The scoop: GoFlex Satellite, by Seagate, about $200.
What it is: Seagate continues to innovate and make storage sexy -- with the GoFlex Satellite, it's another one of those "Why hasn't someone done this before?" moments. The Satellite is a 500GB external hard drive that can wirelessly stream multimedia files (movies, music, photos) to any mobile device (but especially the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch).
The Satellite has its own Wi-Fi network -- when you connect your iPad (or other device, including Mac, PC or Android device via a Web browser), you can stream media stored on the Satellite to your iPad. This can free up a ton of space on your iPad -- instead of transferring media to the iPad itself, you can keep it on the much larger GoFlex Satellite. If your media library extends past the 64GB capacity of the top-end iPad, the 500GB capacity makes even more sense.
The Wi-Fi connection (it has 802.11n support with about a 150-foot range) also supports streaming for up to three devices. For example, you can watch three different movies simultaneously, making this a great idea for streaming media content in a car (the device comes with a car charger). The drive also comes with a USB 3.0 cable that supports Seagate's GoFlex adapter, which is useful for transferring your media library to the device (you can either drag-and-drop or use Seagate's media syncing software).
Seagate says the lithium polymer battery on the GoFlex Satellite can last up to five hours on a single charge, and provide up to 25 hours of standby time. I preferred using the wall adapter or car charger to keep the battery up and running.
For iPad and other iOS devices, a free app (GoFlex Media) lets you access the GoFlex Satellite once connected via the Wi-Fi network. For other device users (Mac, PC, Android), opening up a browser will redirect the user to the GoFlex app on the device.
Why it's cool: For users with media libraries that go beyond the storage capacity of their mobile device, this means they don't have to pick and choose which media to transfer. Seagate also allows for the playback of iTunes protected content -- as long as the device you're using (iOS devices only) is synched with an authorized iTunes account. The simultaneous streaming function is superb for allowing the kids to consume content on a road trip without having to transfer it to individual devices.
Some caveats: The software interface (and iOS app) has some rough edges in trying to locate specific songs or videos to listen to/view; album art is missing (Seagate says an update will fix this).
Also, because the device uses its own Wi-Fi router in essence, users won't be able to access the Internet while using the device. While Seagate won't confirm this, I wouldn't be surprised to see a device down the road that solves this problem, perhaps through the use of a 3G/4G device like Novatel Wireless' Mi-Fi units (basically, imagine a Mi-Fi mobile router that also contains a 500GB hard drive).
But that's a future prediction -- for now, users can be happy in knowing that they can truly bring all of their media with them and view it on any mobile device without having to upgrade to a larger-capacity unit.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story, "Seagate drive streams media to your iPad, iPhone" was originally published by Network World.