Dane-Elec has made plenty of storage devices, from simple flash drives like Dane-Elec ColorBytes to licensed drives from Marvel Universe. The latest from Dane-Elec—the company is changing its name Gigastone, but still has the Dane-Elec brand name—is the Dane-Elec Media Streamer($39.99 list), a wireless card reader and battery backup that lets you take your storage on the go and stream movies and music to your smartphone or tablet.
Design and Features
The compact device is about the size of a small bar of soap, measuring 0.65 by 2.95 by 2.36 inches (HWD)—not quite square, but close. It’s small enough to slip in a pocket, but just large enough that it might be more comfortable to pack it in a coat pocket or the outside pocket of a laptop bag. Clad in glossy white plastic, the Media Streamer looks sleek, if slightly like a medical device. A small power button on the front is the only moving part, and an array of LED lights provides indicators for power, charging, and whether the drive is properly connected and streaming.
The small device features both a USB 2.0 port and a full-size SD card slot, making it easy to connect a thumb drive or the card from your camera, and you can connect a variety of other memory formats via USB adapters. On the back of the Media Streamer is a microUSB port, which lets you both charge the internal battery and transfer data via USB from a PC or other device.
Using the wireless streaming feature is fairly simple. First, download the Gigastone Media Streamer app to your phone (available for free for both Android and iOS devices). Next, turn on the Media Streamer, plug your USB drive or SD card into the device, and connect to the device Wi-Fi signal in the settings of your phone or tablet. Once connected, you can open up the Media Streamer app, and you will be able to browse through any files found on the storage, and either stream media files, or upload and download static files.
The Media Streamer also has its own internal battery, which not only powers the storage and wireless streaming, but also works as a battery backup. Just charge up over USB when not in use, and then use the USB-to-microUSB charging cable to connect the USB port on the device to the microUSB charging port on your phone or tablet. It won’t offer a lot of juice, but in a pinch, it will give enough battery life for a phone call or two.
I ran into a few issues during testing. The first real problem was that the Wi-Fi connection wouldn’t stay connected. In a lab full of wireless devices and signals, the Media Streamer’s signal was repeatedly superseded by regular Wi-Fi connections that were remembered by the device. Contrast this against something like the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive, which has a tool to connect to the drive built into the app—the Dane-Elec device requires hunting through wireless signals in your regular settings—and the Media Streamer feels pretty clunky.
There was also the issue of the SD card slot, which requires you to insert the SD card until it is flush with the surface of the device. While this protects the SD card quite well during use, it also makes it a pain to insert and remove. The card slot does have a slight indentation to allow you to press and eject a fully inserted card, but even another millimeter or two of motion would have made it easier to use. Similarly, the USB port—used both for connecting USB storage or charging mobile devices—doesn’t allow you to insert a USB connector all the way. The shallow connector causes the opposite issue seen on the SD card slot—USB drives aren’t as secure in the device, and are pulled out too easily. Admittedly, these are small details to focus on, but on a device that has only a few features, the little things stick out.
The Media Streamer app is also a little clunky (tested primarily on Android, but the experience seemed nearly the same on iOS). Browsing through files was simple enough, as was streaming media. Uploading files, however, was a frustrating experience. I found myself only able to upload photos, while downloading worked with any file type. Plenty of image formats are supported, however, such as PNG, JPG, JPEG, BMP, and TIFF formats. RAW formats are also supported for several brands, among them NEF (Nikon), CR2 (Canon), RW2 (Panasonic), ORF (Olympus), DNG (Leica).
The Dane-Elec Media Streamer, offers much the same sort of wireless storage as the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive or the Seagate Wireless Plus, but with the added convenience of a built in SD card slot and USB port. The flexibility of using other storage devices is a real plus, but unfortunately, the Dane-Elec Media Streamer is weighed down by spotty wireless connectivity, an awkward interface, and a few irritating design choices. Choosing between streaming storage devices is generally an issue of convenience and ease of use, and in that area the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive wins out.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc