Top 5 Wireless Portable Hard Drives



With a web developer, an avid photographer and a graphics designer in the team, we have invested in network storage and backups in our workplace including cloud solutions for backing up to the web. But we were never quite sure how to bring our files with us especially when we are on assignments abroad or working away from the office.

Accessing files remotely or in the cloud meant we had to have a reliable Internet connection in the country we are in and that usually meant relying on our expensive and metered mobile data plan or internet connections in the cafe. Working with big graphics and photos also meant transferring huge files over the Internet is inefficient. We needed a solution…

Life would have been so much easier for us and other mobile workers out there if we had a wireless portable hard drive that can be shared among all the different devices; laptop, smartphone and tablets but why limit it to just business and work.

Why Wireless Portable Storage

Here are some other reasons why one might need a wireless portable storage solution. Spending hours on long haul flights, trains or buses for your commute to work and wished you have all your High Definition movies, entire season’s TV series, music collection, photos or even work with you.

Or knowing that you are going on a road trip and wished you can bring enough movies to keep the kids happy on their devices. Or wished you had a way of backing up all your photos from your smartphone, camera and mobile devices while you are on holiday, to free up some space for more photos.

The answer is a  portable hard drive with mobile WiFi and battery built-in. Here is a quick comparison of the top 5 most popular wireless portable hard drive currently in the market.

Wireless Mobile Storage

The list below shows our criteria for comparison. For each device we are going to look at the following:

  • Storage size(s)
  • Wireless capabilities
  • Mobile app and file formats supported
  • Dimension & weight
  • Battery life
  • Price(s)
  • Rating

We will be comparing the following:

Update 2014

Earlier this year at CES 2014, Lacie announced the Lacie FUEL, a portable wireless storage solution aimed at iOS devices. This neat little package features a rugged look and bright orange corner that doubles as a hook more on this at the bottom of the article so keep reading

corsairvoyagerair1Corsair Voyager Air 1TB USB 3.0 Portable Wireless Hard Drive – Red/Black 7 hours

The Voyager Air is a three in one portable wireless drive. It can function as a home network drive when connected to the router via its Gigabit Ethernet port or the home wireless network, the only device in this line up that comes with an Ethernet port. You can connect it directly using the USB 3.0 port to your computer as a external hard drive or turn on the wireless hub mode to serve files to your mobile devices while on the go.

corsairvoyagerair3

When on the home network, use smart TVs, Blu Ray players, gaming console or streaming media boxes to access videos or music from the hard drive. Or charge it up and take it with you as your mobile office companion or entertainment hub serving up your files (movies, TV shows, music and files) for long road trips, business trip, long commutes and vacations.
Its built in wireless capability meant multiple mobile devices can connect to it and access its media library without the need for an external wireless network. Corsair claims that it can hold up to 5 devices streaming high definition video content simultaneously for up to 7 hours between charge.

There is a feature that not all devices listed here has it, the Voyager Air allows you to connect to a public hotspot (hotels or libraries) and enable wireless pass through to share Internet access with other mobile devices. iOS app supports AirPlay. Car adapter included.

Storage size(s): 500GB, 1TB
Wireless capabilities: 802.11B, 802.11G, 802.11n, Streams HD video to up to 5 users at one time, connect up to 8 devices, range up to 90 feet, wireless hub with pass through for Internet access sharing. [Best Performer]
Mobile app and file formats supported: iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and Android (smartphones and tablets) with Corsair Voyager Air app

  • Video: MP4, MOV (iOS only), M4V (iOS only)
  • Images: JPG, PNG
  • Music: MP3, M4A (iOS only)
  • Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF

Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight
243 x 174 x 50 mm 531 gram [Biggest and Heaviest]
Battery life: 7 Hours
Price: £159.99 (1TB)

Rating: 5.0 Star ★★★★★ [Tie with Seagate Wireless Plus]

 

seagatewirelessplus1Seagate 1TB Wireless Plus USB 3.0 Mobile Device Storage – Brushed Metal 10 hours

UPDATE: There currently an offer on this device at £140.00 (RRP £169.99) a savings of £29.99

The Seagate Wireless Plus lets you carry and stream your movies, songs and access files on your mobile devices while on the go. It comes with a USB 3.0 port so you can connect to your desktop and laptop and transfer files to it quickly. The free Seagate Media app is available for iOS (iPad, iPhone), Kindle Fire and Android devices.

seagatewirelessplus3

The built in WiFi is capable of streaming up to 3 different HD movies to 3 devices simultaneously, and up to 8 devices connected at the same time to access photos, songs or documents. While it doesn’t come with an Ethernet port let alone Gigabit Ethernet, the 10-hour battery life more than make up for it.

As with Corsair’s Voyager Air, it is capable of creating its own WiFi network removing the need for wires, internet hotspot or tethering on your phone. Access the media library using DLNA compatible devices such as game consoles, media players, smart TVs and Blu-ray player to enjoy movies, photos and music on the big screen. There is also a dedicated App on Samsung’s smart TV media hub that lets you access the library on a visually rich interface.

