Seagate Wireless Plus review: iPad-friendly wireless storage almost perfected

Out of the box, the Wireless Plus is preconfigured with a Wi-Fi network and you can connect other Wi-Fi clients (smartphones, computers, tablets) to it. After that, from a connected client, just launch the Seagate Media app and you're good to go. Note that on the iPad the Seagate Media app only works in the horizontal position, and won't rotate if you use the mobile device vertically. It does give you the option of playing music in the background, however, in case you want to close the app and switch to doing something else.

The Seagate Media app works very well and now offers quick access to an existing Wi-Fi network, enabling the Wireless Plus to relay a connection to the Internet to the rest of the clients connected to its own Wi-Fi network.
The Seagate Media app works very well and now offers quick access to an existing Wi-Fi network, enabling the Wireless Plus to relay a connection to the Internet to the rest of the clients connected to its own Wi-Fi network. Dong Ngo/CNET

Limited support for file formats
The Seagate Media app offers access to the library of digital content stored on the Wireless Plus, organized into Videos, Photos, Music, and Documents. Once a category is picked, you can view the content by thumbnail, and list and sort them by date or type. There's also a search function. Once you've found what you need you just select an item (a video, a playlist, or a file) to play it back.

I tried the Wireless Plus with an iPhone 4 and an iPad (third-gen) and the experience was either completely smooth or utterly cumbersome depending on the type of media. This is because the Seagate Media app natively supports only a limited amount of digital formats: H.264 video, MPEG-4, and Motion-JPEG for video, and AAC, MP3, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4), Apple Lossless, A IFF, and WAV for audio. This meant I had no problem playing back any content made for iOS devices but wasn't able to make it play anything else, including popular formats for HD videos, such as Matroska and Xvid.

Note that for formats the app doesn't support natively, it offers the option to download the file onto the connected device to be played back with a third-party app. While this works well with documents, it's not a viable solution for videos since the downloading process would take a long time for a full movie or a full episode of a TV show due to the large file size of HD video content. On top of that you probably want a device like the Wireless Plus because you're running out of storage space on your mobile device. Hopefully the format situation will change via updates.

Apart from playing back content directly from the Wireless Plus, and downloading it onto the connected device to play back without the Wireless Plus, the Seagate Media app now can upload photos and video taken by the mobile device back to the Wireless Plus. (While the new Seagate Media app also works with the old Satellite, this function is only available with the Wireless Plus.) I tried this with both an iPad and an iPhone and it worked well with photos. With videos, however, it didn't work out as one might expect, mostly because the connection speed -- which, again, caps at just 150Mbps -- isn't fast enough to quickly transfer tens of megabytes, let alone hundreds of megabytes, which a 5-minute-or-longer video clip can easily be.

Excellent support for Internet sharing and media streamer
What I like the most about the new Wireless Plus is its new Internet-sharing feature. Basically, the portable storage device can connect to an existing Wi-Fi network, such as that at home or at a hotel or a Starbucks hot spot, and then share that network's Internet connection with the rest of devices connected to its own Wi-Fi network.

It's very easy to get this done. On top, the Seagate Media app shows a Wi-Fi icon; tapping on this icon will display a list of existing Wi-Fi networks at the current location, and with another tap, you can connect the Wireless Plus to a selected network. The Wireless Plus supports all types of Wi-Fi network, including those that require you to log in via a Web page, making it a great device for sharing Internet access at a hotel or airport. This also means that you won't need to change a client, such as an iPad, to another Wi-Fi network to gain access to the Internet. Instead, just connect the Wireless Plus to an Internet-enabled Wi-Fi network and you now can both stream music from it and surf the Internet at the same time on all of devices connected to the Wireless Plus' Wi-Fi network.

In addition to tablets and smartphones, the Wireless Plus works with DLNA-compliant media streamers and also works with well with laptop computers. I tried a few Windows 7-based laptops with the portable storage device and was able to connect both via Samba (the way network computers do) and via streaming with Windows Media Player. Unlike when I used the Seagate Media app with the tablets, with a laptop I had no problem playing back any type of media at all.

Seagate says it's working on an app for Samsung Smart TV and in fact demoed this at CES 2013. In the near future, it's likely that you'll be able to connect the Wireless Plus directly to a Smart TV to play back its content.

The Wireless Plus' content being shown on a Samsung Smart TV via an app at a CES 2013 demo.
The Wireless Plus' content being shown on a Samsung Smart TV via an app at a CES 2013 demo. Dong Ngo/CNET

When using a mobile device, you can also use the Seagate Media app to manage the Wireless Plus' settings, including changing its Wi-Fi network (name and password), updating its firmware, and so on.

Performance
I tested the Wireless Plus' performance both as a portable drive and as a Wi-Fi network media server.

As a portable drive, the device excelled when used with USB 3.0, scoring some 110MBps for both writing and reading, making it one of the fastest USB 3.0 portable drives I've reviewed. When used with USB 2.0, the device's speed was lowered to 28MBps for writing and 32MBps for reading, about average on the charts.

When used as a portable media/storage server, the Wireless Plus also worked very well but did show its weakness due to the lack of support for faster Wi-Fi standards. With its cap speed of just 150Mbps, I had problems downloading and uploading a large amount of data from and to it. Streaming was not a big problem, however, but I only tried with two devices at a time. Obviously, things get slower the more clients are involved. That said, expect no problems while sharing the Internet but you should limit streaming to just two or three devices at a time.

The Wireless Plus offered decent range for a device of its size in my trial. I could get a stable signal from it from up to 100 feet away. Realistically, though, clients should be within 50 feet or less for streaming. The most impressive thing about the Wireless Plus is its battery life. During the testing, I constantly used some five Wi-Fi devices with it and was able to get more than 11 hours out of one charge. Expect even longer battery life if you have fewer devices or use it sporadically.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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Conclusions
Though not as revolutionary as the Satellite was when it first came out almost two years ago, the Wireless Plus brings the mobile-streaming experience to a new and much better level compared with its predecessor or any other device of its type on the market. For now, if you own multiple mobile devices, the Seagate Wireless Plus would be the best accessory to carry on the go or even use at home if you live in a small apartment or a college dorm.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 6, 2013
  • Total Storage Capacity 1 TB
  • Type standard
  • Data Link Protocol IEEE 802.11n
  • Compatibility Apple iOS
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