Its supersmall size is not the only cool thing about the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive.
The new device is the latest to join the long list of battery-operated Wi-Fi storage devices and is the first from SanDisk, a major maker of flash-based storage devices. It comes with up to 64GB of built-in flash memory. However, users can expand its capacity to up to 192GB -- possibly even more in near future -- thanks to its built-in standard SD card slot. The card slot also means that you can quickly view or share photos and video shot by a digital camera, on or with up to eight Wi-Fi devices at a time.
The new device worked well in my testing as a mobile media-streaming and backup server, but as a USB-connected portable drive it was very slow. However, at just $100 (or $82 if you get the 32GB version), it still makes a great accessory for tablet or smartphone owners or photographers who want to carry some extra content on the go and be able to back up, preview, and share content as well as hot-spot Internet while traveling. For alternatives that offer better performance, and much larger storage space, check out those on this list.
Compact and versatile
The Media Drive is a tiny square box that's only 2.6 inches wide and 0.52 inch tall. And it's quite amazing what it has packed inside: a battery that offers about 8 hours of usage, up to 64GB of built-in storage space, and a 802.11n Wi-Fi network. Best of all, it comes with a built-in SD card slot, which means you can add more storage to it. Since SD cards now offer up to 128GB, you can pack an impressive amount of data into this tiny device.
|Drive type||Flash-based external USB storage device with built-in internal Wi-Fi access point and battery|
|Connector options||USB 2.0
|Size (WLH)||2.6 inches by 2.6 inches by 0.52 inch|
|Apps included||SanDisk Media Drive for iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Android-based devices|
|Available capacities||32GB, 64GB, plus one SD card
|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 10.6 or later|
|Max concurrent Wi-Fi clients supported||8 (only 5 for HD video streaming)|
|Mobile streaming format supported||Video: MP4, MOV (iOS only), M4V (iOS only) | Audio: MP3, M4A (iOS only) | Image: JPG, PNG | Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF|
The addition of an SD card slot means more than just storage expansion. You now can quickly share or preview movies or photos taken with a digital camera on a screen larger than that of the camera itself, while saving the camera's battery. I tried it with my Nikon D5100 and this worked out very well.
In addition to working as a battery-operated mobile storage device, the Media Drive can also work with a computer via its Micro-USB 2.0 port. When connected to a computer using a standard USB cable (one is included), the device appears to the computer as a portable external drive that you can drag and drop data on to. The device is preformatted using the exFAT file system, which means it will work with both Macs and Windows computers without any restriction. When plugged in, the device will also charge its internal battery. You can also choose to charge via an included power adapter.
Well-designed mobile app that's Internet-sharing-ready
Like other Wi-Fi storage devices, the Media Drive is designed to be controlled by a mobile app. It comes with a free SanDisk Media Drive app that is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices. This app worked very well in my testing. It automatically organized content into four categories, Videos, Photos, Music, and Files, regardless of the location you copy the file to, be it the Media Drive's internal storage or the connected SD card. The drive scans for new media files in real time; this process took a very short time in my trials. For example, just about a second after I had inserted an SD card, movies and photos stored on the card had already appeared in the respective category.
Alternatively, you can access the drive's storage via folders and subfolders.
You can swipe through a photo album or folder quite conveniently. You can also play a file or an album automatically, or add the file to the mobile device to play back later. When viewing a photo, you also have options to share it via social media or e-mail. All of these options are tightly integrated. With music, background playing is supported, meaning the music will stay on when you close the app to open another app. This is a great feature if you want to listen to music and check your e-mail at the same time.