The scoop: Wireless Plus mobile storage, by Seagate, about $200 (1TB capacity)
What is it? The Wireless Plus external hard drive is the upgrade to Seagate's GoFlex Satellite line. In addition to providing 1TB of storage capacity (Seagate says this includes more than 500 movies, thousands of songs, photos and documents), the unit has a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection (802.11b/g/n). The Wi-Fi connection lets users connect to the drive via mobile device (smartphone, tablet), but can also act as a bridge with a user's router, providing Internet access for the phone/tablet as well as access to the drive.
Why it's cool: The Seagate Media app (I tested with an iPad) streams video, music and photo content from the drive to the mobile device. This means you can enjoy this content without needing to fill up the phone or tablet's storage with multimedia files. If you have a lot of media content, it makes more sense to store it on the drive, allowing you to buy a less-expensive tablet with minimal storage. The drive also now lets you stream content to an AirPlay supported device, including AppleTV or AirPlay-enabled speakers. DLNA support also means things like your game console can access the drive to view movies or listen to music.
While the drive does fine within a home streaming situation, it becomes even more valuable when you take it with you. Placing the Wireless Plus in a car, for example, lets everyone access their movies or music on their own phones or tablets. A photo on the box shows a hiker enjoying his content on top of a mountain - if that floats your boat, it certainly works well for that (as long as you can find ways to recharge the device after its 10-hour battery life expires).
Some caveats: The wireless connection on the drive is 2.4GHz only, not dual-band, which can be tricky for homes with wireless holes. If you want to use the drive as both a streaming device as well as an Internet bridge, placement of the device can be difficult - it has to be close enough to connect to the router, but also close enough to wherever your mobile devices are. In my case, this meant limiting wireless streaming to a few rooms, as the 2.4GHz band has some odd coverage/holes due to walls and other obstacles.
In addition, keep in mind that if you are out and about, the Internet bridge will only work within a Wi-Fi network, or if you have a 3G or 4G wireless device. I'm still waiting for that wireless storage device that includes Wi-Fi for local streaming and a WAN connection for Internet access - will that be the Holy Grail in this space?
Bottom line: This unit is essential if you have a ton of multimedia content (let's say more than 64GB) that you'd like to access at any time, or if you want multiple users to access different content from different devices. The improvements from the GoFlex Satellite are appreciated, and the media app's UI is vastly improved as well.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
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