The SanDisk Wireless Flash Drive and Wireless Media Drive are nearly the same device, save for a few differences. The point is the same for both, anyway – pocket-sized storage devices with built-in Wi-Fi that can stream content to multiple devices simultaneously, while making it easy to transfer files from one device to another.
Wireless Flash Drive
Wireless Media Drive
One big difference between the Media Drive and the Flash Drive is storage capacity – the Media Drive comes in 32 GB and 64 GB models, while the Flash Drive comes in 16 GB and 32 GB. That said, the Media Drive is a little nicer to have in this respect – there’s an SD card slot that comes empty, so you can up the storage capacity quite a bit. The Flash Drive has a Micro SD card slot, but it’s already pre-loaded – it’s the Micro SD card inside that gives the device its storage capacity. So, to expand storage, you could only find another Micro SD card with a larger capacity.
The Media Drive is a small square, a little smaller than palm-sized. In addition to the SD card slot, there are three LED indicators for battery charge, Wi-Fi signal, and connection, along with a power button. The Flash Drive is shaped like your standard USB flash drive, with the Micro SD card slot and a Wi-Fi button. There are battery and Wi-Fi LEDs, and the USB port can be covered up when you’re not charging it.
You’ll probably want to start with a PC. Plugging in the Flash Drive like a standard USB drive, or hooking up the Media Drive using the Micro USB cord, will allow you to use the two devices as regular storage drives, so you can drag and drop content from your computer to the drives. Once you’ve done that, and charged both devices (the Flash Drive needs two hours for a full charge, the Media Drive needs three), you can unplug them and set up the Wi-Fi. And, you will have to unplug them from your PC – neither will emit a Wi-Fi signal while hooked up to a PC (although the Media Drive will when connected to AC power).
Because they use Wi-Fi, multiple devices can access them at the same time. Eight devices can be connected simultaneously for both devices. Three devices can stream video at the same time from the Flash drive, and five devices can stream video at once from the Media Drive. So, all of those devices can stream different videos, simultaneously, from one drive – which is great. That said, only the Flash Drive can be used wirelessly with PCs and Macs – the Media Drive cannot, and only works wirelessly with the Android and iOS apps. Range is about 150 feet for both, so if you’re out and about with friends on a road trip or something, it’s a nice little gadget to have. Or, it would be.
There are a couple issues that, while inevitable, hamper usability. One is that you need to be connected to the Wi-Fi network emitted by the device for it to work. So, if your tablet, smartphone, or PC is connected to one of these devices, they can’t be connected to the Internet using Wi-Fi. It is possible to use the iOS or Android app for either device to connect to the Internet and the storage device at the same time, but the Wi-Fi network in question needs to use WPA security or be unsecured – otherwise, it won’t work. With a PC or Mac, you’ll need to either rely on a wired connection or go without Internet while using it with the Flash Drive (on a computer, the Flash Drive is accessed using a web browser and a URL provided in the instruction manual, which can be accessed without an Internet connection). So, unless your tablet or smartphone can connect to a WPA-secured Wi-Fi network (or an unsecured network), you’ll have to do without Internet while using these.
The killer is the battery life. The Media Drive gets about eight hours, while the Flash Drive gets about four hours. On its face, that’s not too bad, but the problem is, that’s battery life for one device streaming a movie in 720p. If you get three or more devices streaming simultaneously, that’s going to cut down the battery a lot faster. If you’re on the go, and multiple people are trying to watch their own movies, the battery might cut out before anyone is done. That said, if you have an external battery pack, that should cover you if you have the Media Drive (no such luck with the Flash Drive, which won’t emit a Wi-Fi signal while taking a charge). The best use case probably involves the Media Drive – you could take the SD card out of your camera, stick it in the Media Drive, and share your pictures from the day over Wi-Fi with all of your friends on the spot.
If you’re just using this for yourself for back-up storage for a mobile device, then it’s a pretty nice pickup, especially if you rely mostly on 3G or 4G LTE for Internet, rather than Wi-Fi. And, as a facilitator for transferring files between devices wirelessly, it works well, although you probably don’t need an extra device just for that reason.
The accompanying apps work well, and have a clear interface with separate folders for music, movies, documents, and videos. Within the app, you can also set a password for the device’s Wi-Fi network, so not just anyone with one of the apps can snoop in on your files. You can also set a timer to automatically shut down an inactive device.
As an extra note, when I used the Flash Drive in too close of proximity to the devices I was using, it would quickly shut down its Wi-Fi signal. I didn’t experience this problem with the Media Drive.
The SanDisk Wireless Flash Drive and Wireless Media Drive are not your ordinary storage devices. You can transfer files from device to device easily, but the main attraction here is that Wi-Fi enables multiple devices to connect to the drives simultaneously. Unfortunately, the battery power ends up being a big limiting factor there for streaming videos. With the battery power in mind, they seem best for use with just one person at a time.
If you want to share pictures with your friends instantly, to all of their devices, the Wireless Media Drive is a handy gadget to rely on. If you have an external battery pack, it’s even good for entertaining the whole car on a road trip (but come on, it’s a road trip, you all should be watching the same thing together, or playing Slugbug, or something). The Wireless Media Drive costs $80 for the 32 GB model and $100 for the 64 GB. Neither are available yet, but should be sometime this month. The Wireless Flash Drive is $50 and $60 for 16 GB and 32 GB, respectively, with both models available now.
The Good: The Wireless Media Drive has an SD card slot, allowing for quick sharing of pictures to friends’ devices (as long as they went with iOS or Android). Simultaneous streaming of videos to multiple devices is smooth and easy. Both are very small and portable.
The Bad: Short battery life that becomes a problem, especially when multiple people try to stream video. Cannot be connected to the Internet using Wi-Fi while in use, unless you can connect to a WPA-secured or unsecured Wi-Fi network with your mobile device. Wireless Flash Drive has no internal storage, relies on its Micro SD card.