Review Seagate GoFlex Satellite wireless hard drive

first_imgThe phrase “wireless hard drive” probably isn’t one you’ve heard before, but Seagate has gone ahead and done it–got an external hard drive and slapped on a battery and wireless router. With this $200 contraption people can stream video, music, and images to their portable devices (though it’s basically designed to work with the iPad and iPhone).The value proposition of the Satellite wireless hard drive is that it enable users to augment the storage of their mobile device, like a WiFi iPad. Want more storage when you are traveling? Apple will bump you from 16GB to 64GB for $200, but Seagate will get you from 16GB to 516GB for the same amount. Plus the Satellite can connect to multiple devices at once. It also gives users the option of streaming video or downloading it. Streaming might seem like the more attractive option but it’s not, it means you are using the Satellite for all 90 minutes of that movie you are watching. You can download a movie in a fraction of that, save it to your iDevice, and then watch it from there while the external hard drive goes into a power-sipping idle mode.It all probably sounds cool, if you are the type of person that needs mass storage on-the-go. Ideal users could be parents with multiple children who are driving across the country. The Satellite sits in the front seat while the kids pull in as much video as they could ever want on their iPads and iPods.Streaming works through a free app or through the device’s browser. You just need to connect to the Satellite the way you would any router or mobile hotspot.In theory, that’s all there is to it–you load up your drive with whatever media you want (via USB, not WiFi) and then download or stream at your leisure. Up to three people can stream at once, but more activity means battery life will be affected. The Satellite should last for 5 hours of use while the idle life is 25 hours.In practice things don’t always go quite so well. Connecting to the Satellite is easy, but to do so you need to sign off from your normal WiFi connection, so forget about downloading any email (not that you would be if you are in the car, but at home this is annoying). From there you can go right to Safari and it will connect with the drive. There is an app that does the same thing… but who needs another app?When working with the Satellite you can sort by video/photos/music/documents or browse through the clunky folder-based UI. Find some music you like, click it, and the iPad will stream the track. Press back, find a video, and after some loading time it will start playing. You can either stream or download (only with the app) media this way. Streaming video tends to be smooth, but if you aren’t working with optimized video there can be annoying frame rate issues.Through the browser/app you can do advanced features like reboot the GoFlex, change your SSID, add/chance a WiFi password, and so on. There is some loading time with each click, but overall things go smoothly.Just be to completely clear: The Satellite works, but there are issues. Some operations, like photo viewing, can be slow and the app does not work in the background (so you can’t switch to something else while it works). Also the drive is formatted in NTFS which can be a pain for the Mac users who will be buying it. The user interface feels pretty bad as well–if the device sees an incompatible video it’ll show up as if you can play it, but then it will attempt to download which can take minutes before you know what’s going on. ID3 tags and other meta information are missing, which will surely bother the enthusiasts that want to take 500GB of media with them. Also missing are playlists, music sorting, and slideshows, which means it’s bad at viewing images and playing music.Also, you can’t play music in the background using the app. Close the app and the music stops. You can get around this by using the browser, but even then you can only play one track before you need to press “Back”, find another track, and have it reopen in the streaming media player.The biggest problem with the Satellite might just be that it’s not from Apple. That means it’s kept almost entirely out of iOS’s walled garden. Using the app you can save a video or track to the iPad as “Local Content”, but not into your Videos or iTunes libraries. Anything you save will live apart from the rest of your iPad’s media, which is insanely annoying.There is a lot to like about the GoFlex Satellite, but the hurdles in front of it are considerable. As a wireless hard drive and a USB 3.0 drive it works well, but as a way to play media it’s not much fun to use. If the family techie wants to set things up then hand off the iPad to someone else, great, but if you need to explain to the kids why their video doesn’t live with the rest or why they can’t play music while they look at pictures, then you’ll understand why the Satellite missed its mark.Aside from the clunky UI and a few other shortcomings Seagate did what they could to play nicely with iOS, but it’s far from ideal and way behind the rest of the iOS experience.seagate_satellite_04seagate_satellite_04seagate_satellite_03seagate_satellite_02seagate_satellite_01seagate_satelliteseagate_goflex_satellite_002last_img read more