Seagate GoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage hands-on

We met up with Seagate last week to get a sneak peak at its brand new wireless mobile storage drive, the GoFlex Satellite. It’s a battery-powered external hard drive, though it’s not just a traditional drive — it can also stream any and all content wirelessly over Wi-Fi to any iOS or Android device, or even any Wi-Fi device with a browser. The premise is that since most mobile devices are limited in storage, you can load only what you really need on your iPad, for example, and have your entire music or photo collection (or both) loaded up on the external drive to be accessed only when you need something. To get content onto the drive, you just use one of the GoFlex connectors such as the included USB 3.0 connector (there is a ThunderBolt connector coming this summer), and either use the company’s Media Sync software to automatically add content, or use the drive like a normal external drive and manually load on your data. More after the break.

The iOS app worked reasonably well in our tests, and the app we used wasn’t even the final version. The GoFlex Satellite can support and stream to three devices simultaneously, and we saw 1080p video played wirelessly on an iPad with zero stuttering — even skipping to the middle of the movie didn’t result in any playback issues, it just a couple seconds to catch up with the stream — non-1080p content played back with even better results. Battery life is around 5 hours of video streaming playback. The device itself isn’t bulky, but we’d have liked to see something even more portable. While a 2.5-inch drive offers capacity, we can’t help but think a 1.8-inch drive would have been a great additional option for a smaller unit. If you’re in the market for a brand new external hard drive, the Seagate GoFlex Satellite is a great option, though if you’re not the type of person who has room to carry a drive with you at all times, you might be better off with a smaller, normal external hard drive. The GoFlex Satellite is available starting next month, but is available for pre-order now from Best Buy and Seagate’s website for $199. Here is Seagate’s full press release:

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. May 16, 2011Seagate (NASDAQ: STX), the leading manufacturer of hard drives, today announced GoFlex Satellite™ mobile wireless storage, the first battery-powered external hard drive to wirelessly extend the storage capacity of any Wi-Fi enabled mobile device. With 500GB and Wi-Fi access over 802.11 b/g/n , theGoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage provides the ability to carry an entire library of video, music, pictures and documents with you. The GoFlex Satellite wirelessly streams content to an iPad®, iPod touch™, iPhone® or other Wi-Fi enabled devices without the use of the Internet or a cable.  To allow seamless access to the GoFlex Satellite from an  iOS device, Seagate has provided a free app available for download from the iTunes app store. GoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage is now available in the U.S. for preorder from Amazon.com and Seagate.com for a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199.99. For the U.S. market, the new mobile wireless storage will also be available from Best Buy in June and is planned for global availability later this summer.

“With the incredible growth of the tablet and iPad markets and the insatiable desire to devour larger volumes of media by consumers, there is a clear need for access to content that is not burdened by the limitations of  Internet streamed video,” said Patrick Connolly, vice president and general manager of Seagate’s retail group.  “The unfortunate fact is that these popular new mobile devices are hampered by their limited storage capacity while one of their primary functions is that of media consumption.

With the GoFlex Satellite mobile wireless storage, we wished to create an elegant solution that provides real value to the multitude of iPad users out there by delivering a seamless connection to local storage. No longer will a consumer feel as though it is a compromise to purchase a lower capacity tablet or iPad. With GoFlex Satellite, people will be able to carry their entire media library with them without the need for wires or the web at a fraction of the cost of adding 3G or purchasing the 64GB iPad.”

Streaming over the Internet has enabled video access for tablet owners, but the quality is at the mercy of the Internet connection, be it over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. With more connected devices per hotspot, it’s rapidly becoming difficult to watch video without choppiness or pixilation. Rather than rely on a buffered stream from a distant provider, GoFlex Satellite mobile storage wirelessly serves up media content as a local attached storage for up to three devices at the same time. With a stand-by battery life of up to 25 hours, the powerful lithium-polymer battery delivers up to 5 hours of continuously streaming video. To help with extending battery life, the free the GoFlex® Media app provides a progressive download feature, which temporarily loads the video on to the iOS device it is being streamed to.

GoFlex® Media App

Initially available for Apple iOS devices, such as: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch; the GoFlex Media app provides a seamless way to connect the mobile wireless storage to your iPad or iPhone. The Android app is expected to be available by this summer. Those that currently use an Android smartphone or tablet can access content on GoFlex Satellite through the device’s browser.

Media Sync software

The easy-to-use Media Sync software, also included free with purchase, makes grabbing media from a Windows® PC or Mac® OS X computer a breeze. Wherever the files are stored, whether that is a file structure of your own creation or in an iTunes library, the Media Sync software will load all of your desired music, videos, photos and documents on to the GoFlex Satellite.  Media Sync is easily configured to only place files on the drive that are compatible with your iOs device.  Even music and videos purchased through iTunes can be loaded to the GoFlex Satellite and will play on all authorized devices.

Loading Media

For rapid loading of media content, the wireless mobile storage  comes equipped with the superfast USB 3.0 cable to get files from your computer to the GoFlex Satellite. The USB 3.0 cable will also continue to work with USB 2.0 ports and is easily removed for portability.  In addition to the USB 3.0 cable the GoFlex Satellite drive comes complete with a car charger and a compact wall charger.

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