Western Digital provided us with a little bit of everything to review from its external hard drive ranges, from the slim and rather attractive MyPassport Elite to the chunky MyBook World Edition and the gargantuan Studio Edition II drive. They’re all capable drives that technically share their external status, but are clearly marketed towards different niches.

Features

At the small end of the scale, the MyPassport Elite (pictured left) is a USB-connected 500GB drive with included software centred mostly around backup – you get WD Anywhere Backup, WD MioNet, WD Sync and a suite of Google tools at installation time. Tiny drives like these are common – every hard drive vendor’s got one – and the key physical points of the Passport Elite are the soft finish on the exterior, and the flap that hides the USB connector when disconnected that also serves as an illuminated capacity indicator.

Moving up the size scales is the MyBook World Edition (pictured above), although as external drives go, it’s distinctly not a portable solution. While it’s wrapped in the same boxy casing that Western Digital has used for its external drives for some time now, it’s a network attached storage (NAS) drive, which means you’ve got to tether it with a network cable to a switch or router. This makes moving it tricky and frankly, pretty undesirable. Like the MyPassport Elite, backup and remote access software is included, and the MyBook World Edition is also DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) capable. This means it can share media and data files wirelessly with other DLNA equipment – cameras, music systems, televisions and mobile phones, printers – over a home network.

Then there’s the Studio Edition II drive (pictured left). While it’s technically portable – and will connect up via eSATA, Firewire 800, Firewire 400 or USB 2.0 – you’d have a tough time doing so, as at roughly twice the thickness of the World Edition drive, you’re likely to tear a shoulder muscle hefting it around for terribly long.

In a nod to the ‘creative professional’ audience that Western Digital chases for this drive, it’s formatted by default for Mac systems, although changing that over for Windows PCs isn’t too taxing. Its thickness is at least in part because unlike the World Edition drive, its 2TB of storage is made up of two striped RAID 0 drives for added speed. As it’s RAID capable it’s also possible to set up RAID 1 so that one drive acts as a mirror backup, but you’ll drop the capacity to 1TB in the process.

Performance

Performance across three such different drives with different interfaces is always going to be pretty variable. In our tests, we averaged read/write figures of 12/11.8 MB/s for the MyPassport elite. For a USB-connected external drive that’s solid but not exceptional.

The MyBook Studio Edition II fared better, but again it will depend on your choice of interface. Connecting via a Firewire 400 interface, we managed an average 10.24/16.03 MB/s read/write speed. Firewire 800 or eSATA would be quicker, and USB predictably slower.

At the slowest end was the MyBook World Edition, which managed figures of 6.5/9.17 MB/s read/write, although as that’s over a network you’re always going to see variable figures.

Conclusion

All three drives do serve different purposes, but for our money there’s also a fair gap in utility. The Studio II’s a massive drive for the creative community, and its multiple interfaces give it a lot of flexibility.

The MyPassport Elite is another small portable drive in a market awash with them, but certainly worth consideration if you can score it at a good price.

The MyBook World Edition had the slowest speeds in our transfer test of 6.5/9.17MB/s read/write. That was over a system with some overhead and a 10/100 limited router. If you’re running in a pure Gigabit environment, you might expect that to speed up, although network conditions can and will vary (and this will impact how well any network drive Performs). If there’s a 10/100 bottleneck anywhere in the system, however, you won’t see the full speed of this particular drive.

Pros and cons

Pros: Variety of storage sizes; Passport Elite’s storage illuminated capacity indicator; MyBook World works as DLNA server; Studio Edition offers multiple interfaces

Cons: MyBook World Edition requires full Gigabit system for best performance

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Overall: 3.5
  • Performance: 4
  • Features: 3.5
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Value for money: 3.5