| By Michael Lasky |
Sure, Windows PCs can do a lot on their own, but add one of the new smart peripherals and their functionality can expand way beyond your desktop.
I took a trio of such versatile products for test drives and found that each can extend your productivity and indulge your leisure-time wishes.
Seagate’s GoFlex Satellite external 500GB hard drive moves your data wirelessly to and from PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Western Digital’s WD TV Live Hub streams the media on your home network to your TV and adds 19 (and counting) Internet-streaming channels such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora as well. TruConnect’s MiFi offers an inexpensive alternative to similar cellular Wi-Fi plans but without any yearly contracts required. Here’s my take on each.
External hard drive goes completely untethered
Hard drives are a buyer’s dream: they continually get bigger and faster while their cost per gigabyte keeps dropping like the popularity ratings of Congress. That makes it difficult for drive manufacturers to separate themselves from the herd. Seagate took a step in that direction with its U.S. $99 GoFlex Satellite (info page). Its 500GB capacity is modest by today’s standards, but built-in power and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi push its mobility factor to another level.
The first time I used the GoFlex Satellite, I could have downloaded a few gigabytes of videos, music, and photos via its wireless connection. Instead, I started the more traditional wired-USB method. The drive supports USB 3.0 for fast reads and writes; you can simultaneously charge the device’s internal lithium-ion battery. (An AC adapter is also in the box.)
Seagate’s Media Sync app conveniently helps divvy different file formats into appropriate folders (i.e., music, video, photos, and docs) or into new ones that you name. Of course, as with any hard drive, the file types supported are limited only by the devices and apps communicating with the drive.
The GoFlex Satellite’s most compelling feature is its ability to connect to other Wi-Fi devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Setup was easy; I just selected the drive’s SSID on each mobile device. Videos streamed from the drive to my iPad flawlessly. Seagate states that the GoFlex’s battery will deliver streaming content for up to five hours. That’s close to the time I saw in my tests.