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Seagate Wireless Plus

Review: Seagate Wireless Plus Wi-Fi hard drive

A terabyte of portable storage for your Android or iOS device

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In the week Apple finally released an iPad with a storage capacity greater than 64GB - double that; 128GB to be precise - Seagate made its Wireless Plus available. Of course, if Apple’s Flash mark-up wasn’t so colossal, or it had had the wit to either built a Micro SD port into its tablets or allow USB mass storage devices to connect to the dock connector, Seagate wouldn’t have had to bother. Fortunately for space-starved iDevice owners - or those for whom the $799 (£506) price tag is too high - here’s an extra terabyte of storage for 170 quid.

And not just iOS fans. Wireless Plus, an external hard drive with a Wi-Fi adaptor, basic router and a battery to keep it all running, can also provide extra capacity for folk with Android tablets.

Seagate Wireless Plus

Seagate Wireless Plus: not bad looking - and solid too

This is Seagate’s second such product. The first, the GoFlex Satellite, debuted a couple of years back. Its successor is an altogether more polished offering. It’s really the 2.0 product to the GoFlex Satellite’s 1.0, rather than just a redesign of the drive casing. Seagate has revised the system to eliminate most but not all of the first release’s issues, and if it’s not quite perfect, it is nonetheless considerably more usable than it was before.

A case in point: the GoFlex Satellite comes formatted with an NTFS drive. That’s fine if you’re a Windows users, but Mac types, with native NTFS reading in their favoured OS but not writing, needed to install a third-party NTFS driver. That was no big deal - Seagate provided one for free. A better solution, surely, would be to allow Mac users to format the drive to an OS X-friendly HFS+ volume. Now, using a bundled utility, they can, and back again if they need to.

Perhaps a better solution still would be simply to ship the thing formatted to Fat 32 for broad OS compatibility. Of course, Fat 32 doesn’t support files larger than 4GB, but a more ecumenical approach to the drive’s file system would still allow user for whom this is a problem - there can’t be many, since H.264 will compress even 1080p HD movies down to well under 4GB - to pick a more appropriate file system. Well, here’s hoping for version 3.0...

Seagate Wireless Plus

The USB 3.0 port comes off, to be covered over or replaced with a different connector

It doesn’t seem likely, though, that a future release will be easier to get into than the Wireless Plus. The GoFlex Satellite was hard enough to crack open, as anyone who, like me, thought it might make a good housing for a more travel resilient storage type than HDD. The new version is harder still.

You know why? It’s that pesky consumerisation thing. It’s aimed primarily at non-techies, and Seagate - and it’s not the only manufacturer that does this, not by a long chalk - seems to think techies will look elsewhere. So, no leeway is granted to users who might want to swap out the HDD for a smaller but more resilient SSD, or for a bigger 2.5-inch hard drive when they become available at the right price.

The software is likewise geared to the un-geeky. The Wireless Plus works with Seagate’s own Seagate Media app, which provides a rudimentary, media-specific file finding experience. Content is automatically organised into Music, Movies and Photos folders with everything else herded into a catch-all Documents listing. This is simply how the files are presented by the app; you can organise your files on the drive how you like. The app has a folder/file listing view too.

Seagate Wireless Plus

The power button needs only a light touch to trigger

Fortunately, the new app is rather smarter than its predecessor, which threw its hands up and sighed went presented with a file it didn’t know what to do with. Now the app taps the OS to see if there’s a program present that can handle, say, .CBZ files, say, that the OS’ native file viewers and Seagate Media can handle.

On iOS, these ‘non-native’ files are downloaded to the app’s local, sandboxed storage and can them be transferred - one at a time, but that’s yet another of iOS' bizarre limitations - to a suitable viewer app if one has been installed. There’s an inconsistency: some files are downloaded for app-to-app transfer immediately, others aren’t. What separates the second group of files from the first is that Seagate Media recognises them as media files. So .PDFs and .CBZs, say, are ‘expected’ to be opened into another app and so when tapped auto-download and pop up the ‘which app do you want to open this with?’ dialog. Seagate Media can’t present AVIs any more than it can present PDFs, but rather than follow the same procedure, it simply tells you the file is incompatible. The app knows the AVI is a media file and displays it as such, even though it can't actually play it. To transfer and play the file, you have to download it manually and then tap on the downloaded file to trigger the app selection dialog.

Seagate Media app

Seagate Media can't display PDFs itself, so it suggests apps you might use instead...

Seagate Media app

It can't play AVIs, either, but here it offers no easy choice up front

I understand why Seagate Media does this - users might not want to download big video files, while they probably won't care about small documents - but it makes for a disjointed experience. To be fair, it's also as much iOS' fault as Seagate's.

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