At the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a sample 16 GB Kingston Wi-Drive, courtesy of Kingston themselves. The Wi-Drive is a slim, portable solid-state hard drive that allows users to stream stored content to up to three devices.
I like the idea, and the device seems to work without a hitch. The Wi-Drive is easy to set up and use and very handy on long trips or while traveling. After returning home from CES, I dropped about 10 hours of movies onto the drive by connecting the USB cable from my phone to my Mac. My son was then able to stream the content to his iPod while in the car on a recent trip to Chicago. Unfortunately, the battery only lasts about four hours.
The Wi-Drive works by creating its own Wi-Fi hotspot over which the stored content is streamed. My iPhone 4S took a few minutes to locate and connect to the Wi-Drive, which was mildly annoying but certainly not a deal breaker. The idea is to provide a wireless mini-cloud, so to speak, from which to stream private content when the user doesn’t have a connection to pull content off the “real” clouds. I had one gripe while using the drive at home, which was that it seemed to occasionally drop the connection in favor of my home network.
Kingston pitches the device as useful for small groups working on collaborative projects, such as students accessing a saved project, or a marketing meeting where people can access images or other collateral simultaneously.
While that’s all good and fine, and I really do like the idea for storing movies and media to be accessed on long car rides, I’m kind of at a loss for additional practical use cases. To be sure, this is a boon for iOS users who don’t have the luxury of popping SD cards into their devices, but then I only have a measly 16 GB of memory on my iPhone and I haven’t really needed any extra space.
One thing that got me thinking was Apple’s recent iBooks 2 announcement. Those new digital textbooks Cupertino is pitching might be cheap, but they also feature gigantic file sizes, with one textbook ranging anywhere from 800 MB to 3 GB.
I asked Kingston whether the Wi-Drive could work as a textbook storage device, a digital backpack if you will. A spokesman told me there might be some DRM issues that come into play with storage and retrieval of textbooks. Apparently the company has seen similar problems with eBooks.
Right now, the Wi-Drive is available from Kingston in 16 and 32 GB models for $60 and $120, respectively. The devices work in conjunction with a free app for iOS. There’s also a beta app available for Android that seemed to work fine.
Overall, I liked the Wi-Drive. It works as advertised and offers a nice supplement to the iDevices’ limited internal memory. And yet I don’t know that it’s worth purchasing unless you have some very specific use cases in mind. Given that today’s users are almost never out of coverage, streaming content from any number of online sources (Netflix, Rhapsody) or retrieving files from services like Dropbox and Box.net seem like better alternatives to carrying around a mini-cloud in your back pocket.