Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by Greg0
A Wireless Terabyte With Buffalo’s MiniStation Air
Set your data free- that’s what everyone seems to be saying these days, pushing the cloud in all sorts of incarnations. But cloud storage has many downsides, from security and privacy concerns to the sheer limitations of bandwidth. If you’ve ever tried to transfer a gigabyte of data to a cloud service, and watched it crawl, then you can imagine the problems of attempting to send about 1000x that much information. Some files are meant to be stored locally, and working with video and images requires access to hard drive that’s right at hand rather than in some distant server.
All of which means that you’ll have need of ever larger hard drives for quite some time to come. But you won’t always want to, and shouldn’t have to, attach them directly to your computer. Network storage (via a NAS device) is a popular solution, as are regular USB wired hard drives. The newest method, though, is a wireless hard drive, like today’s Buffalo MiniStation Air. Purpose-built for streaming media, our model included a full 1 terabyte of storage (a 500 GB version is available as well). Note that this isn’t the sort of hard drive you plug into your network; the real strength of this device is that is can serve as it’s own hotspot, creating a handy way to share movies or music while on the go.
We loaded the MSA with a whole lot of files, including MP3 and MP4s, AVI and MKVs, as well as a bunch of JPGs. The easiest and fastest way to get everything onboard was via the included USB cable. But then we could disconnect and use battery power, simply connecting directly to the hard drive’s wireless network- and the battery life is impressive, rating about 12 hours of use between charges. Like others that we’ve seen, you can also use the MiniStation Air as a sort of go-between, connecting to your regular network through it, and sharing with up to eight others. It can even be used as a router when you want to share a connection at a hotel, for instance. You can expect reduced speeds, but we didn’t notice any major issues. One thing that sets it apart from some competitors is the USB 3.0 compatibility, which really helps when trying to move over large files or folders (transfer speeds were up to 75 MB/s versus only 3 MB/s for wireless). It’s also sleeker than others (and smaller than many), though we did miss the SD memory card ports and solid state durability available on some that we’ve seen.
If you’ve been forced to delete apps or carefully manage storage on your iPhone or iPad- or other tablet or SSD laptop like a MacBook Air- then this might just be the friend you need. You’ll need to download their special apps for best results (DLNA is also supported, but for use via your smartphone, you’ll pretty much need their free app). As with most similar devices, file and directory management are a little awkward via the app and searching can be very difficult, but it’s easy enough to simply play files. The only downsides to the Buffalo MiniStation Air (called the MiniStation Air 2 in Europe) are the fairly confusing instructions, and a lack of support for memory cards. But it’s well-priced and packs a lot of storage into your pocket- and it’s available now online and in stores for around $160.