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GadgeTell Review: RAVPower Wireless Media Streaming FileHub

Sections: Accessories, Communications, Computers, Mobile, Mobile Computers, Networking, Peripherals, Reviews, Smartphones, Storage

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I’m a minimalist by heart, so small, powerful, or multi-function devices tend to grab my attention to at least take a peek. With the growing number of mobile devices and accessories, you’d guess right that I’m almost always checking something out.

External storage and external battery packs are quite popular, for good reason. Mobile lifestyles demand more than many smartphones and tablets are able to deliver, in terms of entertainment or content. With that being said, you can imagine how useful a combination external battery pack and storage device can be.

The RAVPower FileHub taps into those two needs, while also featuring Wi-Fi for connectivity. Although it doesn’t have internal storage, the SD card slot and USB port essentially make connected media wirelessly accessible.

Design

There is nothing fancy about the RAVPower FileHub. The thin, flat design can have it easily mistaken for a portable external USB drive. The FileHub is lightweight, though sturdy.

LEDs on the top indicate the kind of wireless, internet, or data transfer activity that’s going on (the manual details it). While there isn’t a multi-LED indicator for battery life, the power indicator glows red once the FileHub hits 30% and less. Good enough for me.

Power button requires a press-hold to turn the RAVPower FileHub on and off, making it so accidental bumps aren’t going drain the battery while it’s in a bag. A reset button is front and center just in case a password is set and forgotten.

AirStor App (for Android)

The instruction manual lists two (free) apps that can be downloaded in order to access the FileHub. AirStor seems to be the one available for Android. The AirStor app interface is straightforward and limited. Give yourself less than 5 minutes and you’ll know the ins and outs. It has yet to crash or malfunction on any of my devices.

RAVPower FileHub contents

Simple box contents

The features I found most handy: the ability to check on the transfer status of files, and the option to safely remove insertable media.

Things you can’t do? Copy entire folders, create folders, rename folders, and rename files. You can only delete files, download files to your connected device, and upload files to the FileHub.

Is it a big deal? Nope. Here’s why. The RAVPower FileHub can be accessed through the Solid Explorer App via Windows File Sharing (SMB). What’s SMB? Well, all you need to know is that it lets you run the RAVPower FileHub with Solid Explorer, which is a very robust file management app.

If you’re unfamiliar with Solid Explorer, you should seriously check it out. It has a clean layout, doesn’t require rooting, offers two-pane drag-and-drop (landscape orientation), and can also connect to your cloud accounts (e.g. Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). You get to copy, paste, rename, move, delete, view properties, and all the other actions you deserve for file management (which are also lacking in the AirStor app). You’ll never regret paying $1.99 for Solid Explorer (after the 2-week trial), trust me.

So far the only time I use AirStor over Solid Explorer is when I want to play music off the FileHub and tab to a different app on my smartphone. AirStor lets that happen, while Solid Explorer cuts the playback as soon as you switch to something else.

Data Transferring

The RAVPower FileHub lets you access and transfer data to and from the card slot and USB port at the same time. I’ve used USB flash drives, USB-powered SSD drives, AC-powered HDD USB drives, and USB-powered hard drive enclosure kits. They’ve all worked fine with no glitches.

It doesn’t matter if you use the AirStor app or the recommended Solid Explorer app. You can copy/move data any which way you please, making this device very handy for data-management when you’re away from civilization. Photographers can pay attention here. With the RAVPower FileHub and a high-capacity hard drive, you can empty out your SD card photos at the end of the day for tomorrow’s shoot.

RAVPower FileHub LEDs

Clean look, coordinates better with Apple products I assume

You can wirelessly connect two ways to the RAVPower FileHub – directly or through a local network. What sets this drive apart, while putting many other similar devices to shame, is that the FileHub doesn’t force users to choose between full internet speed and access to the drive itself.

Let me illustrate what other similar (and slightly inferior) drives do. Lets say I want to listen to music (or copy data, view data, etc) stored on media connected to a drive, but also want to be able to surf the web with my smartphone. Those other drives force my smartphone to connect through them in order to be “fed” internet access. Doing so effectively doubles the ping and cuts bandwidth in half. If I want “normal” internet connection back again, I lose access to the drive.

The RAVPower FileHub doesn’t do that. You can connect directly for the best device-media transfer speeds, while having lower internet speed. Or you can connect through the wireless network for the best internet speed, but with slower data-transfer between the drive and your mobile device.

I transferred 1.57GB, consisting of 34 folders and 277 files from my smartphone to an SD card in the FileHub, twice. The first instance, which took 16 minutes to complete (1.63 MB/s), happened by connecting to the FileHub directly with my smartphone. The second instance, which took 41 minutes to complete (0.63 MB/s), happened by connecting to the FileHub through my home network.

There is a big difference in speed, but at least the option belongs to me. You get pretty much the same speed transferring data to a USB drive as you do to a SD card. The RAVPower FileHub does have speed limitations, which is a trade for being compact and lightweight.  Wi-Fi is capped at 9MB/s at 20MHz and 18.75MB/s at 40MHz. The SD card read/write speed is capped at 3MB/s. So far, I haven’t found anything that has reached the 3MB/s rate.

