on July 29, 2011
I read the pre-release Engadget reviews of this device and pre-ordered the 32 GB Wi-Drive when available. It took 2 hours for a first-time complete battery charge via USB and mini-USB adapter. When I first connected to the computer, I saw that the drive was named KINGSTON, not WI-DRIVE, but it was easy to rename under either OS X or Windows 7. It took only 10 minutes to get things running. First, I loaded 10 full-movie video and 50 audio song files to test the device with 3 different iPads and turned the unit on by simply pushing the side button which has a green indicator light. Then go to your iPad/iPhone and download the free Apple Wi-Drive app, go to Network settings and select the WI-DRIVE network which is broadcast from the unit with blue indicator lights. There are no security settings by default so anyone nearby can connect to the drive. Open the Wi-Drive app and go to the setting button icon which you can set security WEP/WPA/WPA2 settings and complete your WiFi access point setup.
The app interface is just like using Dropbox or GoodReader and the menus are nicely designed. The audio and video files are listed on the left menu and simple to select. Now comes the great part, I used 3 different iPads to connect at the same time to the Wi-Drive and selected 3 different movies for each iPad and the movies ran perfectly without a single buffer hiccup. This problem plagues the Seagate GoFlex Satellite. I read comments by others who appear to be overly impressed by the 500GB storage which is functionally limited. The GoFlex menu is slow and does not permit sorting, drops connections and streaming video are choppy at times. The worst feature of the GoFlex is that it does not truly stream media, but rather sends a copy of the media file to your iDevice unlike the WiDrive which truly streams files allowing the user to maximize storage capacity. I just wanted a simple portable network device that will keep everyone in the car happy watching their own movies or listening to their own music. I was pleased to see that 3 different devices can access this portable WiFi network drive without any degradation of media streaming quality. Of course I wish we could have 64 GB or more storage, but 32 GB is fine for day trips and can still hold more than enough media files to satisfy everyone's preferences.
The next nice feature is the ability of the drive to connect to another WiFi network which you also configure in the setting button icon. For example, you're with the family at Starbucks and connect the Wi-Drive to the free Starbucks WiFi using the iOS app. The Wi-Drive reboots, connects to Starbucks network and now every one of your 3 other devices can access streaming media files on the Wi-Drive and also access the Internet using the Starbucks connection. Remember, you have to connect your device to the Wi-Drive network to use your files, but this network setting still allows you to retain internet access at the same time.
The drive is just a bit smaller than my iPhone 4 and very light. Unfortunately, the unit doesn't appear to work while plugged in to recharge. I was hoping that I could connect the device to a car outlet to continuously power the device on long trips since it is advertised to last only 4-5 hours on a single charge. Looks like you'll have to perform a complete recharge when it runs out which will take several hours using the provided adapter.
Summary - this is the best available portable media streaming network device for the iPad/iPhone which works well and simple to use with excellent streaming speeds. Definitely happy with my pre-order decision and suspect these units will sellout fast. Enjoy.
****** update 2 days later ******
I downgraded it to 4 stars after 2 days of use. File transfers are problem-free and easy to do remmebering that you can only use media files recognized by iOS (eg. mp4, m4v). Programs like Air Video Server are better for local networks allowing live conversion of all other media file types like avi and flv. So if you use other file types, you're stuck with having to use a conversion program which there are plenty available for free. Media streaming to multiple iOS devices works perfectly without any stutters. The main problem I see is the battery life which runs closer to 3 hours rather than 4 hours with constant streaming to more than one device. Contrary to other recent online reviews which makes me question whether some reviewers actually use their products, you CANNOT recharge this device with the miniUSB adapter while using the device. For example, if you have a long car trip, you will only have a little over 3 hours of use and then you'll have to recharge for a few hours using a USB car adpater or whatever else. The access point does not work while recharging. Some reviewers talk about using a plane adapter, but it still won't work while plugged in and I think it's a bad idea and just wrong to use this on a plane since this creates an unauthorized WiFi access point which may interfere with the plane electronics. I think it would be a major improvement if the AC adapter was permitted to continuously charge the lithium battery while in use allowing uninterrupted streaming. That would make it the ultimate traveling companion. Also, even with the 32 GB option space is limited and you will be forced to delete and add other files as time goes on which is a why a 64 GB SSD upgrade would be something I would be willing to pay extra.
*** update 8/12/2011 ***
Used this on 2 summer car trips and camping and the kids used this a lot. We had 3 iPads streaming 3 different movies from the WiDrive all at the same time without any stutters. Battery life seemed a bit better with average times of 3.5 - 4 hours in between charges. It works so well, that each of the kids now want their own personalized movie lists which is forcing me to constantly remove and upload movies to the WiDrive limited to only 32 GB (~ 25 movies encoded for iPad at medium quality settings). The perfect device would combine the functionality of the WiDrive with the space of the GoFlex Satellite. We have a 64GB iPad and 2 16GB iPads, and this fits our needs perfectly by serving as a portable media drive since the iPads are full of apps/photos/games/books/etc. The kids can keep all their games and not waste precious space with huge media files.
