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SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive hands-on review

26 Nov 2013

SanDisk's Connect Wireless Flash Drive is a USB memory stick with a difference: it has built-in WiFi capability and can serve up files wirelessly for up to eight different devices at a time, such as Android and Apple smartphones and tablets.

The device (pictured below) is actually more of a pocket-sized wireless server that uses micro SD flash cards as its storage medium. But it is pretty much the same size and shape as a USB memory stick, and plugs into a computer USB port or USB power adapter from a phone to charge up its internal battery.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive

When connected to a computer's USB port, the SanDisk drive acts just like a memory stick, allowing you to read and write files in the time-honoured fashion. When used wirelessly, however, the device can be accessed via a browser or by using an app, with SanDisk providing app support for Android devices and Apple's iPhone and iPad.

The battery inside the Connect Wireless Flash Drive is a lithium polymer type of unspecified capacity, but SanDisk claims it will give up to four hours of continuous access. The unit can alternatively be powered by a USB mains adapter if it is turned on before being plugged in.

When charging, an amber LED on the device lights up, turning off again when the battery is full. Once unplugged, the Connect Wireless Flash Drive is powered up by holding down the silver button half way along its length until the amber and a blue LED both flash three times. Afterwards, the blue LED indicates the WiFi is active.

We tested out the Connect Wireless Flash Drive by downloading SanDisk's Wireless Flash Drive app from Google Play onto an Android smartphone, although the app should work exactly the same on tablet devices.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive app for Android

The app automatically turns on your device's WiFi if it is not already on, and scans for nearby SanDisk devices. This can take a few seconds, after which you tap on the device name to connect to it. The Connect Wireless Flash Drive itself has a wireless range of up to 160 feet (50m), according to SanDisk.

Once connected, the app displays a list of available files on the Connect Wireless Flash Drive, or more accurately on the micro SD card it contains. This came already formatted on our test device, with folders for Documents, Music, Photos and Videos.

We were able to access files that we had previously dragged and dropped onto the device using a Windows PC, including video files and documents. However, there is a short delay as the app has to copy any file across before it can be opened, which contrasts with storage directly connected to your phone or tablet.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive app for Android

The app lets you rename the Connect Wireless Flash Drive and add a password for access control. However, it also prevents you from using the device's own WiFi to access the internet while connected to the Flash Drive, unless you set this option explicitly in the app.

One neat touch with the Connect Wireless Flash Drive is that the plastic collar that slides back to expose the USB connector also doubles as a kind of stand, enabling you to position it upright on a desktop or other surface. This makes it easier to see the blue status LED, and also possibly makes it more prominent than if it were lying flat on the table, so you will be less likely to accidentally leave it behind.

Overall, we found the Connect Wireless Flash Drive fairly simple to use, although we are not sure exactly who the device is aimed at, since it would be equally easy to share content with friends or colleagues by uploading it to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. However, the device does not require an internet connection to operate, of course, as you link directly to it via a peer-to-peer WiFi connection.

The Connect Wireless Flash Drive ships with either a 16GB or 32GB flash card already fitted in the device's micro SD slot, with the 32GB version listed on Amazon.co.uk for £49.90.

Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator 512GB USB 3.0 hands on

24 Jan 2013

Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 512GB USB flash drive

Kingston Technology's DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 is not only the highest capacity USB memory stick we have ever seen, but the firm also claims it is the fastest of its type available.

However, with a recommended price of £595, potential buyers will need a compelling reason for buying 512GB of flash storage in a pocket-size format that could potentially be easily misplaced.

As announced earlier this month, Kingston will deliver a version capable of storing up to 1TB sometime later this quarter, though pricing for that one has yet to be disclosed.

Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator USB 3.0

As its name suggests, the DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 is a USB 3.0 device, compatible with the USB 3.0 or "SuperSpeed USB" specifications that support data transmission speeds of up to 5Gbit/s, making it 10 times faster than USB 2.0.

In practice, the raw throughput of a USB 3.0 link is a maximum 4Gbit/s, which equates to about 400MB/s when transferring files.

To achieve anything like this, users need to have both a USB device and computer that supports USB 3.0 ports integrated onto the motherboard. However, you can still plug a USB 3.0 memory stick such as the HyperX Predator 3.0 into a USB 2.0 port, or conversely use a USB 2.0 memory stick in a USB 3.0 port - you will just be limited to USB 2.0 speed.

Kingston lists the HyperX Predator 3.0 as having a read speed of up to 240MB/s and a write speed of up to 160MB/s.

In our tests, the device actually exceeded this, achieving a read speed of 274.2MB/s and a write speed of 165.2MB/s under the freely available CrystalDiskMark benchmark tool.

In comparison, a standard USB 2.0 memory stick transferred data at a read speed of just 19.2MB/s and a write speed of 8.3MB/s, making the Kingston drive over 10 times faster.

The device itself is quite chunky and heavy when compared to a standard USB memory stick, possibly to make sure you won't forget you are carrying it around.

Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 compared with USB stick

In fact, it is so bulky that we had to raise our test system - Dell's XPS 12 ultrabook - off the surface of the desk in order to connect the HyperX Predator 3.0 to one of the USB ports on its side. This is obviously a problem Kingston has encountered during its own tests, as the drive comes with a short USB extension cable included.

Our review sample was delivered in a case resembling a tobacco tin, alongside the USB extension cable and a key fob. The latter is presumably to enable you to attach the pricey HyperX Predator 3.0 securely to your belt while carrying it around.

What would you want with a 512GB memory stick? Well, this capacity is larger than that of most hard drives, if your computer is more than a year or two old, so the HyperX Predator 3.0 could be used as a backup drive.

Another potential use is to boost your PC's performance using the ReadyBoost feature in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

However, we suspect that the HyperX Predator 3.0 will simply be used by those who work with very large files or datasets, as the high data transfer speed means you won't be kept waiting as long when copying to or from a compatible computer.

It should be borne in mind, though, that even at USB 3.0 speeds, it will still take about half an hour to transfer the half a terabyte of data that the HyperX Predator 3.0 can hold.

Dan’s IT dustbin: storage blasts from the past

25 Apr 2012

During a recent desk move within V3's office building, various pieces of old kit were discovered that haven't seen the light of day in several years, and I'm planning to post pictures of some of the more interesting or historical items on this blog.

With the announcement of Google's cloud-based Drive storage service, it seems like an appropriate time to show some old storage devices and media, to remind readers how it used to be before the days of terabyte hard drives and Dropbox.

First up is a SmartMedia card, an early format of Flash storage first introduced in 1995 by Toshiba, this example storing a massive 4MB. Yes, you read that correctly - megabytes, not gigabytes.

Toshiba SmartMedia card

These were intended to replace the floppy disk as a removable storage medium, which is probably why they are shaped to resemble a floppy shrunk down to about the same size as an after dinner mint.

Incredible as it may seem, adapters were available so that SmartMedia cards could be read by inserting them into a PC floppy drive, just like you might slip a microSD Card inside an adapter ‘jacket' so it can be read in a device with a standard SD Card slot.

This type of Flash card was once popular in digital cameras, but began to be phased out as smaller formats that had a larger storage capacity became available, and SmartMedia cards are no longer manufactured.

SmartMedia cards had a large number of connections, as shown in the photo, as they used an 8-bit bus to communicate with the host system, while SD Cards use a 4-bit bus or serial communications and thus have fewer connections.

Approximately the same physical size as the SmartMedia example is this Imation DataPlay disk, which was a short-lived optical storage format that could be likened to a miniature CD-ROM or CD-R designed for portable devices such as media players and handheld PDAs.

Imation DataPlay disk

In this photo, alongside a pound coin and a modern USB memory stick for comparison, you can see the miniature caddy the disk is mounted inside, akin to some DVD-RAM disks.

Few DataPlay devices actually came to market, and the format suffered a similar fate to that of SmartMedia, in that Flash storage was becoming a much more attractive option.

Here is a contemporary news article about DataPlay from V3's predecessor title IT Week, published way back in 2001;

Mobile devices may soon enjoy up to 500MB of low-cost storage from a new type of optical media, available later this year. DataPlay disks, developed by a firm of the same name, are small enough to be used with handhelds such as Palm and Pocket PC systems.

DataPlay's technology, which can be likened to CD-R in miniature, has been under development for several years. Boasting a large capacity in a small form factor and with claimed low power consumption, the technology could be ideal for mobile workers needing to store applications and data such as email messages on their mobile client devices.

The firm just recently announced a deal with storage vendor Imation, which will manufacture and sell DataPlay disks world-wide. The deal should ensure there is an adequate supply of media when the technology is launched at the start of the fourth quarter this year.

DataPlay disks are the size of a large coin, but can store up to 500MB of data. The majority of handhelds currently rely on silicon-based Flash memory cards, most of which have a capacity of 64MB or less. The disks are similar to CD media, as they are intended to be available in both a pre-recorded format - akin to CD-Rom - and a writable format, like CD-R. DataPlay expects that blank disks will sell for between $5 (£3.33) and $10 (£6.66) each. This compares with £38 for a typical 64MB CompactFlash card.

While DataPlay is heavily promoting its technology for consumer applications, the miniature disks also have more serious uses. "DataPlay is for any type of digital content," said Suzanne Stephens, DataPlay's marketing communications manager. She added that while the firm was currently focusing on the consumer side with music content and imaging, there were plans for DataPlay to be incorporated into PDAs and USB readers for PCs. Innogear, a manufacturer of peripherals for Handspring's Palm-compatible Visor range, expects to make available a clip-on DataPlay drive.

Although DataPlay won't be selling many products itself, it does manufacture the drive mechanism used by other vendors. The firm claims an average power consumption of 160mW for the drive, which is comparable with Flash memory.

This is just a sample of the old stuff I've unearthed. More photos will be posted when I get around to it and let us know if you find any old IT kit lurking around.

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