Simple file sharing; works on most devices; very portable; easy setup.
Difficult for laptops; wont play many video formats; slow USB 2.0 file transfers.
If you’ve ever wished you could just leave your USB key on your desk or in your pocket and still access the files on it wirelessly, SanDisk’s new media drives are sort of what you’re looking for. Unfortunately for power users, these wireless media drives don’t quite fit the bill when it comes to file sharing, but they are great for sharing media with portable devices, and they are dead simple to use, too. They also double as pocket-ready Wi-Fi access points.
SanDisk’s new media drives are easy to use and make wireless media streaming a cinch.
Here’s how these devices work. First, you connect them to a PC or Mac and copy files to pre-designated folders for music, movies, pictures, and files. Next, people within 150 feet must switch their device’s Wi-Fi to the SanDisk access point, and then run a free SanDisk app to access all the content on the drives. Connected users can also download and upload data to the drive, but all that data is only accessible from the SanDisk app, which is a pain. You can also password protect the access point, but it’s not turned on by default, which seems a bit unsafe to us.
Both the USB key and the media drive are battery-powered, so you just plug them into a USB port to charge them. The Media Drive offers eight hours of streaming per charge, and is available in 32GB and 64GB capacities, but has an SD card slot, so you could take it all the way up to 192GB. The smaller Flash Drive offers four hours per charge, and is simply a shell for a Micro SD drive. It’s available in both 16GB and 32GB capacities. Both drives are USB 2.0, so copying data to them is painfully slow, and is easily their biggest weakness.
The free SanDisk app required for media streaming is available on the Google Play, Apple iOS, or Amazon Kindle store (sadly, it looks like Windows Phone users are out in the cold on this one, but they are probably used to it by now). We were also able to access the files from a laptop, but could not send data to the device. We were impressed by how smoothly content streamed from the device. San-Disk says it works at a distance of 150 feet, and we confirmed this in testing. Both devices can stream several movies at once (eight for the Media Drive, three for the Flash Drive), though the built-in player can only stream MP4 files, so AVI and MPG files won’t play, which is bogus.
Ultimately, we found these devices to be easy to carry, set up, and operate. They are a bit limited in how they function due to their family-friendly nature, but if you’re just looking to share media with friends on a plane or in a hotel room, they are hard to beat. Anyone wanting more advanced file sharing will have to look elsewhere—this isn’t designed to replace your NAS drive. As it stands, it’s one of the easiest ways we’ve seen to share media to a tablet or phone, but it’s not the easiest to work with a laptop. The free iOS app also has limited file-format support. The last major downside is its slow USB 2.0 speeds, which makes file copying agonizing.