Kingston Wi-Drive review

When it comes to the iPhone, iPad and iPod, storage is expensive. These devices all have fixed amounts of storage, and no way for consumers to upgrade them with simple memory cards. And that can mean that people end up with less storage than they need, but as much as they could afford.

Kingston has, like some other storage companies, spotted this and has made some clever little devices to help users get the most out of their Apple devices, but with other phone operating systems starting to get a look in too. The Wi-Drive is a flash-based memory device that allows you to access files stored on it via Wi-Fi on your Apple - and now, Android - device.

The idea

Like any external drive, the easiest way to get files on to it are via USB. There is a port on the top to allow this, one of very few features on the external surface of the device. The only other thing you'll find are a power button, some status LEDs and a recessed reset switch.

To get started, just pop some photos, videos or documents on the Wi-Drive, unplug it from your computer, and it will fire-up its built in Wi-Fi network. From there, you select the Kingston app on your phone, tablet or iPod and the Wi-Drive should show up in the list of available storage locations.

From there, you can either stream or copy the file to your device. In Android, files can be played on any installed app capable of handling those files. In iOS, it is the Kingston app that deals with playback, so your music will not appear along with your iPod music collection.

Android and iOS apps

The Wi-Drive was initially aimed at iOS users, and that was the only app available. You can hardly blame Kingston for that, because Android phones usually allow microSD cards to be used, and thus, can have their storage upgraded for almost no money and users can have several cards to store files.

Surprisingly though, both apps are pretty much the same. There's nothing significant to say about them either, as they are incredibly basic. This is no bad thing of course, because really, these apps are about accessing the files on the Wi-Drive and either accessing them on the device, or moving them over to your phone/tablet or iPod.

When you boot the Wi-Drive app you're greeted with a simple screen. On it is listed any Wi-Drive you're connected to, over Wi-Fi as well as your local storage. On Android devices, you can see the whole file system. iOS doesn't allow this, so you're given access to the Kingston app's "walled" storage on your iDevice.

Using the app, you can stream files to the device, but, as you might expect, your phone/tablet/iPod will need to support that format for it to work. On Android, that means different devices will be able to handle different files. For example, our 7-inch Galaxy tab is happy with MKV video, but our Motorola RAZR is not. You can get a different app to help with playback though, and there are plenty of options in the Android Market. Similar is true on iOS too and you won't be able to move protected video from iTunes on to the Wi-Drive and play them on your iPod, even if it is authorised to do so.

Both platforms let you copy files to your local device too. On iOS, a right swipe on the item will bring up an "actions" button, which you can then use to delete or move the file to your local device storage. If you come across a file the app can't play, it also gives you a "open in..." option, to send the file to an external application.

On Android, a long press brings up options to copy to your local storage, delete the file, or send it somewhere via email. It's worth mentioning that the Android app is a beta only, but we found it worked really well, and was no less stable than the iOS version.

You are also able to access the files on the Wi-Drive on a PC or Mac by visiting it's IP address in your web browser. This, again, allows you to play any files that are supported in your web browser. MP3s, for example, play fine, but you might struggle more with video files.

You can also connect to the Kingston as a regular network drive. We were able to view it as if it was any network attached storage device. That means we could also copy files over wirelessly too.

What about the Internet?

As your device will be connected using its wireless connection, you'll lose whatever Wi-Fi service you were connected to. So you'll be offline, which is far from ideal on a modern smartphone. Plus, most devices won't be clever enough to realise this, so they won't use 3G at the same time.

Happily though, Kingston has thought of this, and has very cleverly included network bridging. This means you can connect the Wi-Drive up to your existing Wi-Fi network and then "bridge" that over to the other devices which connect via the drive. This is a system that works quite well for one network, but becomes a little bothersome if you're always moving around, as you have to enter the configuration to add the new network in. This is a little more tricky than on an iPhone, although it's not earth-shatteringly difficult.

Speed

Copying to the Wi-Drive over USB is quick enough. You'll see about 9MBps on a large file, half that on several smaller ones. That might be a little slow for large files, but as the Wi-Drive is only 16GB, you'll run out of space before you run out of patience.

Streaming music is no problem, the files are easily small enough to avoid any jitters or other problems. Listening to a lot of music from the Wi-Drive probably isn't practical though, as it will drain the battery and, in our tests, the device does get very warm when in use too.

Streaming video was okay for us too. We got 1080p video to play, but very jerkily. 720p was okay, but sometimes there would be a pause where something interrupted the flow. Anything below that should be fine, but we think copying files over is always smarter.

And the file copy is fast too, a 100MB file was done in a couple of minutes, smaller files are, obviously, much quicker, and 5MB or so happen in the blink of an eye.

Niggles

There are a couple of things we don't like about the Wi-Drive. Firstly, it's Wi-Fi-based, so you won't be able to use it on most aeroplanes. That might sound like a small point, but the times we've needed more storage for our devices have usually been trans-Atlantic flights.

Secondly, it really does get super-hot in use. That worries us a little, as things that get hot break a lot quicker than things that stay cool. Also, it makes us suspect that the battery is draining very quickly, as it is most likely this that is generating the heat.

Also, when the Wi-Drive is plugged in to a computer, you can no longer use it over Wi-Fi. You can, obviously, copy files via the USB connection, but the Internet bridge shuts off, and you can't access files from your Apple or Android devices.

Verdict

The Kingston Wi-Drive works, as it should. We have some minor worries about the operating temperature and the battery life. We aren't thrilled that you can't have it plugged in to a PC or other power source and still use it on Wi-Fi either. But, both of these problems are minor, and we can deal with them for the convenience that this little device brings with it.

If you're an iOS user without sufficient internal memory, we think you'll adore this slender, sexy device. If you're an Android user, you're more likely to snort, while pressing "buy" on a 32GB microSD card for half the price of this device.

The wireless Internet bridge is clever though, and we found it worked flawlessly. The ability to access by a PC on the same network is also a happy accident, and we think that's quite a good way of managing your files too.