One of the problem with Apple devices (and a growing number of Android devices now) is the inability to expand the device’s storage. With Apple pushing music and films via iTunes unless you picked wisely in the first place you may find yourself rapidly running out of space on your iPad, iPod or iPhone.
As a consequence, there are a number of products now available that offer separate storage, accessible wirelessly. However, where most of these contain physical drives, the Kingston Wi-Drive does all of this with sold state memory.
I have the 16GB model but a 32GB version is available available. In a black, compact form, about the same size as an iPhone, the device is unassuming. It’s easily pocketable and will work wherever you are. Like a phone, it contains a rechargeable battery with recharging and file transfers being done via a micro USB cable. The battery should last for about 4 hours which is not fantastic, bearing in mind there is no screen.
Many of the reviews of the Wi-Drive concentrate on it being more expensive than the hard drive equivalents – this is hardly a surprise, considering how much more expensive flash memory is compared to traditional hard drives. It seems pointless to me to to have a robust flash-based phone or music player and to then use a paired device that is likely to fail after its first major knock. The Kingston is as robust as the device you pair it with is. Having said all that, as is the fashion these days, the plastic is a glossy plastic which is likely to show every scratch and fingerprint.
In the small box that the drive comes in you get nothing more than the Wi-Drive, mini USB cable and a multi-language manual. It’s a shame that Kingston have settled on mini USB when most phones (and hence chargers) are now micro USB. Also lacking is anything to put the Wi-Drive in, especially considering the high gloss finish. A soft pouch or case of some kind would have been appreciated.
The device is really easy to use. It’s charged via the USB cable and you also use this to put content onto it. You then switch the Wi-Drive on at the side (the power button also doubles as power light) and, after a short delay, you will get a Wi-Fi light flashing on the front. Next to this Wi-Fi light is another which indicates connection to the internet – more on this in a moment. A reset button resides on the side and another light is on the front showing disk activity.
Once the wi-fi light is flashing you can now connect to the Wi-Drive as you would any other Wi-Fi device. To access the drive contents from your device you simple use the appropriate app – versions are available for both iOS and Android.
The Wi-fi signal of the Wi-Drive seems excellent. 15 metres across the office from the Wi-Drive, with a meeting room between us, and I could still access the drive contents and had 2 out of 5 bars still on my Wi-Fi signal indicator. It’s not as good as your home router but it’s still strong and means you can stray a reasonable distance from the Wi-Drive and maintain signal.
For those people who don’t have an iOS or Android based device you can still connect via the Wi-Drive’s IP address (192.168.200.254). Type this into your browser after connecting to the device and you can view and select any of the files via a web interface.
Using the App
Whether you use the Android or iOS App the method of use is principally the same. The Android version, with garish blue icons, is a lot less polished than the iOS equivalent (below are a number of screenshots taken from both versions for comparison).
When you enter the app it takes a moment to find the Wi-Drive1. You can browse the contents of this or your phone drive.
It’s when viewing the files that the two different apps appear to have different approaches (although the documentation on this is patchy so this is a case of trial and error). The iOS version, according to the documentation anyway, recognises a wide range of files types and will display them without the need of any third party apps. The Android version, in comparison, does rely on these external apps.What both do have in common though is that they both use their own player for audio, and pretty basic it is too. It’s a shame there’s no option to use an alternative application. However, there are options to copy any files to your phone so you can access them that way however you wish. Unfortunately, if you wanted to load the Wi-Drive with music and play directly from it you’re going to be stuck with a very poor quality application to do this.
Both apps have a settings screen – selecting this actually connects you, via your browser, to the Wi-Drive which is running its own server (very clever). As a result you can modify the Wi-Drive settings directly.
One of the things you can additionally do with the Wi-Drive is to create a “bridge”. Because your phone is now connected to the Wi-Drive via wi-fi this would normally mean that you’ve lost your internet connection. The Wi-Drive however, has a Wi-fi receiver in it so can connect to the internet for you and create a bridge connection to your device, hence providing you with internet capability into the bargain. To do this, you’ll need to head to the settings and provide details of your Wi-Fi setup.
Whilst there you can also change the details of how the Wi-Drive appears on your network – you can change the default SSID and the security (initially there is no security on it so anyone can connect to your Wi-Drive when it’s switched on).
Lastly, this screen also shows your current firmware level (see the later section for further details about this).
As mentioned earlier you can find the current firmware level from the App’s settings screen. Before I commenced the product review I ensured that I updated to the latest available.
Head to the firmware page on the Kingston website. If the current version is higher than the one indicated in your app, download the new firmware. Within the zipped folder is the new firmware along with instructions on how to install – the whole process takes just a couple of minutes.
This review has been written whilst using firmware 1.00.15.
Summary of Kingston Wi-DriveBrilliant! An ideal solution to the issue of needing to expand storage on device that either require fiddly changing of SD cards or don’t even have that option at all.
It has it’s quirks, mainly around the apps, but I suspect these will improve with successive updates. Hardware wise only an included case and a micro USB port would have improved matters.
At the time of writing the 16GB version costs £34 at Amazon, whereas the 32GB is £65. Neither of these are expensive for what you get – the wi-fi bridging function is a genuis touch – with the 16GB version being particularly good value. If you have a portable device that’s rapidly running out of space, I certainly recommend the Wi-Drive as your first port of call.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 2nd May 2012.
- sometimes the app doesn’t seem to pick up on it at all – I find this is because the app was left running. Kill it and start it again and it will find the drive this time [↩]