Top five wireless drives
WHETHER YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL WITH LOTS OF MEDIA, OR YOU SIMPLY WANT A CONVENIENT WIRELESS BACKUP SOLUTION, WIRELESS HARD DRIVES CAN PROVIDE THE ANSWER YOU NEED.
NEED A BIT of extra storage for your massive media collection or for backup? Before you go and fork over money for a new USB drive, you may want to consider a wireless drive instead. The next evolution of the USB drive, wireless drives can provide the extra storage capacity you need, with the added advantage that you don’t even need to plug them into anything.
They make especially excellent travelling companions, too. You can download your media to the drive and watch it from your tablet when you’re away from home, and several people can even stream from it at once. They also provide convenient backup targets for multiple computers, without the need to flit from one PC to the next, plugging and unplugging from USB ports.
A number of wireless drives also support media sharing through DLNA, so Smart TVs and consoles can stream movies and music from them as well!
WD My Passport Wireless Pro 3TB AN 802.11AC DRIVE THAT PACKS IN A TON OF FEATURES.
ONE OF THE newer products in this review, WD’s My Passport Pro is one of the most advanced and useful wireless drives we’ve seen. It’s one of the few that uses 802.11ac, it supports media services and device hosting all in one compact package.
It has Windows File Sharing and Plex media services built in. You can transfer files to it over the network or through its USB 3.0 device port. Its battery is rated for 10 hours. It’s the all the little extras, however, that set the WD apart. It has an SD Card slot, as well as a USB 2.0 host port into which you can plug additional storage. What’s more, the USB host port does provide power, which means you can use the My Passport Pro to charge other devices from its 6,400mAh battery.
All this is controlled from a very slick software suite, which includes both a useful management tool, as well as a capable backup tool. Combined with its high speed — we uploaded content to the drive over 802.11ac at 28.3MB/s — make this one of our top choices for wireless drives.
Kingston MobileLite Wireless G3 THE VERSATILITY MAKES IT A GREAT OPTION.
KINGSTON’S MOBILELITE G3 is an interesting beast. It has no integral storage. Instead, it uses storage connected to its USB 2.0 host port and SD card port. That means it has as much ‘capacity’ as you’re willing to plug into it. (For people who do want some capacity, there is a Pro version with 64GB of flash storage and a slightly larger battery.)
The USB 2.0 host port can deliver up to 2A of power, so most portable hard drives will work just fine. That also makes the MobileLite a decent charger for phones and the like; it has 5,400mAh of power in its own battery bank.
It also has excellent networking capabilities. In addition to its 802.11ac Wi-Fi support, the Kingston has a wired Fast Ethernet port, allowing the Kingston to do double duty as an effective wireless access point.
Overall, we were really impressed with the versatility and functionality of the G3. Its mobile apps are not flashy, but they’re fast and functional, while its networking and protocol support is top of the line. USB 3.0 ports would have been nice, but it’s still a great buy.
LaCie Fuel 2TB A GREAT SOFTWARE PACKAGE MAKE THIS A TOP CHOICE.
ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED WITH a laser-focus on Mac and iOS users, LaCie’s Fuel now has solid support for Windows and Android as well. We tested it with all three platforms. As with parent company Seagate’s Wireless Plus, LaCie’s real strength is in the supporting software. There’s so much to like about it, from the user-friendly setup to the comprehensive set of tools you have for streaming and managing media. The mobile apps are great for viewing media stored on the drive, and they can also be used to beam it to an Apple TV, Chromecast or DLNA device. They have the ability to synchronise the contents of the drive with Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as smoothly sync the photos on your phone with the Fuel.
The Fuel is limited to 802.11n wireless, which does restrict the number of devices it can support simultaneously. We managed two HD video streams without a problem, and managed to transfer files at 12.2MB/s over wireless, which is solid for 802.11n. You can also connect it to a PC using USB 3.0, and the battery life is rated for 10 hours.
Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Stick 128GB A MARVEL OF MINIATURISATION — JUST DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH.
IF PORTABILITY IS your priority in a wireless drive, then you won’t be able to do better than this. Available in versions up to 256GB (we looked at the 128GB version), the SanDisk Connect looks much like a fat thumb drive and weighs just 22g. The stick still has an internal battery, capable of 4.5 hours of independent usage and recharged when you plug it into a USB port.
As you might expect, the specs on the Wireless Stick are not exactly top of the line. Only single band 802.11n is supported and the USB is 2.0. Its application support is also limited. It does not have any integral DLNA or SMB support. Instead, you’ll have to use the Sandisk Connect Drive app on Android and iOS or a web browser on PC. The mobile app is perfectly solid, and includes mobile backup and media streaming but not much else. If you don’t mind being limited to just the mobile apps, the Stick is pretty great. Plug it in to your PC, copy your media files. Launch the app on your mobile and play. It’s nice and simple.
Seagate Wireless Plus 1TB A GREAT (AND AFFORDABLE) USER EXPERIENCE.
ALTHOUGH THE SEAGATE Wireless Plus can now be fairly described as venerable (it was first released in 2013), it’s still a great solution for carrying around data that won’t fit on your mobile.
The drive is barely larger than a standard USB hard drive, but it still manages to pack in a 10-hour battery pack. You can get it in 1TB or 2TB capacity, and you can either connect it directly to your PC using USB 3.0 or talk to it over the 150Mbps 802.11n. The latter is a little outdated, but we still had no problems getting two HD video streams running at once.
What really sold the drive for us, however, was the software bundle that Seagate provides. It’s perfect for non-technical users. The drive supports Windows File Sharing and DLNA, as well as web browser access to files, but for non-nerds, it’s also very easy to get up and running with the Seagate apps for Windows and mobile. There’s even a sync tool for Windows.
It’s not a drive with a lot of bells and whistles, but it provides a smooth user experience and still manages to be a favourite, even at its advanced age.