Miscellaneous Aspects and Final Words

In addition to the performance numbers and value additions that have already been discussed, consumers also need to look at other factors like thermal performance and power consumption for external storage devices.

Thermal Profile

The thermal design of the enclosures for HDD-based DAS devices is important because hard drives can't withstand as high a temperature range as flash-based devices. Higher temperatures tend to lower the reliability of the drives. In order to identify the effectiveness with which the enclosure can take away heat from the internal drive, we instrumented our robocopy DAS benchmark suite to record various parameters while the robocopy process took place in the background. Internal temperatures can only be gathered for enclosures that support S.M.A.R.T passthrough. Unlike the 2016 WD My Passport, the latest version allows monitoring of the temperature as long as a volume is configured. Readers can click on the graphs below to view the full-sized version.

Storage Enclosure Thermal Characteristics

As we have seen in the performance section, the Seagate Backup Plus Portable has higher peak transfer rates, but the WD My Passport is more consistent. In addition, we see that the WD drive finished at 47C at the end of our robocopy workload. The Backup Plus Portable was only slightly higher at 48C.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is measured while processing the same workload on each of the DAS units. CrystalDiskMark 5.1.2's benchmark traces with a region size of 8GB and the number of repetitions set to 5 are used. For bus-powered devices like the WD My Passport 5TB, Plugable's USBC-TKEY power delivery sniffer was placed between the host PC and the storage bridge to record the power consumption. The pictures below present the power consumption profile in a compact and easy to compare manner.

Power Consumption - CrystalDiskMark

The WD My Passport is more power efficient compared to the Seagate Backup Plus Portable at the same capacity point. In fact, the bus power consumption peaks at around 3.8W, compared to 4.1W for the Seagate drive. This translates to more battery life for a notebook if a My Passport 5TB were to be used with it, compared to a Seagate Backup Plus Portable.

Final Words

Consumers looking for a high-capacity bus-powered external hard drive have two options - either the Seagate Backup Plus Portable 5TB, or, the WD My Passport 5TB drive. Both are SMR-based, but, our tests have shown that the My Passport behaves almost like a CMR drive for traditional external hard-drive use-cases. The Seagate Backup Plus Portable does offer higher instantaneous transfer rates, but, the long-term consistency is missing. It is also slightly larger and heavier compared to the WD My Passport. It must also be noted that the My Passport offers hardware encryption, while the Seagate Backup Plus Portable doesn't (the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch supports hardware encryption, though).

The Seagate drive also comes with arguably better value additions - a 2-month complimentary subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud program and a 1-year subscription to the Mylio cloud-based photo organization and management program. Also, it is significantly cheaper at $110 compared to $150 for the WD My Passport 5TB.

From a technology perspective, the WD My Passport 5TB gets our recommendation. However, when other factors like pricing and value additions are thrown into the mix, the choice may depend on individual requirements.

Performance Consistency - Handling SMR Quirks
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  • MDD1963 - Sunday, October 6, 2019 - link

    Don't mind that insignificant 57.8% price difference!
  • zamroni - Tuesday, October 8, 2019 - link

    i prefer standalone case rather than built-in disk+case. it's more durable than built-in case+disk products.
    i had broken toshiba external disk which the pcb dead. i couldn't reuse any of it because the usb port is soldered into disk's pcb
  • Chloiber - Thursday, October 10, 2019 - link

    We're calling external harddisks 'DAS' now?
  • danwat1234 - Friday, May 21, 2021 - link

    It's too bad you did not measure the power consumption at idle! Going to be used a Western Digital passport for a Chia farming in which it will be almost the time..
  • danwat1234 - Friday, May 21, 2021 - link

    * idle most of the time

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