SeaGate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage Review
New technology, we love it! Seagate’s new Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage Hard Drive could be a game changer to portable storage. Imagine this: one pocket-sized 500GB portable hard drive streaming music, movies, and pictures to three devices at once, and wirelessly. Smart phones, iPads, Tablets, Laptops, and other WiFi-enabled devices can all take advantage of the immense amount of media the GoFlex Satellite can store.
What’s in the box
* GoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage device
* USB 3.0 USM adapter with detachable USB 3.0 cable
* Compact wall adapter with retractable pins
* Compact car charger
* USB to DC cable
* Quick start guide
* 3 year limited warranty
After hearing about the GoFlex Satellite, I imagined a clunky, not-so-portable, vibrating brick–and wow, was I off. The GoFlex Satellite is just a tad thicker than any other portable hard drive. It’s not too heavy and you can barely even notice when the hard drive is spinning. It’s also a very attractive looking device with its smooth glossy black face and silver frame. The bottom is made of rugged plastic with four rubber feet to keep the drive from sliding around a surface. There’s only one button, and two status LEDs: a power LED and a Wi-Fi LED. Like the other GoFlex drives, the Satellite has a “USM Connector” which is a port that allows the drive to accommodate different connectors and also integrate with other GoFlex devices. When using the Satellite in wireless-mode, there’s a plastic cover for the USM Connector, otherwise in wired-mode there is a USB 3.0 adapter for connecting the drive to the computer via USB 2.0/3.0. The Satellite can charge itself over USB, but there’s an AC port for faster charging.
The GoFlex Satellite is a Portable WiFi hard drive that most any WiFi-enabled device can access. This means phones, tablets, iPads, and laptops can all access any sort of content from the Satellite. Up to three devices can connect to the Satellite at a time. There’s no limitation to the type of files you can store on the Satellite, after all, since it’s a regular hard drive. It is compatible with both Mac and PC, Mac drivers are included. The media format limitation inlays in the device you’re accessing the drive from. For instance, the Apple iPad will not natively play WMV video format, it will only play H.264 video, MPEG-4, and Motion-JPEG.
The GoFlex Satellite creates it’s own WiFi network in 802.11 b/g/n with a range up to 150 feet. There’s no internet required. Out-of-the-box there is no security, but you can easily add WPA security. The Satellite is capable of being powered on for 25 hours on a single charge and can broadcast content for up to five hours for one device. Considering it’s capable of storing 300 HD movies and can only stream for five hours, it’s a good thing it comes with a car adapter!
GoFlex offers a free download for their Media Sync software, Windows and Mac. This software will automatically copy new media and documents from your computer to your drive (with a wired connection). Media Sync is completely optional, you can just as easily drag all of your new content to the GoFlex Satellite like you would any other drive.
How to Use the GoFlex Satellite
The Satellite is pretty user-friendly. Simply push the Satellite’s only button and you’ll see the power LED turn green and a couple seconds later the WiFi LED turns green. From your tablet, phone, or laptop, connect to the WiFi network called “GoFlex Satellite” (once connected you can change this name and password protect it). Now all you have to do is open your web browser and go to any website, you will be redirected to an organized portal with all of your content. There’s an iOS app for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch (iOS 4+) which is basically the same thing as the webapp.
The GoFlex Satellite is a very neat device, plus it’s the first of its kind. The hardware itself is impressive: a half a terabyte USB 3.0 drive in a small rugged enclosure that can broadcast it’s own WiFi network. While the hardware is nice, the implementation and UI are lacking. The Satellite works how it’s supposed to, you can access all of your content from up to three devices with a pretty good downloading/streaming speed. It streams quickly enough that you can skip around music and movies with little delay. Wirelessly, files will download at about 2.5MB/s. On a wired USB 3.0 connection you can read and write at about 79MB/s. The Satellite even works while on the move or on a bumpy ride.
The organization of the content is poor; GoFlex scans your drive and splits up your content into videos, photos, music, and documents, except you can only view your files in alphabetical order. You can’t even sort your music by artist. You can only view files in groups of 25. With a large collection it will take a while to find what you’re looking for. There’s a search feature, but it will only search the file name, not any of the artist or album tags. Another caveat is actually viewing your media. I put all my high resolution photos onto my GoFlex Satellite, aside from it taking a while to scrape all the thumbnails, it’s impossible to flip through pictures. There’s no slideshow. You have to open one picture at a time and then close it; there’s no sliding or skipping through images. Similarly, you can only play music one song at a time, you can’t play it in the background or from the lock screen, and there’s not even a display of what you’re listening to. Considering it’s a 500GB hard drive, the user interface should be designed to handle an abundance of files. You can download files off of the drive for offline viewing, but only files, you can’t download an entire folder/directory.
The imperfect UI is usable, but the bigger upset is that GoFlex Satellite is not a ‘wireless hard drive’ in all senses. You cannot add or remove files from the drive wirelessly, it must be plugged in to the computer. While it’s plugged into the computer it won’t work wirelessly. It’s unfortunate you can’t connect the Satellite to an existing WiFi network, once you connect it to your laptop, tablet, or phone, you will lose internet connection (even from 3G). Your device thinks that the GoFlex Satellite is a regular router with an internet connection, so while you’re connected you don’t get emails and cannot view webpages.
The GoFlex Satellite has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite there yet. Luckily, every issue we had with the GoFlex Satellite can be resolved with firmware updates. The GoFlex Satellite has the potential to be an absolutely amazing product, but we recommend waiting it out for a bit until the software improves. The GoFlex Satellite by Seagate costs $199.99 from Amazon. If you can’t wait, no matter what, you’ll still be purchasing a well-built USB 3.0 500GB portable hard drive with shock protection and Mac and Windows compatibility. The drive will stream all of your media wirelessly, but it could be a lot easier to navigate, so if you plan on using the Satellite to replace Apple’s iPod and Photo app, you will not be a happy camper.
The Good: Shock Resistant, 802.11n wireless, Good Standby Battery, USB 3.0, Good Looking, Rugged Underside, 500GB
The Bad: Bad User Interface, Lose Internet Connection When Using Satellite, Can only View and Download Files Wirelessly
Update 10/26/2011: GoFlex has just released a firmware update for the Satellite and an update to the GoFlex Media app. The upgrade makes the GoFlex Media app infinitely more usable and enjoyable. The app now has more of an iTunes feel with well organized Music including cover art. Playlists are now very easy to create on the go. Navigating through files and media has been greatly improved with the additional sort and view options. You can also swipe through all of your images, which had been one of our gripes. The only other updates we’d like to see now is support for a portrait-orientation view, the ability to listen to music in the background, and the option to integrate with existing wireless networks.
Check out the screenshots below from the new software update -
Seagate has released a firmware upgrade for GoFlex Satellite that improves battery life, lifts the restriction on the number of devices that can connect to the drive at one time, and most importantly, provides a pass through for Internet access when connected to the drive. This latest firmware enhancement enables multi-tasking by providing network access for checking mail or surfing the web while streaming. The upgrade will also now allow up to eight devices to stream content from the drive. Additionally, this firmware update will increase battery life with one connected device from 5 hours to up to 7 hours.
The upgrade is a free download available for GoFlex Satellites drives in the field and is available here. The firmware will be widely available to the public on March 19th.