western Digital Passport portable USB 2.0 drive--available in 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB capacities--is one of those worthy additions, offering a compact design, fast performance, and ample storage space for a low price. We recommend it to anyone who needs affordable storage on the go, save those who can't deal with its lack of a carrying case and software utilities.
The Western Digital Passport is a fitting name for this device, since it's about the size of a standard passport (albeit a bit thicker). It weighs a light 9.8 ounces and measures 5.7 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and 0.8 inch thick, though it looks even smaller because of its curved edges. The top and front edges are made of silver-colored plastic, while its remaining edges and bottom are covered in a smooth, blue rubberized material that helps to keep the drive from sliding around. A blue status light on the front edge blinks to indicate drive activity. The WD Passport's USB 2.0 and AC connectors sit behind a handy protective cover on the right edge; we wish the entire unit shipped with a protective carrying case as well. Western Digital claims that the drive offers shock-absorbing capabilities; while we can't verify whether the Western Digital Passport will withstand years of abuse, it continued to function fine after we subjected it to a few drops.
Installing the WD Passport USB drive takes only a few blinks of an eye. We used the included USB cable to connect our test unit, the 80GB model, to the USB 2.0 port on our Windows XP-based PC. The drive showed up in our system's registry a moment later. The USB ports on most computers should sufficiently power the device, but for those that don't, Western Digital sells a 5V AC adapter for about $10.
In our informal USB 2.0 file-transfer trials, the WD Passport performed admirably. Its 2.5-inch hard drive, which spins at a respectable 5,400rpm, wrote our files at an average 128Mbps, or about 16MB per second. This time comes close to that of the full-size Maxtor OneTouch II, which achieved an extrafast 135.6Mbps write score and ran far in front of other portable hard drives, such as the LaCie Porsche Mobile Hard Drive and the Transcend StoreJet. Unfortunately, the WD Passport series lacks any included software utilities for tasks such as backing up data and password-protecting files.
Western Digital ships the WD Passport with the one-year warranty that's typical among portable hard drives. The company provides toll-free telephone support for the device, though its phone lines are open only for various hours Monday through Saturday. Free e-mail support is also available. The Western Digital support Web site includes a searchable FAQ database and a handy forum where you can get help from other users or a Western Digital moderator.