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Western Digital Elements Review

An admirable external HDD that's pint sized, performs okay, and is economical
Western Digital Elements
Credit: Amazon
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $65 List | $61.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Affordable, compact for HDD, highly compatible
Cons:  Not the fastest read and write speed, other models offer higher capacity, rare cable type
Manufacturer:   Western Digital
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 7, 2022
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Read/Write Performance - 60% 3.3
  • Portability - 10% 7.0
  • Convenience - 30% 5.3

Our Verdict

All-in-all, we like the Western Digital Elements, and the price is right. Considering the cost, this model shows commendable performance in all of our tests. About the size of a wallet, the WD Elements looks great sitting on your desk and easily slips into a laptop bag. It's compatible with Mac OS, Windows, Playstation, X Box, and Android devices. Although it isn't the fastest at transferring files, we are talking about a difference of mere seconds for the majority of reasonably sized files such as photos and movies. Overall, this is a sensational deal on an external hard drive that's on par with the majority of HDDs that cost significantly more.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award   
Price $65 List
$61.99 at Amazon
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$65.69 at Amazon
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Pros Affordable, compact for HDD, highly compatibleWidely compatible, pleasing look, powered by USBBudget-friendly, straightforwardComes in several colors, up to 5 TB availableAffordable, decent read and write speeds for HDD, works with Android
Cons Not the fastest read and write speed, other models offer higher capacity, rare cable typeOther models offer more memory, no impact certification, so-so speedsOddly slow on Mac OS, limited storage capacity options, rare cable type, heavy for its sizeSlow read/write speed for today's standards, must be formatted between operating systemsRequires formatting for switching OS, no USB C cable
Bottom Line An admirable external HDD that's pint sized, performs okay, and is economicalA sleek looking HDD with optimal compatibility and great performance across the boardSimple, lightweight and portable SSD with a great price per GB of storageA mediocre-looking model that offers mediocre performance at a mediocre priceA lightweight, simple and well priced SSD that seems a little cheaper than other options at its price point
Rating Categories Western Digital Ele... Western Digital P10 Toshiba Canvio Basics WD My Passport Port... Seagate Portable
Read/Write Performance (60%)
3.3
3.2
3.3
3.3
3.3
Portability (10%)
7.0
7.0
7.7
7.7
6.3
Convenience (30%)
5.3
8.1
5.1
5.2
5.2
Specs Western Digital Ele... Western Digital P10 Toshiba Canvio Basics WD My Passport Port... Seagate Portable
Measured Max Speed in MB/sec 124.36 MB/s 135.84 MB/s 145.03 MB/s 125.11 MB/s 142.63 MB/s
Measured Max Drag and Drop 113.64 MB/s 100.00 MB/s 142.86 MB/s 125.00 MB/s 111.10 MB/s
Drive Type HDD HDD HDD HDD HDD
Compatibility Windows and MacOS. Bonus: Works with Android (tested on Note 10+) Windows and MacOS. Bonus: Playstation 4/4Pro & 5. Xbox One & Series X|S. Works with Android (tested on Note 10+) Windows and MacOS. Bonus: Works with Android (tested on Note 10+) Windows and MacOS. Bonus: Works with Android (tested on Note 10+) Windows and MacOS. Bonus: Works with Android (tested on Note 10+)
Size 4.34" x 3.22" x 0.59" 4.64" x 3.46" x 0.48" 4.27 x 3.06" x 0.55" 4.21" x 2.94" x 0.43" 4.61" x 3.15" x 0.57"
Volume 8.25 cu.in. 7.71 cu.in. 7.19 cu.in. 5.32 cu.in. 8.28 cu.in.
Weight 4.71 oz 4.97 oz 5.10 oz 4.22 oz 4.61 oz
Storage Size Tested 2 TB 2 TB 2 TB 2 TB 2 TB
Storage Options 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB 2TB, 4TB, 5TB 1TB, 2TB, 4TB 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB

Our Analysis and Test Results

Western Digital has been one of the leading external hard drive manufacturers for many years. Their budget model, the Elements, combines the features and performance we've come to know and love from WD wrapped up in a compact body that's easy on your wallet.

Performance Comparison


Western Digital Elements external hard drive - the wd elements offers many of our favorite features but at a...
The WD Elements offers many of our favorite features but at a fraction of the price of the elite models.
Credit: Laura Casner

Read/Write Performance


The primary factor that differentiates these devices from one another is their read and write speeds. For this reason, we dedicated 60% of the overall score to this section of the review. We ran file transfer rate testing software for each operating system to assess speed in order to gather data for comparison. We then timed file transfers of files sized 1GB, 5GB, and 10GB manually for each model for both Windows and Mac OS.

There are two types of external hard drives — hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). SSDs are relatively faster than HDDs, but HDDs are much more affordable and are offered in larger storage capacity options. The key difference in their construction is that HDDs have a mechanical spinning disk and reader while SSDs have no moving parts. Keep in mind that when we discuss differences in read and write speeds, we are talking about a relatively small difference.