The Seagate Media app on iOS has AirPlay feature allowing you to not only stream and view videos on your iPad or iPhone but lets you switch to the big screen via Apple TV or listen to songs on AirPlay enabled speakers. When connected to a WiFi Internet hotspot, it is also capable of of sharing its Internet access with 7 other devices and lets you access the media library while you browse the Internet.

Storage size(s): 1TB
Wireless capabilities: 802.11B, 802.11G, 802.11n, Streams HD video to up to 3 devices at one time, file sharing up to 8 devices, range up to 150 feet, wireless hub with pass through for Internet access sharing.
Mobile app and file formats supported: iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android (smartphones and tablets) and Kindle Fire with Seagate Media app. For file formats which are not supported natively, the app offers the option to download the file onto the device and use a third party app for playback, alternatively there are third party app that will stream videos directly.

  • Video: H.264 video, MPEG-4, Motion-JPEG
  • Images: JPG
  • Music: AAC, MP3, M4a, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV
  • Documents: Microsoft® Office®, iWork®, Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF)

Connectivity: WiFi or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight127 x 89 x 19.9 mm 256 gram [Smallest]
Battery life: 10 Hours [Best Battery Life]
Price: £140.00 (1TB) – limited time offer RRP £169.99

Rating: 5.0 Star ★★★★★ [Tie with Corsair Voyager Air]

 

buffaloministationair1Buffalo MiniStation Air 500GB USB 3.0 & Wireless Portable Storage – Black 4 hours

Available only with 500GB storage option, the Buffalo MiniStation Air is one of the first wireless portable storage in the market. The unit is the smaller among those reviewed here with a built in hard drive but not the lightest. Upload and share files over the WiFi from smartphones and tablets using the MiniStation Air app. It allows internet access via WiFi connection when using ‘Internet mode’.

buffaloministationair2WiFi setup is easy with WPS or AOSS (pressing connect button), secure connection with WPA2 wireless encrypton. For large files, use the wireless hard drive as a connected storage and transfer files via the USB 3.0 port. For its poor battery life, limited functionality and only half the storage size compared to its hard disk based peers, we give it a 3 star rating.

Storage size(s): 500GB
Wireless capabilities: 802.11B, 802.11G, 802.11n, stream HD videos simultaneously up to 3 devices, connect up to 8 devices at one time, range not available, wireless hub with pass through for Internet access sharing.
Mobile app and file formats supported: iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and Android (smartphones and tablets) with MiniStation Air app.

  • Video: MOV, MP4, MPV, 3GP, MPEG-4 V2 (simple profile), H.264
  • Image: GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP
  • Music: AAC-LC, MP3
  • Documents: MS Office 97 or later, PDF, Text, Rich Text Format (RTF) documents

Connectivity: WiFi or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight: 130 x 84 x 23 mm 285 gram
Battery life: 4 Hours
Price£101.38 (500GB)

Rating: 2.0 Star ★★☆☆☆

 

patriotaero-iso-left300Patriot Aero PCGTW1000S/PCGTW500S USB3.0 Wireless Mobile Drive – Black 6 hours

Available with 500GB or 1TB storage option, the Patriot Aero is by no means inspiring in terms of design. Also available is the Patriot Gauntlet Node Wireless Hard drive enclosure. Stream HD movies (720p) simultaneously up to 5 devices (maximum connected devices 8).

patriotaero-batt-side300Other features include WiFi access point with Internet pass through for Internet connection sharing, wireless security using either WEP, WPA or WPA2, push button battery level indicator and support for 3rd party apps. It has a middling battery life at 6 hours, better than the 4 hours on Buffalo MiniStation Air but not as good as the Corsair Voyager Air (7 hours) or Seagate Wireless Plus (10 hours)

Storage size(s)500GB / 1TB
Wireless capabilities: 802.11B, 802.11G, 802.11n, stream HD videos simultaneously up to 5 devices, connect up to 8 devices at one time, range not available, wireless hub with pass through for Internet access sharing.
Mobile app and file formats supported: iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android (smartphones and tablets) and Kindle Fire app with Patriot Connect app.

  • Video: MP4, MOV, M4V
  • Image: JPEG, PNG
  • Music: MP3, M4A
  • Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF

Connectivity: WiFi or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight: 139 x 86 x 24.4 mm 295 gram
Battery life: 6 Hours
Price£166.95 (1GB)£118.96 (500GB)

Rating: 3.0 Star ★★★☆☆

 

spskysharehd101-300Silicon Power Sky Share H10 500GB or 1TB USB3.0 Wireless Hard Drive – Piano Black 5 hours

While the WiFi performance is good with built-in 2T2R antenna that provides 1.5 times faster data transfer rate at speeds of up to 300Mbps, the battery life is again, slightly on the lower side at 5 hours. The package is small and light, in a piano black plastic body with a circular ripple design that focuses on the power button. This design is multiple award winning (Golden Pin Design Mark 2012 and Tom’s Hardware Best of Computex 2012).

spskysharehd102-300As with all the devices featured here, it supports network connection mode (WiFi bridge mode) allowing devices to access the hard disk while connected to the Internet. The Sky Share app lets you download and upload files from mobile devices and change the wireless settings on the wireless mobile hard drive. The drive can be recharged using the USB 3.0 port.

