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Corsair Voyager Air review: Flawed, but still excellent

Looking for a fast portable drive, a simple home NAS server, and a mobile media streamer all in one? The Corsair Voyager Air is the answer.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
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 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
10 min read

The Corsair Voyager Air is basically a USB 3.0 portable drive that comes with a built-in Wi-Fi access point to offer mobile data sharing and HD content streaming. It's not the first device of its kind. The Seagate Wireless Plus (which is preceded by the Seagate GoFlex Satellite), and the G-tech G-Connect have been on the market for years.


Corsair Voyager Air

The Good

The <b>Corsair Voyager Air</b> offers up to 1TB of storage to an existing network and is capable of wirelessly streaming HD content to a max of eight concurrent Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices. It can also relay Wi-Fi Internet access, is a fast portable drive, and comes with both wall and car chargers.

The Bad

The Corsair Voyager Air's mobile app doesn't support certain popular file formats, and fails to automatically organize content by type. The device needs a faster Wi-Fi standard, and should allow for Internet sharing via its network port.

The Bottom Line

Despite a few shortcomings, the Corsair Voyager Air is an excellent way to extend your mobile devices' storage capacity and features.

However, the Voyager Air has features that the other two lack individually. It has a Gigabit network port (the Wireless Plus doesn't) and a built-in 7-hour battery (the G-Connect sorely lacks this). For this reason, I find it the most complete package among its peers, for now.

It's still not perfect. The new mobile storage device uses a slow Wi-Fi standard, has no network port-based Internet sharing, and comes with a simplistic mobile app. These are minor shortcomings, that can be (and will likely be) addressed via firmware and app updates.

For frequent travelers with lots of digital content to carry or those looking to share mobile hot-spot Internet with multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices, the Corsair Voyager Air is an excellent buy. It currently costs $220 for 1TB (or $180 for 500GB). The Wireless Plus is great alternative if you're looking for something a bit cheaper.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0
Size (HWL) 0.85 x 1.97 x 9.57 inches
Weight 1.1 pounds
Apps included Corsair Voyager Air mobile app for iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Android-based 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 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 Corsair Voyager Air is about the size of the Wireless Plus, just slightly longer and a tad thicker, and is basically the size of a larger portable bus-powered drive. And in fact, it is one that supports USB 3.0. The storage device comes with a standard Micro-USB 3.0 cable and when plugged into a computer, using the USB 3.0 port on its side, it works just like any other bus-powered portable drive. The drive also works with USB 2.0 port but at slower speed.

While the Voyager Air can also work as a portable drive, a home NAS server, being a mobile server for tablets and smartphones is its main purpose.
While the Voyager Air can also work as a portable drive, a home NAS server, being a mobile server for tablets and smartphones is its main purpose. Dong Ngo/CNET

On the opposite side of the USB port, the Voyager Air comes with two on-off switches: one for the power and the other for the Wi-Fi signal. Each of these switches has a status LED of its own and in the middle, there are two other LEDs for the battery and the charging status. The two switches come with their own on and off positions, which is helpful since it's very clear when you want to turn the device on or off. With the Wireless Plus, you have to press and hold the single power button and hope that you have pressed it long or quick enough for it to work as expected.

Another area where the Air tops the Wireless Plus is the addition of the Gigabit Network port. This enables the device to also work as a single volume NAS server, when plugged into a network using this port.

In all, the Voyager Air looks impressively compact, considering the internal battery, the built-in Wi-Fi access point, and the support for Gigabit Ethernet. Its battery is slated to offer 7 hours of usage on one full charge, which is very good but still about 3 hours shorter than the Wireless Plus.

To make up for this, the Voyage Air comes included with a car charger (the Wireless Plus doesn't), in addition to a regular charger, both charge the device via its separate power port. The drive also charge when plugged into a computer via its USB port, but in this case, it works only as a portable drive.

