Western Digital enters the wireless driver fray

WD has announced its first wireless hard drive, a 500GB-2TB device that works with iOS or Android devices.

Western Digital (WD) executives knew they were behind the curve in releasing a wireless hard drive. Seagate, Kingston and Corsair are among those with their own models.

In fact, WD said its delay was intentional.

"We always thought the technology was not far enough along to make the user experience great," said Greg Kopotic, WD's senior product marketing manager. "The apps and the Wi-Fi [are] at the point now where the user experience can be pristine and easy to understand."

Like others, WD's new My Passport Wireless is a Wi-Fi enabled storage drive that allows users to save, access and share stored content wirelessly with any smartphone, tablet, computer or other device.

The My Passport Wireless comes in capacities of 500GB ($130), 1TB ($180) and 2TB ($219).

The built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides up to six hours of continuous streaming and up to 20 hours of standby power.

WD's My Cloud mobile app, available through Apple Store and Google Play, offers users of the drive a dashboard of features to control it. For example, the dashboard allows them to lock the drive's USB 3.0 port (which offers up to 5Gbps throughput) so that only pre-authorized users have access with a password.

"So if anyone steals the drive and plugs it in, they can't get access to the content.  They'll just be charging the device for you," Koptic said.

The My Passport Wireless drive's size varies slightly, depending on capacity, but the 2TB model measures 5-in. x 3.39-in. x 1.17-in and weighs about three-quarters of a pound.

Like Seagate's Wireless Plus, Corsair's Voyager Air, LaCie's Fuel, and Kingston's MobileLite Wireless G2 Media Reader, WD's My Passport Wireless drive can act as a hot spot. The WD can support up to eight pre-authorized users accessing data from the drive at the same time.

The portable wireless drive features Wireless N with MIMO technology for up to 80Mbps wireless streaming connection.

"You can stream up to four high-definition videos at once," Kopotic said.

However, Seagate's Wireless Plus drive has a 150Mbps wireless connection.

The difference in price between WD's drive and others from Seagate, Corsair and LaCie is negligible - around $20. For example, LaCie's is $20 more; Seagate's is $20 less.

The only exception in price among the wireless drives is Kingston's MobileLite Media Reader. It retails for $55, but it has no on-board storage capacity. Instead, it offers a USB 3.0 port for a thumb drive and SD card slot for storage capacity. That limits its storage capacity to about 128GB with a SanDisk SD card, but it allows users to switch out media when needed. The MobileLite Media Reader also has an Ethernet port, allowing a high-speed connection to upload or download data.

The My Passport Wireless drive is more akin to Seagate's Wireless Plus drive or LaCie's Fuel, both of which have up to 2TB of onboard storage. Corsair's drive has up to 1TB of capacity.

Unlike Seagate and LaCie's wireless drives, WD's not only comes with onboard storage, but it also an SD 2.0 card slot for removable storage. The drive can be set up so when an SD card with photos or videos is plugged in, the data is automatically transferred to the hard drive and then deleted from the card. The default setting leaves the data on the SD card.

The My Passport Wireless also comes with media-type icons, representing the type of data stored on it. For example, music, video and photos have their own icons, and when clicked on, they bring up that content only for viewing or listening.

Video or music files can also be streamed from WD's My Cloud service to the drive for active listening; if the drive is disconnected, the music will continue playing from the onboard storage capacity.

The wireless drive also has an integrated search feature that will look for content on the drive and in WD's My Cloud at the same time and bring up a list of thumbnail icons or file structure.

"You can also connect your home router to it and turn on file sharing," Kopotic said. "That will treat the drive like a network share, so others can access all the content on your My Passport Wireless."

This story, "Western Digital enters the wireless driver fray" was originally published by Computerworld.

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