August 19th, 2011 by Brian Beeler
WD Nomad Rugged External Drive Case Review
There are times when a standard plastic shell is plenty good enough to protect a portable hard drive; taking the subway to work, moving from your office to the conference room...that sort of thing. There are other times when your data needs a little more protection - that's where the Western Digital Nomad rugged external drive case comes in. The hard polycarbonate shell and elastomer cushion lining protect the WD My Passport drive inside from the harsher side of life.
The Nomad case is specifically designed to house and protect WD's line of My Passport external hard drives. Opening the case reveals the cushioned interior that hugs the drive tightly, holding it in place. Even with the door open, you can turn the case upside down and shake it, the drive keeps stuck in the case. Simply close the door and lock the clip and you're ready to go. The lock places pressure on an orange silicon seal that blocks out water, dust and other potential contaminants.
To access the drive within the case, there's a small door on the bottom of the Nomad, so there's no need to ever take the drive out. Popping open the door reveals the port on the bottom of the My Passport drive. This door is probably the largest concern when considering drive safety. If the door is accidentally left open or not closed all the way, water and other nasties can find their way in. To find out how well this door and the rest of the case stands up, we ran a few semi-scientific tests.
WD Nomad in Use
Western Digital claims the Nomad can sustain drops of seven feet and the case offers a "tight barrier that resists spills, moisture, dust, and dirt." To put these claims to the test we dropped it from eight feet; first onto padded carpet inside our office and then onto the hard asphalt parking lot. Before we performed these tests, we ran preliminary benchmarks on the drive to see average and peak latency times. In theory if drive problems surfaced, random read and write speeds could drop or response times could skyrocket if the drive head suffered damage.
The first drop test consisted of holding the drive above my head with my arm fully extended and dropping it on the floor corner first. The drive bounced, picked up some dust, and didn't look any worse for wear. Plugging the drive back in for re-testing, we found average and peak latency times to be identical and in some cases improved from the baseline. Simply put the drive survived.
The more stressful test repeated these conditions, but this time outside in our parking lot. The drive took a nasty spill and this time did show some damage. The case was scuffed by the asphalt (acceptable given this type of test), but it remained latched. Upon opening we were greeted with one of the rubber bumpers dislodged inside and the external drive had one seam slightly unsnapped. Considering it took an 8 foot drop onto the corner, all looked pretty good. With minimal effort the bumper popped back into place, the seam on the drive snapped back into position, and besides some scuffs on the Nomad you wouldn't know anything happened. During our re-testing the drive still functioned perfect with no abnormal average or peak latency times.
The Nomad is also water-resistant and able to withstand getting caught out in the rain. A durable gasket around the perimeter of the case keeps out water (and dust), as well as a small rubber flap which covers access to the USB 3.0 port on the side. Technically speaking I think Western Digital might have been able to make the design fully waterproof if they left the case as one piece instead of adding the port hole, but then you would need to constantly remove the drive any time you wanted to use the drive. To test the primary claims we stuck the case under running water, and found no water intrusion after the test.
In our testing the Nomad worked as advertised, protecting the drive inside from 7+ foot drops on carpet and asphalt as well as withstanding our water fountain test. For $30 buyers get a semi-rugged case capable of withstanding the accidents of everyday life - a pretty good deal depending on the value of the data on the hard drive. The Nomad is an easy recommendation for owners of My Passport external hard drives who want a little extra physical protection for their data.