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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  • jabber - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    Yeah just hope the USB bridge doesn't fail as it's built into the HDD so you cant just remove the HDD and put it in another caddy.

    Hence why I don't buy WD Passport types.
  • rrinker - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    Yeah, that got me years ago. I had a small drive in my laptop, wanted a bigger one, and the external drive was much cheaper than the same size bar internal drive (still a mystery, how a drive + interface+enclosure+cable can be sold for less than just the drive but I guess that's why I'm an engineer and not an accountant). Once I got it open though, instead of the expected laptop style IDE drive plugged in to a USB interface, it was an integrated board on the drive. Oh well. I still have it, stuffed in a drawer somewhere. For the capacity, it's too slow (USB 2.0. 3.0 wasn't out yet) to use for large file transfers, plus that laptop is long gone, my current one has 1TB of SSD in it and I no longer have a space problem
  • Samus - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    I've repaired many Passport USB-B 3.0 connectors over the years. One the connector from the cable completely snapped inside the receptacle. And yeah, it's unfortunately not as simple as just swapping the case, the USB controller is embedded on the IO board.

    Really terrible design choice (and a lame attempt to prevent shucking) for otherwise excellent drives.
  • eek2121 - Saturday, October 5, 2019 - link

    I have the Seagate drives that are similar to these. I shucked 8 of them and with a bit of custom engineering put them in a MiniITX system. Sits cool and quiet on my bookshelf. Runs Arch Linux, zfs, Plex, streams 4k h.264, h.265 is too much for the system because the machine is 8 years old. Nothing like ZFS over 40TB of drives in such a small area. There is space for more to fit. I was worried about vibrations, but I use foam insulation between the drives.

    Anyway, what I am getting at is you may void your warranty, but these drives are excellent for shucking. It is hard to find internal 2.5" drives at this capacity and they are more expensive. If you have the right mini ITX case you could fit dozens of you aren't afraid to be a handyman.
  • jabber - Saturday, October 5, 2019 - link

    The Seagates or the WDs? The WDs will be terrible for shucking.
  • s.yu - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    ...Why do these still come with B ports?
  • s.yu - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    ...Micro B though, still.
  • jabber - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    First time I saw those Micro B ports, I thought "Why?"
  • GreenReaper - Monday, October 7, 2019 - link

    Presumably so you can plug them into a USB 2.0 port with a USB 2.0 A/B cable if you need to. Plenty of old devices out there that don't have USB 3.0, or a free port for it.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    I heard getting these is bad for you so I wouldn't recommend it. It might be best to seek medical attention if you find yourself with shingles.

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