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

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The Good The Seagate Wireless Plus wirelessly adds 1TB of storage space to up to eight mobile devices. It can relay Wi-Fi Internet access and works well as a fast portable drive or as a robust mobile media server.

The Bad The Wireless Plus could use a faster Wi-Fi standard and should include a car charger. Its Seagate Media app doesn't natively support all popular digital video formats.

The Bottom Line If you have a digital library that's larger than the capacity of your tablet and want to bring it all with you on the go, the Wireless Plus is arguably the best choice on the market.

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

Unveiled at CES 2013, Seagate's Wireless Plus won CNET's Best of CES for Networking and Storage category for a reason: it's a big step up from its predecessor, the Seagate GoFlex Satellite.

The drive now combines 1TB of storage space, 10-hour-and-then-some battery life, and a built-in Wi-Fi network that supports up to eight concurrent clients in one compact package about the size of a regular USB 3.0 portable drive. Connected clients can stream digital content from it and you can also back up content to it, using a mobile app or a network browser.

And, when connected to a computer, it also works as a portable drive, just like any other. In either role, the Wireless Plus worked well in my trials, with excellent performance.

It's far from perfect, however. The Wireless Plus supports only single-band Wi-Fi (802.11n) with a top wireless speed of just 150Mbps. Its Seagate Media mobile app, unfortunately, natively supports a very limited number of digital formats. This makes it a less than an ideal device for those with a digital library from diverse sources.

If you get your content exclusively from Apple, however, chances are you will have no problem with playing it back with the Plus. You can think of the new Seagate Wireless Plus as a wireless storage expander for your iPad that also works with Android-based and Kindle Fire tablets. And for this purpose, it's the best among its type and is totally worth the $200 investment.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive with internal Wi-Fi access point and battery
Connector options USB 3.0 (included), FireWire, eSATA, Thunderbolt (via adapters)
Size (LWH) 5 inches by 3.5 inches by 0.8 inch
Weight 0.59 pound
Apps included Seagate Media app for iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Android-based devices
Available capacities 1TB
OSes supported iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android, Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS 10.5.8 or later
Software included NTFS driver for Mac OS
The new Wireless Plus (right) is still slightly more compact than its predecessor, the Satellite.
With longer battery life and doubled storage space, the new Wireless Plus (right) is still slightly more compact than its predecessor, the Satellite. Dong Ngo/CNET

The new 1TB Wireless Plus is very similar to the 500GB GoFlex Satellite in terms of physical design, but is slightly more compact. It's a box that houses an internal hard drive, a Wi-Fi access point, and a battery. It's kind of amazing how it manages to remain so small, measuring just 0.8 inch by 3.5 inches by 5 inches, considering those three major components. It also weighs just about half a pound.

On one side, the Wireless Plus has a standard SATA port covered with a lid. By removing this lid, you can use the drive with any Seagate connection adapter, like those of the Backup Plus or GoFlex portable drives. The Wireless Plus, itself, comes with a USB 3.0 adapter and a standard USB 3.0 cable. You can use these to connect the device to a computer, and then it works just like any bus-powered portable drive. This is also a great way to quickly transfer digital content to the Plus prior to a trip. With 1TB of storage space, chances are most of us could easily carry our entire iTunes library this way.

Note that the device always charges its internal battery when connected to a computer, but can only work either as a media server or a portable drive at a given time, not both at once. To make it work as a portable drive, you need to turn it off prior to plugging it into a computer's USB port. For this, on one side the Wireless Plus has a power on/off button that you press once to turn it on or press and hold for a few seconds to turn it off.

When working as a portable drive, the Wireless Plus comes with a few folders for different types of content -- Videos, Music, Photos, and Documents -- but you can make new folders of any name. Once switched to work as a wireless media server, the device itself will automatically organize data from all folders into different categories for users to browse via their connected clients, using the Seagate Media app.

The Wireless Plus also comes with a power connector and a separate power adapter for charging from a wall socket. Unfortunately, unlike the Satellite, the Wireless Plus doesn't include a car charger, but you can use one made for other mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones, to charge it while driving.

Out of the box, the Wireless Plus comes fully charged and preloaded with a good selection of samples of HD video and symphony music, enough to keep you entertained immediately on the way home.

The Wireless Plus supports a single-stream setup of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard to offer a top speed of 150Mbps. For this reason, while it can support up to eight Wi-Fi clients at a time, only three of them can stream HD content simultaneously. The portable storage device works only in the 2.4GHz band and doesn't support the newer and faster 5GHz band. It's a delicate balance Seagate has to juggle here, however, since supporting faster Wi-Fi speeds also would mean shorter battery life, a larger physical design, or both.

Like Seagate's portable drives, such as the Backup Plus, the Wireless Plus is formatted in NTFS out of the box and should remain in this file system for it to work. It does, however, come with software drivers to enable Mac computers to read and write on the NTFS file system.

Together with the Wireless Plus, Seagate announced a new version of the free Seagate Media mobile app for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices. The app's interface has been vastly improved and worked much better in my trial than when it was first launched with the Satellite.

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.