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Monday, May 23, 2011

Wi-Fi Hard Drive for iPad Movies and More

What It’s Good For: Now you can wirelessly stream movies, listen to music and view photos with up to three Wi-Fi devices at the same time.
Who It’s Good For: Anyone who travels with an iPad, and families with kids in the car who’d like to pass the time with photos, music and movies.

Limitations: Once your Wi-Fi devices are communicating with this wireless hard drive, you won’t have Internet access. Many movie formats must be converted before they’ll play on the iPad (as usual), or you must install an app that can play those files.

Bottom Line: If you like to watch movies, suddenly you can access 500GB of them from your iPad or iPhone — or any laptop, smartphone or tablet that can connect to a Wi-Fi network.

A Close-up Look At the GoFlex Satellite

This shiny, streamlined black box is about the size of a couple of decks of cards. Plug it into a Mac or PC via USB 3.0 (or 2.0), fill it up with music, movies and photos, and then enjoy them on any Wi-Fi device — if the files are compatible. Inside this attractive package is a rechargeable battery that powers the drive for five hours, a Wi-Fi access point and 500GB of hard drive storage space (it’s a conventional hard disk, not solid-state).

We plugged the GoFlex Satellite into a PC’s USB 3.0 port, and transferred a few gigabytes worth of movies, photos and music to the drive. Although we’ve seen faster USB 3.0 drives, the transfer still went quickly compared with USB 2.0. Even without its wireless capabilities, the GoFlex Satellite functions well as a plugged-in external drive.

Once we transferred the chosen content, it was time to set the drive free. Unplugging it from my PC, we removed its USB connecting cable and replaced its small removable door (see a photo of that in the gallery). Unfortunately, for those on the go, that plastic door is awfully easy to lose — it would’ve been better if it had been semi-attached to the drive.

Connecting a Wi-Fi device and the GoFlex satellite is the same as connecting an iPad or laptop to any Wi-Fi network. It’s a simple matter of selecting GoFlex Satellite from the list of available Wi-Fi connections. Its wireless connection is supposed to reach 30 feet, but we found that 15-20 feet is a more realistic maximum before connectivity became spotty.

Once connected via Wi-Fi, you can open any browser, and the GoFlex Satellite interface appears, showing the contents of the drive. Select a movie, and within about five seconds, it begins to play. We were able to play videos with surprising smoothness from two iPads and an iPhone at the same time.

There’s a downside: That Wi-Fi connection is used to communicate with the drive, so that meant we couldn’t access the Internet at the same time. For a long car trip, that might not be an issue, but for other uses, it might become inconvenient.

Besides accessing the GoFlex Satellite from any browser — a boon for Android smartphone and tablet users — there’s a free iPad app that accomplishes this as well. If all your movies are in formats the iPad can play, namely H.264, Motion JPEG or MPEG-4, you’re in luck — they all displayed beautifully on both our iPads, old and new.

However, if you have movies in other formats, you’ll need to either convert them before they’ll play on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, or install a browser app such as the OPlayer HD ($5, or the free ad-supported OPlayer HD Lite) that can do the converting for you on the fly. We tried the OPlayer HD, and it played other file types such as AVI with ease. In fact, any file type your device is capable of playing can be streamed from the GoFlex Satellite — even iTunes movies.

While we found the iPad’s file incompatibility an annoyance, that’s not Seagate’s fault. The company’s built a unique product that works well. If you watch lots of movies on the road, and don’t have enough disk space to give yourself a wide-enough selection, this $200 Wi-Fi drive is a unique way to solve that problem.

Top Side
The rounded area in the foreground is where you plug in the included USB cable

There is an included car charger, letting you plug the drive into the cars cigarette for recharging. The batteries are said to last 5 hours.

Adapter Port
Here is where adapter plug in. This port is protected by removable door, which we think is too easy to loose.

Plastic Door
Here's the plastic door which protects the port.

USB cable plugged in

Three Playing at once
Here are two ipads and iphone, all three playing back movies from the drive at the same time without a hitch. Nice.




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