Storage size(s)500GB / 1TB
Wireless capabilities: 802.11B, 802.11G, 802.11n, stream HD videos simultaneously up to 3 devices, connect up to 8 devices at one time, range up to 100 feet, wireless hub with pass through for Internet access sharing.
Mobile app and file formats supported: iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android (smartphones and tablets) with Sky Share app

  • Video: MP4, MOV, M4V on iOS, M4V, MP4 on Android
  • Image: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF on iOS, JPEG, PNG on Android
  • Music: MP3 on iOS, MP3, WMA on Android
  • Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF

Connectivity: WiFi or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight: 133 x 86 x 23.5 mm 255 gram [Lightest]
Battery life: 5 Hours
Price£101.79 (1GB)£78.45 (500GB) – Offer Prices [Best Value]

Rating: 3.0 Star ★★★☆☆

Update: Lacie Joints the Wireless Portable Storage Game

Earlier this year, Lacie annouced the arrival of their new portable storage solution in the form of a smart square package, the not only looks good but performs well too. While there aren’t many customer reviews out yet but judging from the spec and its good looks, they are definitely on to a winner.

LaCie Fuel 1TB Wireless 3.0 USB – Gray and Orange – 10 Hours Battery Life

Thanks to one of our readers, we have come to learn more about the LaCie Fuel. This is the only other device that has the long battery life of 10 hours. It’s one thing to be portable, it’s another to stay on for further and longer so well done to LaCie for designing longevity into the FUEL. Capable of up to 150 feed or 45 meters transmission range, this is sufficient for normal use. The FUEL supports up to a maximum of 5 devices at any one time and the ability to hold 3 HD video streams simultaneously (8 hours of continuous video streaming). LaCie boast that the FUEL is compatible with iOS devices and is able to stream to Apple TV and AirPlay enabled devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch).

If you are on the go; long road trip, hours on the training or transit at the airport, the device can operate in router mode and serves up its own WiFi network allowing up to 5 devices to connect and access its storage together without the need for an Internet connection. BUT should you be stopping at a cafe or hotel with WiFi, then the FUEL can connect to the Internet via the hotspot and allow up to 4 wireless devices to go online. In preparing for your long trip, should you need to carry all that High Definition video, simply connect the FUEL up to your laptop and transfer this quickly using the USB 3.0 cable supplied.

So what about App you may ask. These devices need to come with compatible App, surely to support browsing and streaming of the different media as well as files. Here is where it gets interesting. LaCie recommends Seagate’s Free Media App. Seagate Media App also featured here for the Seagate 1TB Wireless Plus portable hard drive is a versatile app that supports a great list of different files; video, images, music and documents. The app also works as a back up or local storage application that lets you transfer files between your mobile device and the hard drive. You can also set the Seagate Media Sync software to synchronise all your media files with the FUEL automatically to make you that you have a backup copy.

A great all rounder app backed by one of the biggest names in storage. Best of all, the Seagate Media App is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Kindle, so if you have more than one type of device in the family, the FUEL will play well with all of them. We found cross promotions between Seagate and LaCie as they use the same App on their respective websites. The package comes with the Hard Drive, USB 3.0 Cable, USB wall charger and quick guide. With its 1TB storage, the following numbers are quoted for the different types of media.

  • 300 high-definition (HD) movies (1.5GB MP4 H.264),
  • 125,000 songs, or
  • 100,000 photos.

Connectivity: WiFi (b/g/n) or USB 3.0
Dimension & weight: 115 x 115 x 23 mm 300 gram [New Square Profile]
Battery life: 10 Hours
Price: £165 (1TB)

Rating: 5.0 Star ★★★★★

Final Thoughts

The appeal that you need not be limited to the expensive storage especially on iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) to hold your media files and that you can backup your image files (photos) and document from your iPad to free up even more space for Apps and captured media (video and more images) are definitely strong points for buying an wireless portable hard drive. The possibilities of taking your data with you be it for work or play on a with sufficient battery life to last through the day or more gives users more reason to get on. 2014 is going to be the year for portable wireless hard drives albeit quietly.




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Samuel J Tan

Technical Director at Xelium Ltd
Sam is a tech evangelist, e-learning and learning platform enthusiast, tablet and smartphone chomping maniac, mac and windows zealot, wireless & network genius, developer, designer, user experience tinkerer, moodle and sharepoint two timer, social media junkie, web analyst and server engineer (and an all round good guy). He has over 16 years of tech experience ranging from ground-breaking university research networks to high level secure government extranet projects. He has overseen many megabuck project deployments from Building Schools for Future to harnessing technology, improving sustainability and realising a performance framework for technology in school. And now, while every other so-called expert and consultant is plotting away on world domination, Sam is quietly working on helping each and every teacher, lecturer and trainer, one school at a time to make the most of Technology for Teaching to enrich every child’s learning experience.

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  1. Wireless Portable Media Hubs | Colour My Learning
    Feb 05, 2014 @ 15:53:08

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