A Note on Security & Wi-Fi Hotspot

The RAVPower FileHub automatically acts like a Wi-Fi hotspot when it’s connected to a wireless network. This is ideal for when one might want to gain a little bit more range – about another 30 feet (give or take).

RAVPower FileHub hand

Nice handheld size

So the next time I stay in a hotel room with a dead zone, I can set the FileHub down where it has a strong signal, and then connect with my smartphone for internet access (halved speed is better than none).

While the AirStor app provides the option to set a passphrase, it only triggers when a device is connecting directly to it.

When the RAVPower FileHub is connected to a wireless network, anyone on that network (with the AirStor app) will be able to openly access all contents on plugged in SD or USB media.

So if you’re in any public area, want to connect to the FileHub, and are concerned about security/privacy, there’s basically two choices. Option one is access without any use of internet. Option two requires having a router (travel/mini are pretty useful for this) to create a private network that no one else can join, and set the FileHub to that.

Music & Video Streaming

Playing music off the RAVPower FileHub (remember, you can tab away if you use AirStor) is very very vanilla. There are no options for creating and playing playlists, and you can only play songs that are in one same folder. All the basic playback controls are there including multiple options for shuffling and repeat.

It’s convenient when you want to listen to individual songs or an album in a pinch, but not so much for marathon streaming. Simultaneous audio streams to multiple devices (at least up to 3, that I’ve tried) play smooth with no hiccups.

Streaming videos? That’s a pipe dream. I saved a 4-minute YouTube video (Deep Cover by Dr. Dre, 112MB file size) to the SD card inserted into the RAVPower FileHub. Even with my smartphone connected directly to the FileHub, that simple video file couldn’t run more than 8 seconds before having to pause and buffer for another 10. And that’s just with one smartphone, let alone 5.

Video files are better enjoyed by transferring them over to a smartphone or tablet for viewing. Though many drive or filehub devices like to claim they can stream video, I’ve yet to find one that can do so without interruption or annoying quirks.

Power Bank & Battery Life

The RAVPower FileHub will charge up USB devices while its on, however it works better as a battery backup when it’s off. More power. The FileHub automatically detects and starts charging once something is plugged in, and the power LED glows to let you know it’s working.

RAVPower FileHub size

Compact and slim

Note: Most external battery packs I’ve ever purchased and used came only partially charged, so I’ve always made it a habit to fully charge them before use. I tend to fully charge and discharge a new battery a few times, just so I can level out the charge states of the individual cells. It helps to maximize the battery’s manufacturer-listed potential.

External battery packs typically have a 70% efficiency rating, which means that 30% of the total energy is used up while charging other devices. The RAVPower FileHub has a 3000mAh battery, so one should expect at least 2100mAh of useable power (at a 70% efficiency rating).

After repeated testing, the FileHub delivered a very constant 57% efficiency rating. The 1710mAh of delivered energy is enough to charge up most smartphone batteries once. While this can be useful in a pinch, the RAVPower FileHub is likely better-used for the wireless file-sharing properties instead of an external battery device.

The output is only 1A, which is good for most average devices (standard smartphones, Bluetooth earpieces, speakers, etc.). Thankfully, the input is 1.5A so the FileHub can quickly recharge back up again.

Verdict

There is a lot of awesome going on with the RAVPower FileHub. It’s light, compact, provides wireless access to storage devices, gives a bit of energy boost as a battery, and can even extend wireless networks. The way the FileHub works with Solid Explorer makes it an excellent accessory to have for file management or storage when one is on-the-go.

Although it works well (within its limitations) for music, those wanting something for wireless video playback will need to look elsewhere. It just doesn’t have enough power and/or data transfer speed to keep up. But that’s ok; most of them don’t.

The RAVPower FileHub can be quite useful to almost everyone. Insert a high-capacity SD card to transform it into an inexpensive wireless hard drive that can last over 5 hours on a single charge. Ditch those USB OTG (on-the-go) cables for something a bit more refined and versatile. Even though the battery output is underwhelming, the RAVPower FileHub is definitely worth the price for its features and versatility.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Phablets, digital cameras & more… | Mobile Gadgets Buy Now

  2. Good review. I had forgotten my password to this and a search for reset info brought me here. Just a heads up, but I have this device and for me, video streaming has worked great. I use a large capacity USB thumb drive. I usually stream videos to my retina Ipad (in HD). You don’t need to use the Airstor app. Some people use third party ftp apps. But for multimedia, I use a paid app called “nPlayer.” Specifically, I utilize the SMB settings within the app. You can also use it for audio files, but video is my main interest. I have streamed some multi-gigabyte files of various formats, and they play flawlessly. I love this device. It has freed up my internal storage (at least from a multimedia file standpoint), and effectively allows for pseudo “unlimited” storage. I have recommended this to a number of friends and they have been pleased.

    Don