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WD My Passport SSD 2020 – a very fast external SSD
4.5Overall Score
Name: WD My Passport SSD 2020
Price (RRP): $189/31
Manufacturer: Western Digital

The WD My Passport SSD 2020 sets new speed records for portable SSD. It has a couple of speed tricks under the bonnet but to get the most out of it; you need a PC with a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 port.

First trick – the WD My Passport SSD 2020 is a version of the WD Blue SN550 NVMe – a great midrange SSD. When connected to an M.2 PCIe port, it achieves speeds of 2365.6/1913.5Mbps (Seq. R/W). It does not have a fast DRAM Cache (like WD Black), so it uses some emulated SLC cache to maintain speeds at least commensurate with the USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 interface. Most external USB connected devices don’t have a bucket of cache.

Second trick – The transfer protocol UASP (Universal Attached SCSI Protocol) is now called NVM Express – that denotes some SCSI-like intelligence. With the right PC, it offers up to 70% faster read and 30% faster write speeds over USB 3.

A note on interface speeds

Unless you have a computer that supports USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (up to 10Gbps data transfer – almost full-duplex) or Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gbps full-duplex) then the only speed you will get from an external SSD is what your interface allows.

We explain all this in our USB, Thunderbolt and Power Delivery Guide for Dummies but here is a brief overview. (FD=Full-Duplex or same speed both ways. HD=Half-Duplex – it can only maintain around half the rated speed). USB speeds are

  • 1.0 – up to 12Mbps (HD) – black keyed port and cable up to 5 metres
  • 2.0 – 480Mbps (HD tops out at 280Mbps) – ditto
  • 3.0 – 5Gbps (HD tops out at 3.2Gbps) – blue keyed port and cable to 3 metres
  • 3.1 Gen 1, similar to 3.0 but FD using a dedicated .8m rated cable
  • 3.2 Gen 2 – 10Gbps FD using a dedicated .3m rated cable
  • Thunderbolt 3 – up to 40Gbps FD using a dedicated .3m cable

Note 1Mbps = .125MBps = .001Gbps or .000125GBps.

Finally sustained data transfer speeds depends on three things:

  1. The number, type and size of files.
  2. If they are contiguous (all together) or fragmented over the host drive.
  3. If the external drive has any DRAM cache (most do not due to power interruption issues) or emulates SLC (single-level-cell like SRAM) from its TLC or QLC VNAND memory. More expensive external SSD do this and handle larger files better.

Tests

We tested on a Microsoft Surface Pro with its USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps=1250MBps) and an HP x360 Spectre 2019 Thunderbolt 3 – this drive flies!

WD My Passport SSD 2020

While all maker quote Sequential read/write of MBps speeds this means copy large amounts of contiguous of data from (read or restore) or copy data too (write ore backup) the drive.

The real-life test is random read and write of both small and large drives. Why? Because this is where you see the limitations of the USB connection and the drives ability to cache lots of small or large files to smooth out data transfer. This is pretty good!

Australian review: WD My Passport SSD 2020

  • Website here
  • Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2 (Thunderbolt 3 compatible and USB backwards compatible at lower speeds)
  • Format: exFAT but can format for any OS
  • Size: 100.8×55.12×8.89mmx47g
  • Box: USB-C to USB-C 170mm cable and USB-C to USB-A adapter
  • Capacity/Price
    • 500GB $189 (37.8 cents per GB)
    • 1TB $319 (31.9 cents per GB)
    • 2TB (soon) $629 (31.45 cents per GB)
  • From JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Officeworks from 30 September
  • Colours: Grey (now) and Black, Gold, and Red (later)
  • Theoretical Seq R/W: 1050/1000MBps
  • Optional 256-bit AES encryption on the fly
  • Drop-resistant 1.98m
  • Includes WD Discovery Software for backup and passwords
  • Warranty: 5-years
WD My Passport SSD 2020
WD My Passport SSD 2020

Competition – little at present

WD Black P50 is certainly fast achieving very similar speeds. It is a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2×2-lane that will achieve even faster speeds with new AMD PCs support the more lanes.

WD Black P50

Sandisk Extreme Pro (another WD company) is also USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 and adds IP ratings for similar speeds.

Sandisk Extreme Pro

Samsung T7 USB 3.2 Gen 2 is supposed to be as fast as the WD My Passport SSD, but our tests showed it was not (we will be retesting soon).

Samsung T7

Silicon Power PC60 is a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 but for reasons unknown (probably Thomas Bartlett’s test rig) only achieves 540/500MBps (more Gen 1 speeds).

Seagate and sister company La Cie currently have USB 3.0 only and USB 3.2 Gen 2 ‘coming’.