The Voyager Air comes in a two-tone, hard-plastic chassis that is either red and black or black and, er, darker black. It feels sturdy and looks good. In addition to the USB cable and power adapter, it includes a traveling pouch and a Quick Start guide in the package.

Out of the box, the Corsair Voyager Air is fully charged but comes with just a single high-def video that shows off its features. While the video is well-made, don't expect to be entertained immediately on the way home, using the Voyager Air as a mobile media server.

The Corsair Voyager Air can work either as a portable drive, a mobile storage media/streaming server, or a single-volume NAS server.

The Voyager (middle) is about the same size as other hard-drive-based mobile storage solutions on the market, including the G-Connect (left) and the Wireless Plus.
The Voyager (middle) is about the same size as other hard-drive-based mobile storage solutions on the market, including the G-Connect (left) and the Wireless Plus. Dong Ngo/CNET

As a portable drive
As a portable drive, the device is preformatted in NTFS and works immediately when plugged into a Windows computer. It works with Macs, too, but you can't write to it. You can, however, reformat it into HFS+ for it to work with Macs, including using it with Time Machine, but in this case it won't work with Windows. You can also make two partitions with two different file systems, one for each platform but this is rather awkward. When working as a portable drive, it will also charge its battery.

Note that if you plug the device into a computer when it Wi-Fi signal is on, the signal will turn off by itself. In this case, when you want to quickly turn the Wi-Fi back on, you need to manually move the Wi-Fi switch to the off position then back to the on position again.

As a mobile media server
To use the Voyager Air as a mobile media server, which is the main purpose of the device, all you have to do is turn it and its Wi-Fi signal on. It takes about a 30 seconds to be ready and now you can connect up to eight Wi-Fi devices, such as laptops, tablets or smartphones, to its Wi-Fi network. By default this network's name is "Voyager Air" and is open. You can change this name and pick a password to your liking. To do this from a mobile device, run the Voyager Air mobile apps (freely available for Android-, iOS-based devices, and Kindle Fire) and use the Settings section. Here you can also make the Voyager Air connect to another Wi-Fi network, such as a mobile hot spot to relay Internet to its connected clients. This worked very well in my trial, including when the existing Wi-Fi hot spot required signing in.

Similar to the Wireless Plus, the Voyager Air supports the single-stream setup of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, and works only on the 2.4Ghz frequency band, to offer a top speed of 150Mbps. The real-world speed is much slower than that. For this reason, it can support the maximum of only five Wi-Fi clients simultaneously for HD streaming. While I wish it supported faster Wi-Fi standards, it's understandable that it doesn't since faster Wi-Fi speeds also means shorter battery life, a larger physical design, or both.

If you connect a laptop to the Voyager Air's Wi-Fi signal, the device immediately become available as a network-attached storage (NAS) server that you can browse using a network browser (Windows), map network drives, and copy data from and to it. On a Mac, it automatically appears on the Finder. The Voyager Air shares its entire contents to everybody with full read/write access and there's no way to restrict this.

Limited support for file formats
The Voyager Air's mobile app is very simple. Unlike the case of the Wireless Plus of which the mobile app automatically organizes contents into different category, such as photos, video, documents and so on, when you access the Voyager Air using its app, you can only browse by folder. Basically what you see on Voyager Air when using it as a portable drive, is what you get when using it as a mobile server. While this is not a big deal for videos, it's rather a pain for other type of contents, especially when you store information in many folders and subfolders.

The Voyager Air mobile app doesn't offer a media organizer but just a folder browser.
The Voyager Air mobile app doesn't offer a media organizer but just a folder browser. Dong Ngo/CNET

The second complaint I have is the lack of playback support for digital content. I tried the Corsair Voyager Air with both iOS and Android devices and streaming was only a smooth experience if the file formats are natively supported by the app. And the list of supported formats is very short. Basically, as far as video is concerned, other than content made specifically for the mobile platform, I couldn't streaming anything else using the mobile app, including popular formats for HD videos, such as Matroska and Xvid.

