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Western Digital Elements SE

Now I have a Pogoplug, I really needed some hard drive storage to plug into it.

I’ve owned a couple of Western Digital Passport external USB drives before and have always found them to be small, quick and quiet – exactly what I was after in this case. So, I bought a 500GB Western Digital Elements SE.

The SE is a matt black (much better than the glossy black of the Passports which easily show the slightest scratch) slab of plastic. At one end is a micro USB connector (a change from the original mini USB of the Passport) and a white disk activity light. And that’s it.

All power is provided via the USB. With the Passport I found that I didn’t always get the necessary power and WD were very good in providing me with a replacement cable which splits into 2 USB connectors – one for data and power and the other for additional power. The WD website mentions that an “optional cable is available” for this purpose, but it doesn’t state how to get one or how much it costs.

The box packaging contains just the drive, a short USB cable and a small booklet (which is about the warranty rather than the drive itself). It works with Windows and Macs and is available in storage levels up to 1TB.

Now, back to that box a minute. WD refers to as “Earth friendly”, yet there’s no suggestion of the box being recycled, and they use plastic to hold the drive inside the box, rather than recyclable card. And the drive, inside the plastic is wrapped in plastic before being put in a plastic bag. And is it really that friendly to include a warranty leaflet that could have been placed on the drive itself? “Earth friendly” doesn’t cut it for me.

Plugged in, the drive is incredibly silent. Thankfully, WD haven’t felt the need to install any software, so it’s formatted and ready for use.

Performance

As per my recent USB memory stick review, I’m using CrystalDiskMark for benchmarking the drive.

I’ve used this software, and recorded the results, for a number of different disk types in the past – internal, external, flash drives (e.g. SD), USB memory sticks, etc.

In a direct comparison to a previous Western Digital USB external drive that I’ve owned (a 60GB passport drive), it has similar scores, although a little slower (to be expected because of the larger driver size).

The results were as follows:

Read Sequentially: 25.51 MB/s
Read 512k files: 18.12 MB/s
Read 4k files: 0.426 MB/s

Write Sequentially: 24.06 MB/s
Write 512k files: 23.67 MB/s
Write 4k files: 1.164 MB/s

Read performance lags behind internal SATA drives (although it’s quicker than the internal drive in my work laptop!), as you’d expect, as well as the WD Passport Drive. There are a few other quick exceptions (an SDHC card with a rather good small file read speed and a very quick 2GB USB memory stick) but, overall, the drive has the performance that I’d expect. When it comes to reading small files, the SE shows high speeds that are more consistent with SATA drives.

Write performance is only beaten by the SATA drives and the WD Passport. And, when I refer to the Passport being quicker, I should add that it is only marginally so. Small file writing is very fast, second only to my Passport drive – and that includes SATA internal drives. Other write speeds are up 5 times quicker than, say, a USB memory stick.

[review]Quiet, small, a decent lick of speed and a good price. What else could you ask for? Ignoring the odd environmental claims and WD’s need to keep changing USB connection types, this is a smart option for anyone needing a small external USB drive.

I bought mine for a smidge under £60 from my local Tesco, and it’s the cheapest price that I can currently find.[/review]

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