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Monday, 09 January 2012 13:40

Review: Kingston Wi-Drive


Although, according to Apple ,we live in the post-PC era there's still a disconnect between Apple's take on the tablet computer and a key feature that users need - that ability to access shared files on a network easily. The Kingston Wi-Drive goes some way to rectifying this.

The Kingston Wi-Drive combines three key components: a WiFi radio, flash memory and some software that runs on iOS devices.

In order to store files on the Wi-Drive you need to connect the device to your PC or Mac using USB. It appears as a flash drive that you can copy files to. Also, while it's connected, the Wi-Drive's battery is charged.

When the Wi-Drive is powered up, it creates a wireless 802.11 g/n LAN that can be secured using WEP, WPA and WPA2. The entire configuration is done using the iOS application. It's worth noting that when the Wi-Drive is first activated, the WLAN is unsecured. We'd suggest securing the wireless before placing any data in the Wi-Drive's memory.

With the device secured and your documents copied to the flash memory, the Wi-Drive is accessed using a free iOS app for iPad and iPhone that you need to download from the App Store. There's a beta version available in the marketplace for Android tablets.

Although the Wi-Drive allowed us to connect other computers over the wireless LAN, we weren't able to access the shared documents using that wireless connection. That limits the Wi-Drive's usefulness significantly. If it allowed an easy way to share documents to computers and tablets it would be a killer product. As it is, it's useful but limited.

Also, when the iPad is connected over WiFi to the Wi-Drive, it's no longer connected to the Internet. We tested the Wi-Drive with a WiFi-only iPad 2 and once the WiFi is connected to the Wi-Drive, the Internet connection we relied on was unavailable. The Wi-Drive does however support bridge mode so it can be used to not only stream content but also take an incoming WiFi connection from the Internet and share it to connected devices.

The question we kept coming back to was "Would we recommend the Wi-Drive to our friends?". It's a tough question to answer and the main reason has little to do with the Wi-Drive but to do with the Apple ecosystem. iOS doesn't make it easy to create a document and then store it to a shared file system. That means that it's too hard to create a document, save it to the Wi-Drive and then allow another iPad user to open and edit the document.

If your purpose is to make a swag of data accessible to a small fleet of iPad users then the Wi-Drive might suit. However, it's limited to just three concurrent connections so that limitation might cause grief.

In our view, the Wi-Drive is a clever device that will suit the needs of many iPad users. Being able to store media files, documents and other data in a place that can be easily shared is very handy. But it's worth understanding its limitations so that you don't buy it and find it doesn't quite do what you need.


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