*** update 10/6/2011 (WiDrive vs GoFlex) ***
With price drop to $99 for 32GB WiDrive, went ahead and got another. Now I can setup movies/music for each of the kids and let them choose their own media libraries. This is a perfect easy way to upgrade a 16 GB iPad. Another option for those of you going on extended trips > 4 hours is to duplicate the drives so you can recharge one while the other transmits giving your audience continuous streaming (the WiDrive won't work while recharging).
Now for the biggest clarification - I also got the SeaGate GoFlex Satellite on sale. Another example that you can't always believe what you read (except for my review . . .) the GoFlex actually works pretty well and the app isn't that bad. It streamed video stutter-free contrary to many reviews that I read. The app has basic sorting capabilities. 500 GB storage is a big advantage. It also works while charging with the AC adapter, not the USB plug. For long travel, this is a better choice. However, it is bulky and heavy (feels like an oversized external hard drive - which it is . . . ). The WiDrive is much more portable and convenient. I actually like both and recent price drops make either drive a good buy for iPad and iPhone users. Which factors are more important to you will help decide between the WiDrive vs GoFlex Satellite - small, convenient, portable, limited space, max 4 hr runtime with no simultaneous charging VS large, bulky, capacious disk space, and simultaneous charging
*** 12/20/2011 (managing media files) ***
Thought it would help to give some advice about managing video files. The WiDrive is limited to iOS formats (i.e. mp4, mkv) and there are numerous options available to convert your video collections. HandBrake is freeware, well-supported and been around for a while which shows on its interface, but it gets the job done. There are lots of other alternatives from WonderShare, Aieesoft, Aimersoft,Snowfox, Tipard, WinX, etc. Check often at Giveawayoftheday.com for free, fully-functional, non-upgradable software packages. They frequently offer full-version disc transfer (sounds better than ripping), video conversion, disc burning, and video editing software. There's more flexibility with the GoFlex Satellite and they actually provide references to third-party freeware to view other video formats using their iOS application which work well enough. It's a pain having to convert your video files, but once you get the hang of it it's actually not that hard and you don't need the latest and greatest machine which only determines how fast the conversion process will take. Many of the software packages allow you to setup up batch file conversions which you can run overnight. Good luck.
*** 1/24/2012 (WiDrive streaming while recharging) ***
Thanks and all credit to Andrys (Kindleworld blog) who revealed a great charging tip. Turns out the WiDrive actually can work while recharging under certain circumstances. If you turn on the WiDrive first and let it establish the access point first (blue lights on), and then connect your USB cable/AC adapter, you'll notice that it keeps working while the charging light indicates the drive is recharging. It won't work if you connect the charging cable before activating the drive which is what I tried before receiving the tip from Andrys. It also won't work if you plug the USB into a computer/laptop (I assume it's not receiving enough current through the USB ports to support simultaneous recharging and WiFi signal generation). The next step is to try this in the car. Stay tuned . . .
*** 3/14/2012 ***
Works in our Acura MDX when plugged into the 115-V power outlet of the front power console using Andrys' tip.
*** 8/18/2012 (laptop streaming) ***
Here's a response to a few questions I received about simultaneously streaming media from the WiDrive to both iDevices and laptops. The trick is to take advantge of the network address the WiDrive assigns itself as 192.168.200.254 First, on your PC laptop select and connect to the WiDrive through your wireless network tool. Then open Firefox browser with Videolan VLC extensions installed (for some reason I keep having trouble getting this to work with Explorer, probably don't have the right extensions). Then type in 192.168.200.254 in the address box which should load the root directory of your WiDrive and you can navigate to your media folders through the browser and open your media file which should immediately start streaming. For your MacBook, same thing, connect to the WiDrive wireless ad hoc network and open Safari and enter 192.168.200.254. Note - I think the advantage of using PC browser with media extensions is that you can stream almost any media file type whereas it seems you are restricted to Apple video files using the MacBook.
*** 9/18/2012 ***
Still a big supporter of the WiDrive. The prices have really dropped, so picked up a third WiDrive (64 GB) for our trip to Europe which worked great and let the family take along their own personal libraries. I didn;t use it on the 11 hour plane ride, though it would have been nice. I hope the airlines and FAA will clarify issues for personal WiFi devices since it seems there's increasing reports that they are safe and pilots are already allowed to use their own iOS devices.