It's been a long and eventful year for networking and storage. Among other things, 2014 marked the debuts of the first quad-stream and also the first tri-band Wi-Fi routers. And it's also the year solid-state drives officially became affordable.
However, out of the many devices I've worked with during the year, I can only pick a handful of them (good thing I have a big hands) to deem most interesting. These are not necessarily the best in their category, but those that are, are the pioneers of something I have never seen before.
Without further ado, here is the list of nine products in 2014 I found most interesting, sorted by review order with the most recent review first.
The Samsung SSD 850 Evo is supposedly the update to the previous. However, the new drive is very similar to the higher-end . And that means it's the fastest SSD from Samsung (in certain tests) yet also the most affordable one. Since Samsung has always priced its SSD with a premium, the 850 Evo is the clear signal that SSDs are now affordable.
The iXpand seems like a normal USB thumb drive, which it is. However, the drive also has an Lighting adapter that enables it to work with newer iPhones or iPads both as a backup destination and as a host of media for playback. The reason it's interesting is because in my testing it worked flawlessly and was very easy to use.
The Extreme Pro is the latest high-end solid-state drive from SanDisk and it delivered fast performance in my testing. However, the reason it's interesting is because of its warranty. It was the first SSD on the market that included a 10-year warranty, doubling that of the former longest warranty record holder. This one got Samsung to follow suit later with its SSD 850 Pro, which also has a 1o-year warranty.
The Personal CellSpot from T-Mobile is essentially a US-only rebrandedrouter. And this means it's one of the best routers on the market with excellent performance and a generous set of features. It's also easy to use. However, the reason it makes this list is because it's available for free to T-Mobile users and everybody else can get it for just $99 -- some $100 less than the price of the Asus.
The RT-AC87U is the one of the first quad-stream 802.11ac routers on the market. It can deliver wireless speeds up to 1733Mbps on the 5Ghz band, and up to 600Mbps o the 2.4Ghz. In my testing it proved to be the fastest router on the market. On top of that the router has an excellent set of features including a few unique and useful ones, such as the ability to block malicious content from reaching your home network.
The Negear R8000 is the first tri-band router on the market. Unlike other dual-band router that has one 2.4Ghz band and one 5Ghz band, the new Netgear comes with one 2.4Ghz band (that caps at 600Mbps) and two 5Ghz bands, each of which caps at 1300Mbps. For this reason, the router has the total combined Wi-Fi bandwidth of 3200Mbps. Though in my testing the router didn't prove to be worth its expensive price, this is an interesting concept which other vendors adapted later in the year.
The Samsung Wireless is a Wi-Fi-enabled, battery-operated portable drive that host up to 1.5TB of storage space for a tablet or smart phone. The device worked well in my testing and has an easy-to-use mobile app. The reasons why it's an interesting device are its juice pack features, the fact that it only supports Android devices, and that it's also the first of its type that supports streaming for all popular video formats, including mastroska (.mkv).
The AirStation AC 1750 is very interesting because it's the first 802.11ac router on the market that uses the popular DD-WRT firmware as its default factory firmware. And the firmware has a lot of settings for both home and business users.In addition, it's also the first home router I've seen that has ad-blocking features to keep your home network free from online commercials.
Chances are you're not going to buy this external drive, but if you do, that would have nothing to do with the fact that this is a USB 3.0 external hard drive. Unlike any storage device you've seen, the Sphere is extremely sleek. Handmade of aluminum, plated in silver and polished to the point of perfection, the drive is more work of art than storage device. And that means even if you like the great performance, chances are you can't afford it.