Review – Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage – Stream Data to your iPad, Tablet, or Computer on the Go

Have you been merrily collecting data everywhere, but find that you're lacking enough room on your tablet when you need it? Running out of room on the solid state drive in your sleek MacBook Air? If you listen to the advertising campaigns for tablets, the promise is that you can watch any media you choose wherever you are on your brand new ultra-portable device. Isn’t that the main reason you bought a tablet in the first place?

Unfortunately, the ads don’t really mention that movies take up lots of space, just as your gigabytes of music and photos do. Even if you have the data, you need a tablet tethered to a computer to transfer data. We love the idea of carrying our data with us, so we can choose a favorite movie, find photos, or listen to the entire catalog of re-mastered Pink Floyd discs – or a serious round of Warren Zevon – but that won’t all fit in the tablet's 16 GBs of RAM. Since the point of a tablet or similar device is to avoid toting around equipment you don’t need or want to bring with you, like a computer, we had high-hopes for a solution. So, we tested the Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage hard drive to see if it was the solution to our portable data needs.


The Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage system is a 500GB USB portable hard drive with a rechargeable battery coupled with built-in Wi-Fi. We tested it in a variety of situations, with differing platforms ranging from the iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, and Android, and in all cases it worked as advertised. To use, the first step is to charge up the battery, which can be accomplished using the supplied USB-to-DC cable, or the wall charger. Both worked fine in our tests, and we found that while in use our unit exceeded the stated 5-hour battery life by an average of as much as an hour. This depended a bit on the content, with video draining the battery faster than music did. We did find ourselves wishing for a battery life indicator so we knew how much we had left, but after using it for a few days our hunches were pretty accurate. Hopefully a battery life icon will be added in future versions.

You can transfer data to the drive via USB, FireWire (with the right cable adapter), or Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is 802.1b/g/n compatible, so transfers are quick and easy. Since we received an early production model we have updated the firmware with resulting improvements in the wireless operation. Another area we were glad to see addressed was the introduction of a dedicated Android client for the Samsung Tab 10.1. When we first used the combination we had to connect via the Samsung’s browser, which worked adequately, but with the new app we could avoid this as well as have more options in terms of multi-tasking. The iPad has its own app also, and we found it worked well and we're happy to see that Seagate updates its apps on a regular basis, which helps keep it bug-free. To export files to the unit, Seagate provides two primary pieces of software – Media Sync and Satellite Exporter for iTunes. Both are easy to use, and are self-explanatory.

The only downside for a Mac user is that it ships with a USB 3 cable, limiting its performance until the day that Apple sees fit to include USB 3 access. It uses the Seagate GoFlex docking system so it’s easy to plug in a FireWire 800 cable for the fastest transfer with your Mac or PC. We would love to see a Mac version, but because the drive must be formatted as a NTFS drive, the primary advantage is for a speedy transfer, as the drive can’t be used as a Time Machine drive. This matters though if you want to load up the drive with data before a long trip, as I often like to do. The flexibility of the GoFlex system proves its worth in that scenario. It comes with a three-year warranty, worth noting since this is a drive that expects to travel.

With space limited on your tablet, phone, or internal memory, we think that the Seagate GoFlex Satellite is a great solution, allowing you to put the drive in your pocket or bag, and stream wirelessly with all your data at your disposal. The fact that the unit can stream to three different devices at once has to be seen as a lifesaver to anyone who travels or lives with more than one tablet in their homes! In the house or van with three kids and three tablets with different tastes? No problem, all you need is one Seagate Satellite hard drive. We think that it is a great solution for the data-starved traveler on the go. The Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage is a Mac Edition Radio Holiday Pick.

Harris Fogel, posted 11/26/2011

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