SanDisk wireless storage drives excel; wearable MeCam a clunky camcorder
The scoop: SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive (16GB, $50; 32GB, $60) and Wireless Media Drive (32GB, $80; 64GB, $100)
What are they? The Wireless Flash Drive is exactly what it sounds like - a small USB stick that includes Flash memory (it's actually on a microSD card inside the USB drive), but also has wireless connectivity via built-in Wi-Fi. The unit can hold either 16GB or 32GB of content, and a slide-up USB port lets you connect to a PC or Mac for transferring content to the drive (or from the drive). The Wireless Media Drive goes a bit bigger - the small puck-like device contains either 32GB or 64GB of content, but with similar Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities.
Why they're cool: The Wi-Fi connection makes it quite easy for the drives to connect to mobile devices, such as an iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or tablet. With their free apps (either SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Player or SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Player), users can quickly and easily transfer digital data (photos, videos, music) from their mobile device to the SanDisk units. This data can then be stored or transferred to other devices (including PCs, Macs or other mobile gadgets that include the associated app). This is a great option for users to free up space on their phones/tablets, which tend to accumulate photos and videos. It's a lot easier to wirelessly transfer data to the media drive than to connect to a PC/Mac for wired transfer - especially for mobile users who are away from their computers.
The streaming functionality is another great feature, which especially shines with the Wireless Media Drive and its app. Both devices can store multimedia content and stream the content back to a mobile device. The Wireless Flash Drive supports up to three simultaneous streams, and the Wireless Media Drive supports up to eight streams, which should be more than enough bandwidth to keep the entire family happily viewing music or videos during the next road trip.
Some caveats: In my tests with iOS devices, there's a slightly tricky process that you have to remember when accessing content. The drives create their own Wi-Fi network, so you have to remember to connect to the drive's network in order to access content before you start transferring data or streaming media content. Both devices do support a form of Internet access passthrough, where you can tell the SanDisk unit to also connect to a local Wi-Fi network, but we got mixed results when trying that on our own devices (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't). In addition, streaming functionality was slower (longer wait time before movies started playing) than with comparable apps I've tried (specifically Seagate's Media app and Central storage device). Sometimes I couldn't get the Wireless Flash Drive to stream content, forcing me to shut down the app and reboot, or reconnect to the drive's Wi-Fi network. Hopefully, app updates from SanDisk can improve the app's Internet access and speed issues.
Grade: Wireless Flash Drive, 4 stars (out of five); Wireless Media Drive, 4.5 stars.
The Scoop: MeCam body-worn camera, about $50 (4GB) to $70 (16GB).
What is it? This small, circular device includes a camera lens that can take photos and record video. It's meant to be clipped onto your clothing or a hat via a safety-pin-style connector, or you can connect a flexible cord to the unit and wear it like a necklace. The video records high-definition video (1,280 by 720) in AVI formats, or you can push a button to take 5-megapixel JPG photos. The unit's battery can be recharged via a mini-USB cable, which is also included (a power adapter cable is not, however). Footage is recorded onto a microSD card (you can buy units with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of capacity). The device also uses LED infrared technology, so you can capture night-time footage (capture some moments from the concert you're attending?) as well.
Why it's cool: The goal of the MeCam is not to be stealthy with video, or to provide GoPro action-camera style video that you can get from other devices. Rather, it's a device that lets you to "capture every moment" or to "never miss a moment", for those impromptu events that might take place if you're not holding a larger camera. This also assumes that anybody that you're with forgets that you're wearing the unit.
The point-of-view camera provides videos that would be more of a "you are there" type feeling - I could see people using this to record things like "walkaround at Comic-Con." Inevitably, most of the footage you get from the camera would likely be unusable, or boring. But if you happen to have the camera recording when that celebrity walks by, or you catch a YouTube-able moment, then you have that moment on video while you reach for your cell phone or other device. In this way, the MeCam seems more like a backup device to have, rather than your main video recording option.
Some caveats: The safety-pin clip is troublesome - wearing it on your shirt requires some adjustments so you're not filming downward - instead of a safety pin the company should adopt more of a clothespin (or potato chip clip) style of attachment. That being said, I preferred the necklace wearing style, as you could adjust the height of where the camera was placed - mid-chest or up higher near your neck.
Video footage produced by the MeCam will be much shakier than recording with other units, as your body tends to move around more than you think. Because there's no viewfinder on the MeCam, you also tend to make a "best guess" in terms of what you're filming - while you think you may be filming a discussion with a friend, you might be just filming their chest (which might be useful for some scenarios). The hands-free nature of the MeCam lets you record videos without needing to hold a device in your hands, but we've seen that with clip-on cameras like the GoPro as well.
Bottom line: In the end, this seems to be more of a novelty camera/gadget item that is looking for unique scenarios, rather than a solution to any existing video problem.
Grade: 2 stars (out of five)
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
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