Kingston Wi-Drive 16GB review

Portable WiFi storage for iPhone and iPad 2
Photo of Kingston Wi-Drive 16GB
£89

Does your iPhone or iPad ever get full? Of course it does – and the new Kingston Wi-Drive is designed to extend its storage capabilities while overcoming the difficult of not being able to connect external drives because of the iDevices’ lack of USB. Trouble is, there are a few niggles in Kingston’s implementation of this Flash-based storage extender that make it an accessory lacking in value.

The Wi-Drive is slim and sleek, arriving in a 122x62x10mm package that, oddly, is only ‘almost’ identically sized to an iPhone (it’s a touch longer, so won’t fit in specific iPhone cases you may already have).

Kingston Wi-Drive 16GB

Its small size, however, is its biggest weakness. Portable it might be, but at just 16GB (£89) or 32GB (£119) it doesn’t exactly open up a world of possibilities. Isn’t storage supposed to be cheap these days? With a movie likely to take-up around 1GB on average, we’re talking an extra 16 movies on the smallest model.

The Wi-Drive could house a significantly bigger music collection, of course, but even with a Wi-Drive bolted on to an iPhone you’ll only have reached the size of a bog standard iPod Touch. The Wi-Drive really ought to have a SD card slot for expanding – as in, doubling, at least – its  native capacity.

Simple setup
Setting up the Wi-Drive is simple. Charged up and connected to a PC or Mac using a needlessly long one metre miniUSB-to-USB cable, files can be dragged and dropped onto the device, though it’s best if you create three separate folders for music, movies, documents and photos.

Once disconnected, the Wi-Drive’s wireless connection needs to be activated by pressing a small green-lit LED button on the side; when the WiFi icon flashes blue, it’s broadcasting. It takes a while for network to show, though – at least a minute after LED flashing begins.

Next, you download a free app called – you guessed it – Kingston Wi-Drive from Apple. From the iPhone’s setting menu you’re can now locate the network created by the Wi-Drive. Once tuned in to it (you’ll need to come ‘off’ the WiFi network you’re already connected to), activate the app and – hey presto – you can access everything on the Wi-Drive.

Well, usually.

During our test we had several instances of the connection between the two devices dropping out, and annoyingly the iPhone reverts to its ‘home’ WiFi network if it’s available. Entering and exiting the app and the iPhone’s settings menu proved tiresome.

However, our main issue with the Wi-Drive is a software issue; the rudimentary way it presents the content is hard to get used to.

Alphabet annoyance
Open the app that locates the Wi-Drive content and the music folder contains all the files as an A-Z list. Sadly, because they’ve all been dragged from iTunes, they all have numbers, so all the opening tracks are grouped together.

It’s like using a non-Apple MP3 player that doesn’t have any navigation software, and we all know what a pain that can be. Still, at least each track is presented with title, file format, date added, time added and file size … overkill? In our test we managed to play MP3, AAC, M4A and WAV files – basically, files the iPhone is already familiar with.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to re-route the audio to an Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth-equipped device (such as Apple TV or B&W’s Zeppelin). This is an app you’re using, not iTunes. And it shows.

Choose photos from a list of filenames arranged alphabetically (no thumbnails, unfortunately – and who searches for photos by filename?), and the photo appears after about six seconds (JPG, BMP and TIF files are supported). Viewing as slow-to-load thumbnails and slideshows is  possible.

For videos, this oversight is less troublesome since you’re only going to have a few – and we managed to play some MOV, MP4 and M4V files dragged from iTunes. We also dragged on some AVI, MPEG and MKV files (the latter high-def files), and though they were listed – and AVI files are supposed to play – they didn’t play.

The Wi-Drive also supports documents, with PDFs, Word documents (including docx) and plain text files all displaying with ease – and looking particularly good on the iPad app. Oddly, only Powerpoint files with the newer .pptx extension are supported, while it failed to open RTF files. Small files, such as ebooks, aren’t really big enough to require separate storage, but we managed to open EPUB files from a Wi-Drive, albeit with the help of iBooks to read them, though MOBI files aren’t recognised.

In our tests we had no problem with multiple users; we managed to get three iPhones playing different content from the Wi-Drive, and a mix of 3G, 3GS and 4 models of iPhone (officially the Wi-Drive supports iPad, iPhone 3G/3GS/4 and iPod touch). Battery life is rated at around four hours.

Company: Kingston

Website: http://www.kingston.com/europe

Contact: Kingston on 01932 738888

Positives
  • Sleek, slim design, ease of setup.
Negative
  • High price, small capacity, frequent signal drop-outs, A-Z listing of files, no Apple AirPlay/Bluetooth output.

Verdict

The Wi-Drive is meant as a casual, basic and pretty temporary place to store a few dozen albums or enough movies for a few weeks away. As such, it works OK - but don't expect a swish interface, or for this device to become a beloved iPhone accessory for an entire workgroup. Still, its A-Z obsession and complete lack of integration with iTunes aside, this gadget will serve its purpose on business trip where an iPhone's built-in storage won't cut it - but with storage so cheap these days, the Wi-Drive ought to be bigger - much bigger!