Patriot Aero Wireless Mobile Drive review: Fast and capable but not innovative

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design and setup: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Service and support: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Patriot Aero Wireless Mobile Drive is compact, delivers very fast speeds via USB 3.0, and has decent battery life.

The Bad There's no car charger included, and you can't use the mobile app to search, preview, or organize content.

The Bottom Line The Patriot Aero is a fast and competent mobile drive that unfortunately doesn't have enough new features to make it stand out.

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The Aero Wireless Mobile Drive is Patriot's answer to Corsair's Voyager Air and Seagate's Wireless Plus.

The device is essentially a bus-powered USB 3.0 portable drive with a built-in Wi-Fi access point and an internal battery to provide external storage, with HD-streaming capability, to up to five concurrent wireless clients.

The Aero is closer to the Wireless Plus in terms of hardware specs, since it doesn't have a network port. However, its battery life, some 6 hours, is in the same range as the Voyager Air's.

In my testing, the new Patriot Aero topped the charts in USB 3.0 performance. However, its primitive mobile app could do with some innovation to offer a better user experience.

Overall, the Patriot Aero works well but has nothing new to offer, which is disappointing considering it's the latest of its type on the market. At its street price of about $190 for 1TB or $160 for 500GB, it's a quite good buy, but not a decidedly better deal than any of the mobile storage alternatives on this list.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Size (LWH) 3.9 inches by 5.47 inches by 0.96 inch
Weight 0.7 pound
Apps included Patriot Connect app for iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android devices
Available capacities 1TB / 500GB
OSes supported iOS 5.1 or later (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android (2.2.3 or later), Kindle Fire, Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS 10.5.8 or later
Max concurrent Wi-Fi clients supported 5 (HD video streaming-capable)
Mobile-streaming format supported Video: MP4, MOV, M4V | Audio: MP3, M4A  | Image: JPG, PNG | Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF

The new Patriot Aero and its peers in hard-drive-based mobile wireless storage: the Seagate Wireless Plus, Corsair Voyager Air, and G-Tech G-Connect.
The new Patriot Aero and its peers in hard-drive-based mobile wireless storage: the Seagate Wireless Plus, Corsair Voyager Air, and G-Tech G-Connect. Dong Ngo/CNET

Design
The Patriot Aero Wireless Mobile Drive is about the same size physically as the Corsair Voyager Air, or the G-Tech G-Connect, and slightly thicker than the Wireless Plus. Still, it's very compact, considering it offers up to 1TB of storage space, and comes with a built-in Wi-Fi access point and a battery. You can easily hide it in a handbag or even a jacket pocket.

On one side the device has a standard Micro-USB 3.0 port, a power button, and a DC-in port. You just need to press quickly on the power button, without holding, to turn the device on or off. Patriot makes this button slightly recessed to reduce the chance of accidental presses.

The Aero includes a power adapter and a standard USB 3.0 cable, but doesn't have a car charger. Only the USB cable is needed when the drive is plugged in to a computer and the power adapter is only for charging it when you're out and about. In my testing, the drive did indeed work as a bus-powered device with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports.

On top, the Aero has three tiny LED lights that show the status of the power, the Wi-Fi network, and the charging process. On another side, it has a battery gauge, similar to one used with many laptops' batteries. The gauge has a small button that turns on an array of four white lights, each representing 25 percent of the battery capacity.

The Patriot Aero has a battery gauge so you can quickly check its battery life.
The Patriot Aero has a battery gauge so you can quickly check its battery life. Dong Ngo/CNET

A versatile portable drive
There's nothing to setting up the Patriot Aero. Out of the box, it's formatted in exFAT file format, meaning it works as a blank external hard drive with both Windows PCs and Macs, without any restriction, as soon as you turn it on and plug it in. When plugged into a computer via USB, the drive also started charging its battery, which, in the case of my review unit, was totally out of juice by default.

Once the battery is charged, the drive can also work as a mobile wireless storage device. Note that it can work as either a mobile wireless storage device (battery-powered) or a portable external hard drive (plugged in, not broadcasting Wi-Fi), but not both at once.

In short, in my testing, the Patriot Aero worked just like any other bus-powered portable drive on the market, such as the Seagate Backup Plus or the WD My Passport Ultra, with an exception that it has a power button.

The Patriot Aero has a Web interface for managing it via connected computers.
The Patriot Aero has a Web interface for managing it via connected computers. Dong Ngo/CNET

Functional but limited wireless storage device
To make the Patriot Aero work as a mobile media server, you just need to turn it on without connecting it to a computer. The device then activates its Wi-Fi network using the default network name (or SSID), which is "Patriot." This network is open and you can connect any Wi-Fi-enabled device to it.

You can further customize the Aero's Wi-Fi network and other settings using its Web interface from a computer or the freely downloadable Patriot Connect app from a tablet or smartphone.

The Web interface -- which is accessible at the default IP address 10.10.10.254 -- makes it possible to change a few settings of the device, including its name, the Wi-Fi network's name, and its encryption. Apart from the interface, any connected computer can also use the Aero as a network storage server (NAS).

You can browse it with Windows Explorer on a Windows computer, and on a Mac it automatically appears in the Finder. To access data stored on it, you need to use the default admin account, which is admin for both username and password. The entire drive is shared as one public share folder called, appropriately, "Public." Once this share folder is opened, you can make shortcut or map a network drive to it, just as you can do with any NAS sever.

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About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.