Corsair Voyager Air review: Flawed, but still excellent

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MSRP: $179.99

The Good The Corsair Voyager Air 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.

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8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

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.

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.