SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive review: A tiny yet versatile Wi-Fi storage device

The SanDisk Media Drive app works very well and offers a lot of features, including the ability to relay Internet access from another Wi-Fi network.
The SanDisk Media Drive app works very well and offers a lot of features, including the ability to relay Internet access from another Wi-Fi network. Dong Ngo/CNET

And you can totally do that with the Media Drive since, using the app, you can change its settings and set the drive to connect to another Wi-Fi network. After that, it will relay the Internet access of the other Wi-Fi network and share that connection with the rest of the devices connected to its own Wi-Fi network. This feature is very useful in case you want to share a Wi-Fi hot spot while traveling. It helps save money -- since you only need to pay for one device, and time, because you don't need to manually connect multiple devices to a new Wi-Fi network.

The Media Drive can only work as either a portable external drive or a media server at a given time. However, its Internet-sharing feature works no matter what. In other words, even when you connect the drive to a computer to copy data over onto it, it still can continue to relay the Internet for the connected device, even though the streaming feature is now no longer available.

Limited support for playback file formats, great for photo backup
Like other Wi-Fi storage devices, the Media Drive is just storage expansion when it comes to media streaming; the device itself doesn't convert or optimize the content you put on it. As such, the supported streaming formats are at the mercy of the connected device.

In other words, Media Drive just stores the files and makes them available for streaming. The actual playback on mobile devices depends each device's playback capabilities. Movies recorded by iOS devices will play back just fine on any iOS device, but not necessarily on an Android device, and vice versa. Technically, you can use third-party apps to play back unsupported files but most of the time this means you have to first download the file from the Media Drive onto the mobile device itself, which is not really a viable solution for movies due to large file sizes involved.

The device works with multiple platforms but doesn't support streaming video made by devices on one platform to devices running on another.
The device works with multiple platforms but doesn't support streaming video made by devices on one platform to devices running on another. Dong Ngo/CNET

Note that though up to eight Wi-Fi devices can connect to the Media Drive's Wi-Fi network at a time, only five of them will be able to stream HD content simultaneously.

The Media Drive also works very well as a backup destination. Using the mobile app, you can easily transfer files from a mobile device and store them on the Media Drive. I found this worked best with documents and photos, with each photo taking about a second to be backed up. You can back up multiple items at a time.

Performance
The Media Drive worked well as a Wi-Fi storage server, offering very good range for its size and decent Wi-Fi speed. It supports single-stream 802.11n so the speed is capped at just 150Mbps. Most of the time, however, devices are connected to it at half of that, which is normal for Wi-Fi. As mentioned above, its mobile app is very well-designed and responsive. I was also able to get about 10 hours of battery life out of the drive using it with two devices at a time.

As a USB 2.0 portable storage device, however, it was very slow, offering only about 14MBps for reading, about half of a typical USB 2.0 drive, and merely 4MBps for writing, about one-sixth the speed of a typical drive. At this speed, it'd take you some 4.5 hours to fill 64GB of storage space. Consequently, it might be a better idea to use an SD card if you want to quickly add extra content before an impromptu trip.

USB 2.0 external hard-drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
Corsair Voyager Air
32.67
26.5
Patriot Aero
32.5
26.4
SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive
14.65
4.2

Other than that, the device worked well without any hiccups. It was also very quiet and remained cool at all time.

Conclusion
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive would make an excellent Wi-Fi storage device if it offered faster performance when working as a portable drive. In its current state it's still a very good device that enables you to carry extra content, share hot-spot Internet access, and back up data. The device's built-in SD card slot is also a helpful extra, especially for photographers.

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Where to Buy See all prices

SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive (64GB)

Part Number: SDWS1-064G-A57
MSRP: $99.99 Low Price: $279.99 See all prices