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GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage review

Sections: External and Portable Storage Devices, iDevice Accessories, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews

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Provides: Media backup and wireless streaming to iDevices
Developer: Seagate
Minimum Requirements: PC or Mac computer running Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP or Mac OS X v10.5.8 with USB 2.0 or 3.0, and iPad, smartphone, tablet or computer with a web browser and Wi-Fi connectivity
Price: $199.99
Availability: Now

SeaGate’s GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage drive is a great idea hampered by clumsy implementation. It allows you to use your iPad, iPhone or other supported wireless device to view your media files directly from its hard drive. In other words, even if you only have a 16GB iPad (like me), you can have access to up 300 HD movies (depending upon file size, of course) on your iPad, and up to three iPads can stream movies from the GoFlex Satellite simultaneously.

Sounds great, right? It is, except for a couple of problems. Before I get to those, let’s take a closer look at the drive.

The GoFlex Satellite’s design takes its queues from the iPhone 4, with a glossy black top and silver edges. A recessed power button sits in the back left edge, and the LED power and WiFi indicators are on the back left top. The top and bottom curve nicely into the edge, making the drive comfortable to carry when moving it around (although it is kind of large).

GoFlex Satellite

Considering its meant to be portable, I’m surprised the device doesn’t ship with any sort of travel bag.

Setting up the drive and connecting it with your computer is a simple process that can be done with or without the Seagate Media Sync software (downloadable from the Seagate website). The software is actually one of my complaints, as I found it rather awkward to use. It apparently allows you to sync your hard drive to more than just the GoFlex Satellite, which is unnecessarily confusing, and I’m not sure what the separation is between the “Sync files from these folders” area and the “Include” check boxes. Allowing me to determine the folder while also selecting the types of files in the folder seems like overkill, and neither method is as simple as it would be to just show me the contents in the folder and select that way.

GoFlex Satellite

Thankfully, you can just use drag and drop and bypass the Seagate Media Sync altogether. All you lose this way is the option to automate the sync, which isn’t a big deal. The GoFlex drive is a bit messy with folders and files you’ll likely not want to keep around (sample photos, PC files (or Mac, if you’re a PC user) and such), so you’ll need to do some cleaning if you plan to use drag and drop. And oddly, to sync the GoFlex Satellite with my iPad, I first had to run a ParagonNetActivator app. Considering Seagate is marketing the GoFlex directly at iPad users, you’d think all Apple functionality would’ve been built right into the device.

Once you’ve got your files on the GoFlex Satellite, you need to disconnect it from your computer in order to turn on the Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), indicated by a blinking blue/green light. You’ll also need to download the free GoFlex Media app for your iPad or iPhone / iPod touch. To sync the iPad to the GoFlex Satellite, you’ll have to switch your iPad network setting to GoFlex Satellite HSZ, meaning you’ll lose Interent access while viewing your media.

GoFlex Satellite

Whether killing push notifications, e-mail and other interruptions during your movie is a good or bad thing, I’ll leave to you.

Once the sync is complete, you’ll use the GoFlex Media app to access all the content. It’s fairly intuitive, with the categories on the left and the content on the right. However, using the default Videos, Photos, Music, etc. folders, your content simply appears in an unorganized list. You can control how they’re sorted, but if you have over 9,000 photos, as I apparently do, good luck finding what you need.

GoFlex Satellite

There is a Folder View option included, which is fine if you’re properly managing your folders. Using this for photos, though, forced me to drill through iPhoto’s archaic folder hierarchy, which was not helpful at all. Also note that your iTunes playlists are not copied over, and you can’t create new ones within GoFlex Media.

And that’s the issue with the GoFlex Satellite hardrive and app. Although it’s certainly great to be able to expand your iPad’s hard drive capacity from 16GB to that plus 500GB, it’s not always easy to get to what you want. I found I loved using it for movies, but less so for music and photos, where it’s just easier to keep what I want on the iPad itself nicely tucked into Apple’s default software.

And worst of all, my unit shipped with the wrong power cable. Rather than get a USB to DC cable for recharging, I got a USB to mini-DV cable, meaning I can’t charge the unit via the included wall adapter. Because I’m assuming this won’t be the case with all units, though, I’m not factoring it into the review, but making sure you watch out for it.

Considering all of this, $200 seems a excessive. But the blow is cushioned when you also consider you’re getting a perfectly valid backup of all your media. And because the GoFlex Satellite is portable, you now have access to all your content wherever you go, from up to three iPads at once (all registered to the same iTunes account, mind you). If you have the sudden urge to watch Drag Me to Hell after a day of covering E3, for example, you can do so without having to first think of syncing it with your iPad before heading to the airport.

Other items to note:

  • The rechargeable lithium ion battery offers up to 5 hours of run time and up to 25 hours of standby time, which is good for only a couple movies before needing a recharge.
  • It ships with both USB 3.0 (compatible with 2.0) and FireWire 800 interfaces, while powered eSATA is sold separately.
  • The WiFi range is only around 30 feet, according to Seagate, so you may need to consider that when streaming movies around the house.
  • If I let my iPad go to sleep, the GoFlex Media app would lose its connection to the Satellite

So, you’ve got some good, and you’ve got some bad. Some of the bad can be addressed via app enhancements, but until then, it only makes to consider the GoFlex Satellite if you’ve got a lot of movies and only a little bit of storage space on your iPad or other iDevice.

Appletell Rating:
GoFlex Satellite review

Buy the GoFlex Satellite

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