Note that, similar to the case of the Wireless Plus, for formats the app doesn't support natively, the app 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 Voyager Air because you're running out of storage space on your mobile device in the first place. Hopefully the file format situation will improve via updates.

And, also like the Wireless Plus, apart from playing back content directly from Voyager, and downloading it onto the connected device to play back without it, the mobile app allows for uploading user-generated content from the mobile device back to the Voyager Air. Again, it worked very well with photos in my trial but not so well with video due to the large file size. Uploaded files are saved in the root directory of the Voyager Air.

As a home NAS server
With the addition of the Gigabit Network port, the Voyager Air can also work as a home NAS server. All you have to do is connect it to an existing network with a cable and turn it on. For long-term usage, it's better to plug in to the power outlet with the included adapter.

The Corsair Voyager Air supports both Windows and Mac computers for data sharing. Similar to the computers connected to its Wi-Fi network, computers connected to it using the wired network have full access to its entire storage space with no restriction options available.

The G-Connect and the Voyager Air both come with a network port, but the Voyager Air also comes with a built-in battery.
The G-Connect and the Voyager Air both come with a network port, but the Voyager Air also comes with a built-in battery. Dong Ngo/CNET

The Corsair Voyager Air can work both as a wired NAS server and a mobile media server at the same time. Unfortunately, in this case, devices connected to it via network cable and those connected to its Wi-Fi network belong to two separate networks. This means they can't exchange information; those connected to device's Wi-Fi network can't share the same Internet connection as those on the wired network. This is disappointing because travelers can't use the Voyager Air to share a hotel Internet connection provided via an in-room network port and home users can't use it as the only Wi-Fi access point for wireless client.

I tested the Voyager Air with all the roles it can play and the device delivered.

When used as a portable drive it scored 105MBps and 107MBps for writing and reading, respectively, among the top three on the charts. It also did well when used with USB 2.0, averaging 28MBps and 32MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

When used as a home NAS server, the Voyager Air was also impressive. Via a Gigabit connection, it scored 20MBps for writing and 50MBps for reading, ranking among fast single-volume dedicated NAS servers and in fact was faster than many.

As a mobile media server, the device also worked very well. I used multiple devices with it and most of the time, the streaming was smooth with an effective range of up to 75 feet. The battery life was also very good with close to 7 hours. In real life this might get longer or shorter depending on how heavy the usage is, and how many devices you use with the device at the same time.

Overall, I was impressed by the Voyager Air's solid performance. It also worked smoothly throughout the testing process and remained relatively cool. It did get a little hot when charging but this is fairly normal for a device of its type.

External hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Seagate Wireless Plus
IoSafe Solo G3
Corsair Voyager Air
Seagate Backup Plus
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
Toshiba Canvio Desk
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
Clickfree C6
LaCie FastKey
G-Drive Slim
WD My Passport Edge
Seagate GoFlex Slim
HP Portable Hard Drive
LaCie RuggedKey

External hard drive USB 2.0 performance scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Seagate GoFlex Slim
LaCie FastKey
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
LaCie Rugged Key
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
Clickfree C6
Seagate Backup Plus
G-Drive Slim
Toshiba Canvio Desk
WD My Passport Edge
Corsair Voyager Air
Seagate Wireless Plus

Read and write tests (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read Test  
Write Test  
Asus TS Mini
Buffalo CloudStor
WD My Book Live
Verbatim MediaShare
Corsair Voyager Air
LaCie Wireless Space
D-Link DIR-827
Asus RT-N66U
Asus RT-AC66U
Vizio XWR100

While not entirely a new concept, the Corsair Voyager Air combines what its competitors individually do well into an almost perfect storage accessory for mobile users. If you own multiple mobile devices, and travel often, or live in a small apartment and want a quick network storage device with media streaming capability, you can't go wrong with the Voyager Air.


Corsair Voyager Air

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8