When I reviewed Kingston's Wi-Drive around this time last year, I was impressed by the product's innovative solution to the fixed storage capacity of the iPhone and iPad. Even though 64 (or even 128) gigabytes of storage seems like plenty for an iOS device, it's really not if you shoot a lot of video or have a library full of high resolution photos. Before the Wi-Drive came on the market, you were stuck with either lugging along a laptop paired with the iPhone or iPad or using Apple's camera adapter kit. The Wi-Drive made it easy to transport a large volume of media and have it accessible to any Wi-Fi device.
But a year ago, the fixed drive and slow data transfer rate limited the product. Getting data on or off the drive meant either connecting it to a computer's USB port or via Wi-Fi. And if you ran out of drive space with no means to move files to another storage medium, few options alleviated the constraint. Since the Wi-Drive is essentially a Wi-Fi router with a hard drive, you had to be connected to its network to access the Wi-Drive's storage at the expense of any other Wi-Fi network you used to connect to the Internet.
Having learned from this initial product offering, listening to customers, and observing media storage habits, Kingston has released a major iterative improvement to the Wi-Fi storage sharing concept. The MobileLite Wireless ($69.99) addresses all the shortcomings of the Wi-Drive while bringing some welcome new features that set it apart from anything else on the market.
Rather than using a fixed spinning hard drive, the MobileLite allows you to swap in and out a variety of SD card sizes and storage types, including high capacity and the new SDXC format that allows storage of files larger than 2 gigabytes in size. And since the SD cards are removable, you can swap them in and out if you need more storage or prefer to organize your media onto different cards (i.e., one for music, video, still photos, etc.). And when not in use, the MobileLite can double as a battery backup for your iPhone or iPad by simply plugging in your charging cable into the MobileLite's USB port. Brilliant!
Another really nice feature with the MobileLite is, just like the Wi-Drive, its supports up to three simultaneous network connections. You can access files from the MobileLite on an iOS device via Kingston's free MobileLite app. And remarkably, even when feeding three different iPhones or iPads with three different video streams simultaneously, there is no discernible impact in playback performance. So in addition to providing a great single user storage solution, the MobileLite also doubles as a perfect family car compliment. No longer relegated to watching the same movie, the kids can be watching their movie of choice on their iPod Touch or iPad while the parents can be watch their favorite show or family video. Given the multi-user aspect of the MobileLite, it's as if Kingston has created a truly portable, infinitely expandable wireless-network-attached storage device (Wi-Fi NAS).
The MobileLite Wireless is nearly perfect. Only a few minor quibbles keep it from attaining a perfect five star review. For a device that is designed to work with postage stamp-sized SD cards, the MobileLite housing seems rather large for what it needs to do. I anticipate future iterations will be half or more of the current size. Second, it would be nice if the device could offer the option to easily swap out its internal 1800 mAh rechargeable battery. While the standard operating time is roughly 5 hours, it would be nice to be able to swap in a spare battery in case of emergency or a long road trip. Lastly, including a starter 16 or 32 GB SD card into the package rather than relying on customers to purchase them separately for use with the MobileLite would have been a welcome item to include in the package.
These minor criticisms aside, the MobileLite Wireless is a smart improvement over Kingston's Wi-Drive and the swappable storage options and support for a variety of SD card formats give your iOS (and even laptop, Android and other Wi-Fi-capable) devices a terrific way to share and store your digital photos, videos, music, and other media in an easy and intuitive way. It is an accessory you will make permanent room for in your gadget bag.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars