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Review: SanDisk's wireless mobile flash drives -- one of them's a winner

The drives can stream up to five movies at once to different devices

July 25, 2013 02:53 PM ET

Computerworld - SanDisk this week released its first wireless mobile drives, both of them based on NAND flash memory, which is substantially more resilient to the bumps and bruises of travel than a hard drive.

The two flash drives differ in capacity and form factor. The Connect Wireless Flash Drive is basically a thumb drive with a microSD slot. The Connect Wireless Media drive is a square (about half the size of a playing card) flash drive with a standard-sized SD card slot.

The idea behind these drives is wonderful. You can purchase a mobile device - a phone, a tablet, whatever - and use the wireless drives to supplement their onboard storage. My iPhone 5, for example, only has 16GB of capacity, so having an additional 32GB or 64GB is great.

Neither of the drives comes with internal storage. The Connect Wireless Flash Drive comes with a microSD card slot and an included 16GB or 32GB card, depending on which one you buy. The Wireless Media Drive comes with a standard SD card offering 32GB or 64GB of capacity. Both work wirelessly via Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n); no Internet connection or router is required.

SanDisk's 32GB microSD card for the Wireless Flash Drive

The Connect Wireless Flash Drive has a slide-out USB 2.0 connector that works like any thumb drive. The Media Drive comes with a USB 2.0 cable. Yes, USB 2.0.

USB 2.0?

Therein lies my first knock. Why use USB 2.0 when USB 3.0 -- at 5Gbps -- is 10 times faster? Using outdated technology means that when you're downloading movies to these drives, you'll have time to go out and grab some popcorn and a drink. Uploading an .mp4 of Star Wars (1.81GB) took 5 minutes and 12 seconds. (The larger Connect Media Drive, however, almost halved the upload time; it needed only 2 minutes, 28 seconds to upload the movie.)

When I tried streaming Star Wars to my iPhone 5 from the Wireless Flash Drive, it took more than four minutes just to load and then paused to buffer a few moments after play began. After that, it streamed seamlessly.

I then tried walking away from the flash drive with my iPhone in hand, and after about 100 feet, I lost the movie stream. The worse part is that after losing the stream, I could not reconnect - not even after shutting both devices down and rebooting them. So, even though the flash drive's antenna is supposed to have a 150-foot range, it's best if you keep the flash drive on you at all times when you're using it.

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