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Kingston Wi-Drive review: Limited capacity, but compact and easy to use

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Editor's note: This reviewed was updated on May 16, 2013 to reflect the newer model with higher storage capacity.

Kingston Wi-Drive (32GB)
7.0

Kingston Wi-Drive

The Good

The supercompact <b>Kingston Wi-Drive</b> provides extra storage space for mobile devices and is capable of relaying Internet access from an existing Wi-Fi network to its connected clients.

The Bad

The Kingston Wi-Drive offers a limited amount of storage space, doesn't support USB 3.0, and is slow as an external drive. The device also has a short battery life and supports only three concurrent clients.

The Bottom Line

Compact, Internet-ready, and well-designed, the Wi-Drive makes a convenient companion for frequent travelers who have from one to three tablets and a moderate library of digital content.

With up to 128GB of storage space and dimensions about the size of the iPhone 3G, the Kingston Wi-Drive is very much the mini version of Seagate's Wireless Plus, both in terms of physical size and capacity. Essentially, it's a USB portable drive that has a built-in Wireless-N access point and can stream its stored content to up to three wireless clients, be they tablets, such as an iPad, or notebooks. The best feature of the Wi-Drive is the fact that it can also connect to another Wi-Fi network to allow its connected clients to access the Internet.

While the drive worked well in my testing, its limited amount of storage space makes it hard to call it an ideal companion for tablets. At the current street price of $150 for 128GB (or $65 and $90 for the 32GB and 64GB capacities, respectively), the Wi-Drive, is also relatively expensive compared with other hard drive-based devices of the same type.

As an external hard drive, the Wi-Drive supports both PCs and Macs out of the box, but its performance is about the same as that of a thumb drive. If you're a frequent traveler with an iPad and favor the compact design and functionality over capacity, the Wi-Drive will make a good investment. Otherwise, check out the alternatives on this list.

Design and features

Drive type SSD-based portable drive
Connector options USB 2.0
Size (LWH) 4.78 x 2.43 x .4 inches
Weight 0.25 pound
Available capacities 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
Capacity of reviewed unit 32GB
OSes supported iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.5 or later, Android, Linux v.2.6 or later.
Software included Wi-Drive app for iOS, and Android devices

The Wi-Drive is one of the most compact external drives I've seen. It also looks very sleek, with a black housing, which unfortunately happens to be a fingerprint magnet. The drive feels flimsy, however, and makes tiny squeaky noises if you gently squeeze it in your palm, which you can as it's so small.

Considering the ultracompact size, the device is really impressive to also have a built-in Wireless-N access point and an internal battery. The drive is the first I've seen that can also connect to another Wi-Fi network, allowing its connected clients to connect to the Internet without switching the network.

On top, the Wi-Drive has three little LED lights that are only visible when they are lit up. They show the statuses of the Internet connection, the Wi-Fi network, and the data activity. On the side, there's a power button that you'll need to press and hold for a few seconds to turn the device on. The top side of the device has a Mini-USB port for both charging and connecting to a computer. The Wi-Drive also comes with a power adapter for those times when you don't have access to a Mini-USB.

The Wi-Drive allows a maximum of three clients. While any clients can connect and access data stored on the drive via a Web browser, the best way to stream the content is via a native app. In my trial, this app worked very well and allows you to view photos, stream video, and read documents that are stored on the Wi-Drive. All you need to do is copy files onto the Wi-Drive by connecting it to computer. After that, on the iPad, the Wi-Drive app will organize streamable content into different categories, such as Photo, Music, and Video. You can also choose to browse the content of the drive by folders. Overall, it's very easy and self-explanatory to stream content stored on the drive.

The app also enables users to customize the Wi-Drive's settings, including changing its network name, picking the other Internet-enabled Wi-Fi network that you want it to connect to, and updating its firmware.

Note that, as the drive is formatted using FAT 32, you can't store files that are larger than 4GB on it. You can reformat it into NTFS, but then it won't work with a Mac.

The Wi-Drive can stream basically all content supported by the iPad: videos (M4V, MP4, MOV, Motion, M-JPEG, AVI), audio (AAC, MP3, WAV), photos (JPEG, BMP, TIF). It can also display documents for many popular formats (PDF, DOC).

Performance
As a USB 2.0 portable the Wi-Drive was rather slow in my testing, averaging around 9MBps for writing and 17MBp for reading. This is likely because its internal storage is made of a low-performance solid-state drive, similar to that of thumb drives. Nonetheless, as it has limited capacity, it's quite fast to fill it up with data.

As a storage extender, however, it worked very well and offered good range. I was able to stream music and photos from up to 150 feet away, though it worked best at 75 feet or closer. The Wi-Drive's iPad app also works in the background, allowing users to listen to music stored on the Wi-Drive while doing other things.

In my trial the Wi-Drive also worked very well with any existing Wi-Fi networks and allowed its connected clients access both its content and the Internet at the same time, seamlessly.

I was a little disappointed with the Wi-Drive's battery life, which was just around 2.5 hours of continuous streaming in my testing. Considering how small it is, however, this was to be expected. The drive gets rather warm after running for an extended amount of time. It's not hot enough to be alarming, but warmer than you'd want to keep in your pocket.

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive Performance Scores
(Longer bars indicate better performance; measured in MB per second)
Read  
Write  
Corsair Voyager Air
32.67 
26.5 
Patriot Aero
32.5 
26.4 
Seagate Wireless Plus
31.77 
28.3 
Kingston Wi-Drive
17.8 
9.1 

Conclusion
The Kingston Wi-Drive would make an excellent portable drive/storage expander for a tablet if it supported USB 3.0 and offered larger capacities. At its current state, however, it still makes a very good and convenient companion for those who travel and don't have a huge amount of content that needs to be carried on the go.

Kingston Wi-Drive (32GB)
7.0

Kingston Wi-Drive

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Support 6