Western Digital has a number of direct-attached storage (DAS) products based on hard drives. They cater to different market segments. These DAS units usually employ a USB port to connect to the host (Thunderbolt is also popular in the high-end market). Within the USB storage bridge market segment, Western Digital has a number of product lines tuned to specific use-cases. For example, the My Passport product line focuses on striking a balance between capacity and portability, while the My Book targets a 'desktop' use-case with external power, but much higher capacity.

Introduction and Product Impressions

The My Book and My Passport product lines were updated last week with a new industrial design. Western Digital has been selling these external storage devices with the highest storage capacity drives in their class for some time now (the 3.5" 8TB version in the My Book, and the 2.5" 4TB version in the My Passport). The refresh last week changes only the chassis and retains the internals from the previous model. Today's review will take a look at the latest versions of the My Book and the My Passport.

The gallery below shows the updated chassis design of the two units and a look at the contents of the two packages. The aspects to note here include the 18W adapter bundled with the My Book, and the longer USB 3.0 cable bundled with it. The My Book unit also comes with a Kensington lock slot.

The new chassis design is definitely more stylish compared to the previous generation. Despite being more pleasing to the eye, certain segments of the chassis act as fingerprint magnets. Also, the new chassis design makes no improvements to the repairability aspect. We would prefer being able to get access to the bare drive in these units easily. This was an issue with the previous design, and it continues that way even with the new units. This is particularly important for the My Book, where a SATA drive is connected to a daughterboard containing the SATA-USB bridge chip (making it possible to use the SATA drive alone after pulling it out of the unit). For the My Passport, we find that the SATA - USB bridge is integrated on to the hard drive's mainboard, and the USB port is the only available interface on the drive itself. A burnt-out bridge chip essentially means it is not possible for the average consumer to retrieve data from the drive in the case of the My Passport.

The table below presents the detailed specifications and miscellaneous aspects of the units and how they compare against other DAS units employing a single hard drive.

Comparative HDD-Based Direct-Attached Storage Device Configurations
Aspect
Bridge Configuration SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B
Power 18W (12V @ 1.5A) External Power Adapter Bus-Powered
Internal Drive WD80EZZX-11CSGA0
8TB 5400 RPM 128MB cache 3.5" SATA Hard Drive
HelioSeal, 7-Stac, Hardware Encryption, TLER Off
WD40NMZW-11GX6S1
4TB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA Hard Drive
WD Blue with Integrated USB bridge, Hardware Encryption, TLER Off
     
Physical Dimensions 139.3 mm x 49 mm x 170.6 mm 110 mm x 21.5 mm x 81.5 mm
Weight 960 grams 250 grams
Cable USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB 3.0 Type-A USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB 3.0 Type-A
     
Evaluated Capacity 8TB 4TB
Price USD 250 USD 140
Review Link Western Digital My Book 8TB [2016] Review Western Digital My Passport 4TB [2016] Review

 

 

The technical details of the internal drives in the unit(s) are revealed by CrystalDiskInfo. We see that the helium drive used in the My Book is similar to the Ultrastar He8, but, the spindle spins slower at 5400 RPM to further reduce the power consumption. Other firmware features such as TLER (time-limited error recovery) necessary for RAID operation are disabled, making the drive unsuitable for use in RAID arrays / NAS units. In any case, it is a bit of a challenge to take out the drive from the chassis without damage to the enclosure. The My Passport, on the other hand, is based on a 5400 RPM WD Blue - the high-capacity 2.5" versions have a 15mm z-height, and ship with the bridge chip integrated on the main board. This makes it difficult for the standard hard drive monitoring tools to get all the S.M.A.R.T attributes.

Internal Drive Characteristics
Performance Benchmarks
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  • BoloMKXXVIII - Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - link

    NEVER trust your backup data to the cloud unless you are cool with ALL the government agencies snooping through your stuff and potentially having hackers in your stuff. Time after time we learn about terrible security practices of online companies that are supposed to know better. Have multiple backups stored in different locations (home and work, home and family members house, etc.). Reply
  • Michael Bay - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    My old 500Gb WD Green died on me some time ago. Other than that, I have no complaints.
    I have replaced it with Seagate ST2000DM001 which has, shall we say, questionable reputation, of which I only learned postfactum. It has worked well for three years now, but boy is it LOUD.

    On DAS side, my old 1Tb WD has somehow lost all of the data, probably had to do with FAT failure. And one of my new 8Tb Seagate`s has a concerning habit of going unresponsive sometimes after I copy something big to it. Somehow it always coincides with torrent client running(it doesn`t have to download anything, just running is enough).

    Point is, it`s a goddamn lottery.
    Reply
  • jackhorizon8 - Sunday, August 30, 2020 - link

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  • StevoLincolnite - Sunday, October 16, 2016 - link

    The Chassis looks like an Xbox One. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    I actually like the chassis. What bothers me is, like Seagate chassis, they are a bitch to open and shuck. As Ganesh said, the 2.5" isn't even shuckable because it has a USB bridge on the PCB (there is no SATA connection) and the 3.5" drive has a nerfed firmware, not uncommon on Seagate drives.

    Years ago I received legal threats from Seagate for posting firmware dump \ flash instructions in the AT forums to "hack" shucked external drives to operate on SATA with the full AHCI command set. I'm sure this is still business as usual for these companies, but less relevant as they make custom PCB's for their external drives that remove the physical SATA interface all together.

    Backblaze operates about 12% of their data center on shucked drives according to their purchase reports from 2011-2012, due to the global disk shortage during that period due to floods in Thailand...they literally drove store to store buying every retail drive they could, including external drives, in order to meet their expansion demands during that period.

    Unfortunately the consequences of this led storage companies to do everything they reasonable could to prevent shucking; they had previously ignored shucking when it was a hobbyist niche, but the sheer scale of backblaze doing this (we are talking thousands of drives in a matter of months during a global crisis) this act alone was enough to hit their bottom line as external drives were sold at a lower price.

    Personally, I don't feel Backblaze did anything wrong, they found a creative way to survive.
    Reply
  • Xajel - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    The thing I hate about WD is that they started the bad habit of integrating the USB<->SATA bridge into the HDD board it self without any physical way to bypass it ( direct SATA connection )... they said that to be able to make the drives smaller and smaller, but the other reason they don't want to give is to cut costs and when any drive fail ( duo to USB connector or bridge failure ) then 90% of customers will just go and buy another one !! Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    " then 90% of customers will just go and buy another one !!"

    Hopefully from another company.
    Reply
  • Michael Bay - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    There is only one another company though. Reply
  • valinor89 - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Seems that consumer ping pong is a game played between companies nowadays instead of trying for retention.... Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    I'm very happy you made note of the fact that you cannot use this WD 2.5" disk in a normal manner outside of its USB enclosure - as I just purchased the 3TB version just for that purpose, and was CRUSHED to find the USB-SATA controller as part of the drives' mainboard also.

    And that wasn't a cheap mistake to make.
    Reply

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