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

The Aero supports the Wireless-N standard (802.11n) but just the lowest tier (single-stream), which caps at 150Mbps. It works only on the 2.4GHz frequency band, and doesn't support the 5GHz band. While this is a little disappointing, that's currently the norm for devices of this type: the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air share the same Wi-Fi standard. This is because supporting faster Wi-Fi would have the trade-off of shorter battery life or larger physical size.

Simple and rather primitive mobile app
The Patriot Connect mobile app worked as intended in my testing but it was rather limited. You first need to connect the mobile device you're using the app on to the Wi-Fi network of the Aero; after that, the Patriot Connect software will display the content stored on the wireless hard drive laid out in folders, the same way you'd see it via a computer, without thumbnail images or preview or search capabilities.

This is OK if you want to play back the entire folder of music or photos, but would be a pain if you wanted to play a particular song or view a particular photo. In that case, you'd have to find the right folder or subfolder, then tap on individual file names and wait for each photo to be displayed or song to be played, which can take a few seconds depending on the size. This is especially hard with photos because generally they have random names generated by the digital camera.

With the Patriot Connect app you can download content from the Aero and upload user-generated content to it at the same time.
With the Patriot Connect app you can download content from the Aero and upload user-generated content to it at the same time. Dong Ngo/CNET

It would be much better, especially for those with lots of data, if the Aero could automatically organize digital content into categories for the app to access, the way the Seagate Wireless Plus does.

In addition, the app only supports a very limited number of file formats. I tried the Patriot Connect app with an iPad and it could only stream file formats that were supported by the tablet itself. This means as far as video is concerned, the mobile app could only stream content made specifically for mobile platforms, which leaves out some popular formats for HD videos, such as Matroska and Xvid.

Note that you can always download a file to the mobile device to play it back by a third-party app, but that defeats the purpose of the Aero, which is storage expander.

What worked very well in my trials was downloading content from the Aero (to play back even when the device is turned off) and backing up user-generated content, such as videos and photos, from the mobile device to the Aero. You can do both at the same time and the device can handle multiple files at a time. I noticed, however, that content backed up on the Aero is saved in its root directory, and this could mean chaos if you share it with a few users who also want to back up their own photos or videos: you'll soon lose track of what belongs to who.

The Patriot Aero supports Internet relaying, meaning it can connect itself to another Wi-Fi network and share the Internet connection with the rest of the clients connected to its own Wi-Fi network.
The Patriot Aero supports Internet relaying, meaning it can connect itself to another Wi-Fi network and share the Internet connection with the rest of the clients connected to its own Wi-Fi network. Dong Ngo/CNET

The second feature that worked well is the Internet sharing feature. Using the mobile app, you can make the Aero connect to another Wi-Fi network and then share the Internet connection with the rest of devices connected to its own Wi-Fi network. The wireless drive supports all type of Wi-Fi hot spots, including those that require you to sign in via a Web page. This makes it a great accessory for those wanting to share Wi-Fi-enabled Internet access with multiple clients while on the go.

All of what the Aero can do, however, is already available, and even better implemented, in the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air. Overall, the Aero offers nothing new.

Performance
I tested the Patriot Aero as a portable drive with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and it offered very fast performance.

When used with USB 3.0, it scored 110MBps for both writing and reading, making it the fastest among its peers. When used with USB 2.0, it registered 26MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

The mobile storage device's Wi-Fi performance was also quite good. Most of the time I could stream content with no lag or pauses for buffering at all. This experience varies, obviously depending on the file size of the content.

The Wi-Fi range was also typical for this type of device, with an effective range of up to 50 feet. Farther than that, the connection is only good for sharing the Internet and over 75 feet, you'll start losing the connection.

I tried the Aero with a few mobile devices and its battery held up pretty well, lasting about 6.5 hours with slightly more than casual usage. Battery life can fluctuate significantly depending on how you use the drive, however.

The Patriot Aero was generally a silent device, with just a subtle humming of the hard drive on the inside that could be detected in a quiet room. It also remained cool even during heavy loads.

CNET Labs USB 3.0 external hard-drive performance (measured in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
Patriot Aero
110.45
110
Seagate Wireless Plus
109.75
109.5
Corsair Voyager Air
107.45
104.6

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard-drive performance (measured in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
Corsair Voyager Air
32.67
26.5
Patriot Aero
32.5
26.4

Conclusion
If the Patriot Aero had come out five months ago it would have been an exciting device. But since then the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air have arrived, with features that make the Aero just another option in the increasingly crowded market of devices that provide wireless mobile storage for tablets and smartphones.

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