The Aero Wireless Mobile Drive is Patriot's answer to Corsair's
The device is essentially a bus-powered USB 3.0 portable drive with a built-in Wi-Fi access point and an internal battery to provide external storage, with HD-streaming capability, to up to five concurrent wireless clients.
The Aero is closer to the Wireless Plus in terms of hardware specs, since it doesn't have a network port. However, its battery life, some 6 hours, is in the same range as the Voyager Air's.
In my testing, the new Patriot Aero topped the charts in USB 3.0 performance. However, its primitive mobile app could do with some innovation to offer a better user experience.
Overall, the Patriot Aero works well but has nothing new to offer, which is disappointing considering it's the latest of its type on the market. At its street price of about $190 for 1TB or $160 for 500GB, it's a quite good buy, but not a decidedly better deal than any of the mobile storage alternatives on this list.
|Drive type||2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery|
|Connector options||USB 3.0, USB 2.0|
|Size (LWH)||3.9 inches by 5.47 inches by 0.96 inch|
|Apps included||Patriot Connect app for iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android 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||5 (HD video streaming-capable)|
|Mobile-streaming format supported||Video: MP4, MOV, M4V | Audio: MP3, M4A | Image: JPG, PNG | Documents: DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF|
The Patriot Aero Wireless Mobile Drive is about the same size physically as the Corsair Voyager Air, or the
On one side the device has a standard Micro-USB 3.0 port, a power button, and a DC-in port. You just need to press quickly on the power button, without holding, to turn the device on or off. Patriot makes this button slightly recessed to reduce the chance of accidental presses.
The Aero includes a power adapter and a standard USB 3.0 cable, but doesn't have a car charger. Only the USB cable is needed when the drive is plugged in to a computer and the power adapter is only for charging it when you're out and about. In my testing, the drive did indeed work as a bus-powered device with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports.
On top, the Aero has three tiny LED lights that show the status of the power, the Wi-Fi network, and the charging process. On another side, it has a battery gauge, similar to one used with many laptops' batteries. The gauge has a small button that turns on an array of four white lights, each representing 25 percent of the battery capacity.
A versatile portable drive
There's nothing to setting up the Patriot Aero. Out of the box, it's formatted in exFAT file format, meaning it works as a blank external hard drive with both Windows PCs and Macs, without any restriction, as soon as you turn it on and plug it in. When plugged into a computer via USB, the drive also started charging its battery, which, in the case of my review unit, was totally out of juice by default.
Once the battery is charged, the drive can also work as a mobile wireless storage device. Note that it can work as either a mobile wireless storage device (battery-powered) or a portable external hard drive (plugged in, not broadcasting Wi-Fi), but not both at once.
In short, in my testing, the Patriot Aero worked just like any other bus-powered portable drive on the market, such as the
Functional but limited wireless storage device
To make the Patriot Aero work as a mobile media server, you just need to turn it on without connecting it to a computer. The device then activates its Wi-Fi network using the default network name (or SSID), which is "Patriot." This network is open and you can connect any Wi-Fi-enabled device to it.
You can further customize the Aero's Wi-Fi network and other settings using its Web interface from a computer or the freely downloadable Patriot Connect app from a tablet or smartphone.
The Web interface -- which is accessible at the default IP address 10.10.10.254 -- makes it possible to change a few settings of the device, including its name, the Wi-Fi network's name, and its encryption. Apart from the interface, any connected computer can also use the Aero as a network storage server (NAS).
You can browse it with Windows Explorer on a Windows computer, and on a Mac it automatically appears in the Finder. To access data stored on it, you need to use the default admin account, which is admin for both username and password. The entire drive is shared as one public share folder called, appropriately, "Public." Once this share folder is opened, you can make shortcut or map a network drive to it, just as you can do with any NAS sever.
The Aero supports the Wireless-N standard (802.11n) but just the lowest tier (single-stream), which caps at 150Mbps. It works only on the 2.4GHz frequency band, and doesn't support the 5GHz band. While this is a little disappointing, that's currently the norm for devices of this type: the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air share the same Wi-Fi standard. This is because supporting faster Wi-Fi would have the trade-off of shorter battery life or larger physical size.
Simple and rather primitive mobile app
The Patriot Connect mobile app worked as intended in my testing but it was rather limited. You first need to connect the mobile device you're using the app on to the Wi-Fi network of the Aero; after that, the Patriot Connect software will display the content stored on the wireless hard drive laid out in folders, the same way you'd see it via a computer, without thumbnail images or preview or search capabilities.
This is OK if you want to play back the entire folder of music or photos, but would be a pain if you wanted to play a particular song or view a particular photo. In that case, you'd have to find the right folder or subfolder, then tap on individual file names and wait for each photo to be displayed or song to be played, which can take a few seconds depending on the size. This is especially hard with photos because generally they have random names generated by the digital camera.
It would be much better, especially for those with lots of data, if the Aero could automatically organize digital content into categories for the app to access, the way the Seagate Wireless Plus does.
In addition, the app only supports a very limited number of file formats. I tried the Patriot Connect app with an iPad and it could only stream file formats that were supported by the tablet itself. This means as far as video is concerned, the mobile app could only stream content made specifically for mobile platforms, which leaves out some popular formats for HD videos, such as Matroska and Xvid.
Note that you can always download a file to the mobile device to play it back by a third-party app, but that defeats the purpose of the Aero, which is storage expander.
What worked very well in my trials was downloading content from the Aero (to play back even when the device is turned off) and backing up user-generated content, such as videos and photos, from the mobile device to the Aero. You can do both at the same time and the device can handle multiple files at a time. I noticed, however, that content backed up on the Aero is saved in its root directory, and this could mean chaos if you share it with a few users who also want to back up their own photos or videos: you'll soon lose track of what belongs to who.
The second feature that worked well is the Internet sharing feature. Using the mobile app, you can make the Aero connect to another Wi-Fi network and then share the Internet connection with the rest of devices connected to its own Wi-Fi network. The wireless drive supports all type of Wi-Fi hot spots, including those that require you to sign in via a Web page. This makes it a great accessory for those wanting to share Wi-Fi-enabled Internet access with multiple clients while on the go.
All of what the Aero can do, however, is already available, and even better implemented, in the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air. Overall, the Aero offers nothing new.
I tested the Patriot Aero as a portable drive with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and it offered very fast performance.
When used with USB 3.0, it scored 110MBps for both writing and reading, making it the fastest among its peers. When used with USB 2.0, it registered 26MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively.
The mobile storage device's Wi-Fi performance was also quite good. Most of the time I could stream content with no lag or pauses for buffering at all. This experience varies, obviously depending on the file size of the content.
The Wi-Fi range was also typical for this type of device, with an effective range of up to 50 feet. Farther than that, the connection is only good for sharing the Internet and over 75 feet, you'll start losing the connection.
I tried the Aero with a few mobile devices and its battery held up pretty well, lasting about 6.5 hours with slightly more than casual usage. Battery life can fluctuate significantly depending on how you use the drive, however.
The Patriot Aero was generally a silent device, with just a subtle humming of the hard drive on the inside that could be detected in a quiet room. It also remained cool even during heavy loads.
If the Patriot Aero had come out five months ago it would have been an exciting device. But since then the Seagate Wireless Plus and the Corsair Voyager Air have arrived, with features that make the Aero just another option in the increasingly crowded market of devices that provide wireless mobile storage for tablets and smartphones.