If you have an iPhone, HTC One or another mobile device with non-removable storage, chances are you're stuck with the onboard memory for stashing music and movies. For the multimedia junkie on the move, the $99 SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive offers an extra 64GB of capacity (or $79.99 for 32GB) in a tiny package that iOS and Android device owners can access wirelessly through a free app. Read on to see whether your storage woes are over.
Click to EnlargeWrapped in a chic band of brushed aluminum with smoothed, chamfered edges, the Media Drive takes its design cues from media players such as the Roku. With its checkered top half sporting a chrome SanDisk logo, the drive's sleek design and non-slip rubber bottom earned admiring looks from us.
The Media Drive's power button, microUSB 2.0 port, SDHC/SDXC card (expandable by up to 256GB or higher on SDXC) slot and lights sit on its aluminum band. The device's green LEDs indicate its charge, when it's broadcasting Wi-Fi and when it allows access to the Internet via passthrough.
At just 2.6 x 2.6 x 0.52 inches and 2.8 ounces, the Media Drive can slip easily into your pocket, and is much more portable than the $199 Seagate Wireless Plus (5 x 3.5 x 0.78 inches, 9 ounces).
To charge the Media Drive, simply connect it to a PC or Mac using the included USB 2.0 cable or through an outlet using the USB-to-AC adapter that comes in the box. Unfortunately, we found the included USB cable to be on the short side and rather flimsy -- it popped out of the drive entirely too easily. This issue quickly grows annoying when you're trying to move files the old-fashioned way or simply charge the device.
Click to EnlargeSanDisk did an excellent job of matching alluring hardware with intuitive software. Available for free on the iOS, Google Play and Kindle app stores, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive allows you to stream movies and music as well as view photos wirelessly -- and quickly.
In SanDisk's app, our content was no more than two taps away. Within the app are folders designated for music, movies and photos as well as a generic "Files" folder that houses everything else, such as Word documents and PDFs. However, whether you can actually play those files depends upon whether your device supports that format.
Click to EnlargeWe found it easy to zip through our photos either on our iPhone or on the drive through the app, and uploading or downloading is a simple process. This app is nearly identical on Android devices, save for the ability to download the entire contents of the drive at once.
You can transfer and stream files securely to the Media Drive via WEP or WPA encryption. Better yet, you can connect your mobile device to the Internet through the Media Drive, so you can still get online while streaming files from the device itself.
Click to EnlargeSanDisk promises that the Media Drive can deliver a 720p video stream to up to five mobile devices at once. Streaming the "Thor" trailer at 1080p to a single iPhone 5 produced no noticeable issues, but playback suffered when we added additional phones.
While streaming the latest trailer for "Elysium" at 1280 x 720 to three Samsung Galaxy S4s, an LG Nexus 4 and an iPhone 5, video stuttered on a few devices, while the Nexus 4 got caught in multiple buffering choke points. Streaming 1080p trailers for "The Wolverine" and "Thor: The Dark World" to an iPhone 5 and a Samsung Galaxy S4 resulted in even worse playback, with several complete stops along the way.
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When it was playing, though, video quality was good, with no pixelation or artifacts.
Click to EnlargeSanDisk's Wireless Media Drive took a terribly long 30 minutes and 40 seconds to wirelessly transfer 4.97GB of multimedia files to an iPhone 5. That sluggish time amounts to a wireless file transfer rate of 2.7 MBps.
Over USB 3.0, copying the same 4.97GB of multimedia files to the Media Drive took 13:56, a write speed of 6.08 MBps. That pales in comparison to the Seagate Wireless Plus's speed of 32.8 MBps. Copying those files off the Media Drive took 5:20, or 15.9 MBps. The Wireless Plus again came in with a much higher rate of 36.4 MBps.
SanDisk promises up to 8 hours of power from the Media Drive while streaming 720p video to a single device at 2 MBps. In our testing (streaming a 720p video to an iPhone 5), the Media Drive exceeded SanDisk's claim, lasting 10 hours and 9 minutes. This blows away Seagate Wireless Plus, which lasted 3:50 in a similar test.
Click to EnlargeThe $99 SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive is a highly portable device that offers more than double the amount of storage in many of today's smartphones and tablets, and 10 hours of endurance. However, there's room for improvement. The included USB cord didn't always feel secure, and, while we could stream video to one device easily, the Media Drive didn't fare as well when streaming to five gadgets at once. Those who need more storage will prefer the $199 Seagate Wireless Plus, which is also Airplay compatible. However, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive will suit solo travelers who want to carry a theater's worth of movies in their pocket.