We used an application called AmorphousDeskMark to gather data for Mac OS. The WD Elements was ever-so-slightly behind the average read and write speed we recorded across all HDD models with an average sequential read speed of 122 MB per second, and an average random data read speed of 0.5 MB per second.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - the elements read and write speeds were just below average using mac...
The Elements read and write speeds were just below average using Mac OS during our assessment.
Credit: Matt Spencer

When we tested the read and write speeds of the Elements on Windows, the drive showed results that were ever so slightly slower than Mac OS and, again, were slightly behind the average marks. The Elements' average random data read speed slowed to 0.4 MB per second, and the average sequential read speed fell to 120 MB per second. We used the CrystalDiskMark test software for our Windows assessment.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - the western digital elements is not exactly the fastest external...
The Western Digital Elements is not exactly the fastest external hard drive on the market, but it's plenty fast enough for most people.
Credit: Matt Spencer

After using test software, our team wanted to conduct our own manual tests by timing file transfers with a stopwatch. Whether we were transferring a 1GB file, a 5GB file, or a 10GB file, the Elements showed an average write speed of 110 MB per second while running Windows. For 1GB, 5GB, and 10GB file transfers, the times were nine seconds, 44 seconds, and 96 seconds, respectively. For Mac OS, these times slowed to 11 seconds, 58 seconds, and 119 seconds for an average of 87 MB per second.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - our team crunched a whole lot of data to ensure our readers are...
Our team crunched a whole lot of data to ensure our readers are getting the best advice possible.
Credit: Ross Patton

Convenience


In the age of plug and play devices that require minimal setup for maximum compatibility, we wanted to dive into the subtle details that determine how easy each external hard drive is to use. For this metric, we carefully scrutinized what it takes to get each model out of the box, connected to a device, and writing files. This was simple for certain models: unboxing the drive, plugging it into a device, and dragging a file. For others, we had to dig up USB hubs or adapters, and some required formatting for certain operating systems. We awarded drives that offer more storage options as well as those with more extended warranties. This part of the review accounts for 40% of the overall score.


The Elements landed right about in the middle of the pack for the convenience section of our review. The only cable included with this model is a Micro-B to USB A that we've become accustomed to from Western Digital. These cables are fast and easy to use, but Micro-B is an obscure type compared to USB A or the more widely used and more modern USB C. If you misplace the cable, chances are you don't have another one lying around. Furthermore, USB A is being used less and less. Most of the GearLab team are using laptops that no longer use USB A ports, so we ended up having to dig up an adapter to plug into the USB C ports while testing the Western Digital models on a Macbook Pro. Luckily we had a few lying around from our USB Hub Review.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - be sure to have the adapters that interface with your computer for...
Be sure to have the adapters that interface with your computer for the drive that you purchase.
Credit: Laura Casner

This model is compatible with several operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, Playstation, X Box, and Android. However, the WD Elements comes formatted for Windows and requires formatting before use with any of the aforementioned systems and is not interchangeable between them without formatting. This drive is available in storage capacities ranging from 1TB to 5TB and has a manufacturer's limited two-year warranty.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - the cable included with this model uses a somewhat obscure micro-b...
The cable included with this model uses a somewhat obscure Micro-B port; you'll want to keep track of your cable.
Credit: Laura Casner

Portability


At GearLab, we require a significant degree of transportability from products such as external hard drives. Whether we're moving a drive down the hall from the lab to the office, throwing one in the laptop bag to be taken home for the weekend, or getting work done on a lengthy international flight, we need our data to be highly mobile. For the final 10% of our total score, we looked at the size, weight, and physical attributes.


Again, the Elements falls right about in the middle of the pack for this metric. With measured dimensions of 4.3" x 3.3" x 0.6", our team determined that this drive is a tad bit bigger than a large wallet. It weighs about a quarter of a pound, so it's pretty unlikely that you'll notice much extra weight on your shoulders if you decide to toss this drive in your purse, backpack, or computer bag. Speaking of tossing — don't actually toss this device. The WD Elements is an HDD with moving parts that are susceptible to damage from impacts and vibrations. Some models offer waterproof ratings and impact resistance standard certifications, but this model was not designed to brave the elements.

Western Digital Elements external hard drive - the wd elements is a little on the bulky side for this type of...
The WD Elements is a little on the bulky side for this type of drive, but it's still plenty small enough to bring along on most ventures.
Credit: Laura Casner

Value


The WD Elements is an exceptional value. This model outperforms several models that cost much more.

Conclusion


If you're looking for an external HDD that outperforms much of the competition at a fraction of the price, look no further than the Western Digital Elements. While it can't quite match the best of the best in any of our three testing metrics, it showed commendable results for all of them. This model is definitely the way to go for most people shopping for an external hard drive on a budget.

Ross Patton

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