Kingston Wi-Drive £89
6th Sep 2011 | 13:04
Wireless storage for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch – but at a price
Sooner or later, you're going to run out of storage space on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. And because you've got no way of adding more inside the device, you're faced with clearing stuff off – or adding some memory externally.
The Kingston Wi-Drive gives you that added capacity: 16GB (£89) or 32GB (£119) of external storage, in a slim and very light unit that you connect to over Wi-Fi.
It's one of a growing number of wireless iPod storage products. The Seagate GoFlex Satellite and Hitachi G-Connect both do this as well. But, where these two offer 500GB hard drives, the Kingston Wi-Drive uses embedded flash memory.
While this makes it smaller, lighter and more robust than the hard drive-sporting models, it's also massively more expensive per gigabyte (the Wi-Drive will set you back £5.56 per GB for the 16GB version or £3.72 for the 32GB version, while the GoFlex Satellite costs just 32p per GB).
You access the contents of the Wi-Drive via its free iOS app or in a web browser, meaning you can get at your files on most Wi-Fi-capable devices, including BlackBerry smartphones and Windows Phone 7 handsets.
The Wi-Drive's exactly the same width and thickness as the iPhone, and only marginally longer. It weighs in at 85g.
The standard Android web browser didn't allow us to access the files, but an Android app is due out towards the end of the year.
Specification and performance
Getting your files onto the Kingston Wi-Drive is a breeze. Simply hook it up to a USB port on your PC, Mac or Linux computer and it appears as an external drive, just like a normal USB flash drive.
And because it's formatted as FAT, there's no need to install any additional software to copy files to it using a Mac. This is an advantage over the Seagate GoFlex Satellite, which uses NTFS so had to be reformatted.
Although the Wi-Drive uses flash memory which, on paper at least, should be pretty snappy, we didn't get great transfer speeds: around 10MB/s to copy files to it.
While these speeds are be no means deal-breakers – they're faster than you get when copying files to your iOS device in iTunes – they're still slower than a fast USB stick. This is disappointing, given the price of the Wi-Drive.
Interestingly, the GoFlex Satellite was around three times as fast in our tests, even when connected to USB 2.0.
Kingston says the battery will last for around four hours of constant use, and our tests confirmed this.
The on/off switch lights up in different colours to indicate how much battery charge you've got left.
Supported file types
To get at your stuff from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, connect them to the Wi-Drive's Wi-Fi network and open its app.
You can browse your files either through the standard folder structure you've stored them as on the drive, or filter by images, video or music. Tap the one you want to look at and it plays directly in the Wi-Drive app.
You can use the app to alter various wireless settings, including the channel used, if you're getting problems with interference.
You can't currently open files using other apps on your device, meaning you're limited as far as supported formats go: audio has to be MP3, AAC or WAV. DRM-protected files, such as the .m4p ones you used to get off the iTunes Store, won't play in the Wi-Drive app.
Video needs to be M4V, MP4, MOV or Motion JPEG. The app will also open JPG, BMP and TIFF images, plus PDFs, Word .doc and .docx files, .xls spreadsheets, .txt and .rtf documents, .ppt and .pptx PowerPoint slides and Keynote presentations.
With the latter three, you don't get any fancy transitions, or even the full content of the slides in some cases. Strangely, there's no support for Pages documents or Numbers spreadsheets, and note that you can't actually edit any of the files at the moment.
A symbol to the left of each item shows you what kind of file you're looking at.
This limited range of supported formats is due to be addressed in a forthcoming (free) update to the iOS app.This will enable you to open files on the Kingston Wi-Drive using other apps on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad (as the Seagate GoFlex Satellite already allows).
Importantly, this will also mean you can actually edit the files on the Wi-Drive, rather than just viewing them.
Another current limitation of the app is that it doesn't enable you to copy files from the drive to your device. Again, this will be added in the forthcoming update and will be a useful addition, meaning you can transfer things across to access locally if the Wi-Drive is running low on battery, or move a film onto your iPad before you get onto a flight, since you're not meant to use Wi-Fi in the air.
The update will also allow you to delete items on the Wi-Drive, which you currently have to do on a computer.
We'd also like to see some more attention paid to the app's performance and responsiveness, too. It currently feels a bit slow and cumbersome, and lacks the design panache we've come to expect of good iOS apps. For example, if you tap back out of a video mid-way through, it doesn't remember where you had got to when you next open it. Sigh.
