3 wireless media hubs: Extra storage for mobile devices

Travelers who want to take some extra storage and battery power along with them should check out these three mobile devices.

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Iogear MediaShair Hub

Price: $99.95 (direct); $57.48 - $79.46 (retail)

The 4-oz. MediaShair looks like a miniature router, an apt description because it doubles as a mobile access point. And, like the other two hubs in this roundup, it triples as a mobile charger. But Iogear's device, which measures 2.8 x 3.7 x 0.6 in., has the best design of the three, from its beautiful glossy white finish to its large LED icons that clearly indicate battery, Wi-Fi, Internet and SD status. Amazingly, it's also the most compact of the hubs, even if it does weigh a fraction more than Kingston's MobileLite Wireless.

Iogear MediaShair Hub
Iogear MediaShair Hub

Iogear promises up to nine hours of operation from the MediaShair's 2600mAh battery. You can also plug your smartphone or other device into the hub's USB port for charging -- which would also inevitably shorten the MediaShair's own battery life. (Iogear conveniently supplies a cigarette-lighter adapter for recharging the hub itself in your car.)

There's also an Ethernet port; plug in a LAN connector and you can turn the MediaShair into an access point, just like the Carry Apotop Wi-Copy. That's a great perk for travelers who spend a lot of time in hotels. And if you routinely travel with others, you'll appreciate the hub's support for up to seven simultaneous connections.

The Iogear mobile apps (available for Android and iOS) rival Kingston's, at least in terms of versatility. Though a little clunky-looking, with a slight learning curve for navigation, they include ample tools for sorting, searching, viewing and managing files. However, the music player lacks a play-all option, and a couple of the video files that played properly on the MobileLite and Wi-Copy failed to load here, or played with occasional pauses. But documents of all stripe (PDF, PowerPoint, etc.) popped up just fine.

Bottom line

The MediaShair Hub offers a near-perfect blend of good looks, smart design and useful features. It's the standout in this group.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless

Price: $59.99 (retail)

Although it's the lightest media hub in the group, Kingston's 3.5-oz. MobileLite Wireless is, at 4.9 x 2.3 x 0.7 in., also the longest, consuming roughly an inch more space in your travel bag than the Apotop and Iogear models. That's hardly a deal-breaker, but the MobileLite's capabilities don't quite match up with its generous dimensions.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless
Kingston MobileLite Wireless

Indeed, although it packs a rechargeable battery that's good for up to five hours of operation, it contains an 1800mAh cell -- the smallest in the group. You can top off mobile devices by plugging them into the MobileLite's USB port, but there's simply not a lot of extra juice. The other two hubs offer at least 50% more.

The other hubs also support USB hard drives; the MobileLite is limited to USB flash drives and SD cards. Plus, there's no Ethernet port, meaning no router/access-point functions. The good news is that if you don't need those options, your wallet will thank you: Kingston's hub is the bargain to beat at $59.99.

And it's arguably the best device at managing mobile media. Kingston's companion apps run on Android and iOS, with an easy-to-enable pass-through feature, an excellent music player, photo sharing to Facebook and Twitter and support for up to three simultaneous connections. You can even access DRM-protected iTunes purchases, though the iOS app doesn't support this directly; you have to connect to the drive via your Safari browser.

Bottom line

It's disappointing that the MobileLite doesn't support USB hard drives, because that's a fairly major limitation. Its lack of Ethernet/access-point capabilities keeps it behind the competition as well. But if all you need is an inexpensive mobile-storage unit, this one makes a fine travel companion.

Conclusions

If you need more storage for the road, whether for streaming media to your mobile devices or clearing out photos and videos to make extra space, a wireless media hub will definitely do the trick. And don't overlook the benefits of mobile charging, a perk offered by all three hubs, and Wi-Fi access points, offered by two of them.

Kingston's MobileLite Wireless is the most affordable, but also the most limited. Carry's Apotop Wi-Copy offers all the desirable media-hub features, but also has the highest price and least appealing apps.

The winner, then, is Iogear's MediaShair Hub, a compact, attractive, versatile device that rivals Kingston's apps and Carry's capabilities. It's an excellent option for endowing your mobile devices with more storage, while at the same time bolstering their batteries and sharing Ethernet connectivity.

Rick Broida has written about technology for nearly 25 years. He pens the popular Cheapskate blog and writes for Computerworld, PC World, Popular Science and Wired.

This article, 3 wireless media hubs: Extra storage for mobile devices, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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