Design, File Support, and Streaming
Flip over an older iPhone 3G or 3GS, and you could mistake it for the Wi-Drive. The small drive measures 4.8 by 2.4 by 0.4 inches (HWD), and won’t take up too much space in your bag. It has a minimal look, with a logo on its front along with a light that blinks when data is being transferred and LED indicators for Internet and device connectivity. The Power button lives on the right; it blinks when it’s charging and glows when it’s on. Otherwise, there’s not much to see here.
In my mind, the most compelling reason to buy the Wi-Drive (unless you bought a 64GB device and just really need more storage) is that it makes it easier to add content to your devices. Rather than relying on iTunes, managing your content is a simple, drag-and-drop operation. When you plug the Wi-Drive into your computer (PC or Mac), it shows up just like any other external hard drive, and you can drag and drop files right onto the drive. Kingston suggests organizing your files into folders like “Music” and “Videos,” but you don’t need to.
You can add any type of file to the drive, but you’ll only be able to stream files that iOS devices support. For me, that limit was felt most in video, since the Wi-Drive won’t play .AVI files. Music, images and documents are more versatile.
The companion to the Wi-Drive is a free app that connects to the drive and streams content. The app is where you control everything on the Wi-Drive, from setting an optional Wi-Fi password to upgrading the firmware. The upside is that the interface is better than just using a file manager, and initiating the connection is as simple as launching an app; the downside is that it means, at least until Kingston develops more apps, you can’t stream content to anything other than an iOS device (iPhone, iPod (ipod touch firmware 3.1.3 download) touch, or iPad).
Once you download the app from the App Store and install it, getting content playing is simple. Turn on the Wi-Drive, and wait for the blinking blue light that means it’s broadcasting. Go to Settings on your iOS device, and choose the “Wi-Drive” Wi-Fi network. (The Wi-Drive supports 102.11g and n.) Once you’re connected, just fire up the Wi-Drive app and it’ll automatically catalog what’s on your drive. (Once, I had the app hang while trying to look through the hard drive, but a quick restart solved the problem.) Select a file to view from the simple, list-based menu, and it plays back in the app.
You can stream from the Wi-Drive to as many as three iOS devices, which makes the drive a perfect solution for family car trips. I tested that theory, streaming the same video to an iPad, an iPhone, and an iPod (ipod touch firmware 3.1.3 download) touch simultaneously. The Wi-Drive worked well, and streamed to all three devices without any noticeable drop in quality. There was, however, a longer buffering period when more than one device was connected, as well as the occasional stutter in playback that I never encountered with only one device connected.
The Wi-Drive is rated for four hours of playback, which was close to what I experienced during testing. Because Wi-Fi streaming can be a power suck, be aware that it will also decrease your device’s battery life; using the two together is not a long-lasting solution. The Wi-Drive charges through its USB port, so it’ll charge and sync at the same time.
There were a couple of other, mostly minor issues, that I encountered when testing the Wi-Drive. When you plug the Wi-Drive into a computer, it stops broadcasting its wireless signal, and my devices would revert back to the Wi-Fi network they were connected to before, forcing me to re-connect manually once the Wi-Drive was unplugged. You can, fortunately, still access the Internet on your device while connected to the Wi-Drive, since it has a Wi-Fi passthrough feature. You’ll see serious speed drops, though. This is definitely a more useful device when there’s no other Wi-Fi connection around, but how often is that the case? The Wi-Drive also got a bit hot while streaming, but not problematically so.
The Wi-Drive is a handy gadget to have if you need more storage, want a backup of important files, or want to stream a movie to all your kids’ devices at once. AT $ 150 or $ 200, though, it’s an expensive add-on, especially when you compare it to traditional external hard drives. For the price you’re better off with a drive like Seagate’s GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage ($ 199, 3.5 stars), which packs a lot more storage (500GB), supports more devices, and performs better as a regular external hard drive.
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