Since the files remain within the Wi-Drive app, you can't integrate music on the drive with the playlists you've already got on your device, for example.
While this limitation is down to the way iOS works rather than the Wi-Drive itself, it still adds an unwelcome layer of complication to getting at your stuff.
Connectivity and internet
One of the Kingston Wi-Drive's key selling points is that you can connect multiple devices to it and view the same file simultaneously.
There's a mini USB port on the edge of the Wi-Drive for charging it and transferring files from your computer.
So for a car journey, load up the Wi-Drive with children's TV shows and let your little ones connect to it and watch what they want – no need to copy the programmes to their devices individually.
At work in a meeting, pop the important documents onto the Wi-Drive so that everyone in the room has a copy in front of them – remember, they don't all need to have iPhones or iPads.
Kingston recommends you don't connect more than three devices if you're all watching a high-definition video, but for PDFs or Word documents, you can go much higher than this.
The Seagate GoFlex Satellite, by comparison, imposes a limit of three, regardless of the kind of file you're trying to view, making it less useful in the meeting scenario.
Internet access and security
Even though you have to connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the Wi-Drive's Wi-Fi network, you can still get online when you're using the drive, because it can connect to a nearby Wi-Fi network and feed the connection through. This is vital in today's world of instant communication, and gives it an important edge over the GoFlex Satellite, which doesn't yet include this capability.
You can prevent unwanted access to the Wi-Drive's network by protecting it with a WEP, WPA, WPA2 or WPA2 mixed password. You can even hide the network altogether, if you're afraid of someone guessing your password.
What you can't do, though, is encrypt the contents of the drive, so if it does fall into the wrong hands, anyone can access whatever you've got stored on it if they plug it into a computer. If you were planning to keep confidential business documents on the Wi-Drive, you'll need to be extra careful you don't lose it.
And bear in mind that all these settings can only be altered in the iOS app, and not via a web browser.
If you're constantly on the go and want to add extra storage to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch without lugging around too much extra weight, the Kingston Wi-Drive could be for you.
With an Android app due out later this year, and access from other smartphones and tablets possible via a web browser, it isn't limited to iOS, though you do need an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to alter any settings.
Although the forthcoming app improvements will bring a huge amount of (vital) new functionality to the Wi-Drive – not least the ability to open files in other apps on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch– we're struggling to think of many scenarios where we could see it becoming indispensable.
Yes it's a great way to share files in meetings, or to allow several people to watch the same video without needing to copy it to their individual device. And if you want extra storage but don't want to spend several hundred pounds on a new device or are tied into a contract, it is a viable option.
But because your files are accessed through the Wi-Drive app, getting at them can feel a little convoluted, and you can't integrate them with other things on your device, such as your music or movies.
Although this is largely down to limitations of iOS rather than the drive, it's frustrating nonetheless.
Ultimately, although £89 may not seem much in absolute terms, you can't get away from the fact that it's a lot of money to add a relatively small amount of storage to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.
The unit is lovely: beautifully thin and light, meaning it'll easily slip into your pocket alongside your iPhone, or into a bag with your iPad. We also like how you can get online while you're using the Wi-Drive: in today's constantly connected world, this is a must.
And the fact that lots of people can hook up to the device simultaneously makes it a useful way of sharing a document in a meeting or letting several people watch a video without having to transfer it to each of their devices.
The Kingston Wi-Drive app, which you use to access your files and alter the settings, currently lacks the sort of finesse you get in good iOS apps.
While there's an update due soon that promises to bring key features, including the ability to open files in other apps on your iOS device, we'd like to see more polish added to create a smoother experience.
Oh, and did we mention we think it's a tad on the expensive side?
For a limited number of situations – essentially, times when you want to get at the same file from multiple devices – the Kingston Wi-Drive is a good idea. Although the app is currently a bit mediocre, pending updates mean it will get better with time.
But ultimately, you come back to the inescapable fact that it doesn't offer that much additional storage for your money. The £89 you pay to add 16GB is a big step towards a new, potentially higher-capacity iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. And if you've quickly filled up the storage on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, 16GB or 32GB isn't going to last you long.
If you do need to add lots of capacity to your Apple device and don't need the slimline portability of the Kingston Wi-Drive, there are better value options out there. But if you want the ultimate in portable storage for your device, this could well be it.