One of the shortcomings of my smartphone is the limited storage. The Moto G I purchased has 8 GB and is not expandable, making it hard to carry around my media and files. I’ve moved some music and photos to cloud storage that can be streamed, but then I’m liable to exceed my data plan and also the quality is dependent upon the strength of the cell signal. Off loading my media to a device that streams data wirelessly seemed like a good idea and the Buffalo storage device might fit the bill.Not only do I carry around media files, but on occasion I find it necessary to either write or edit text while on the road. Using the mobile storage device makes it easy to carry and access everything by only carrying another device the size of a portable disk drive.
- Carry your entire multimedia library with you and stream your favorite content to up to 8 Apple and Android mobile devices, TVs, media players, gaming consoles and more.
- With 1 TB of storage, you can store and transport thousands of photos, hundreds of movies and hours of music for instant access from your mobile devices.
- MiniStation Air is DLNA Certified so you can enjoy your movies, music, photos and more on smart TVs, media player and gaming consoles
- Charge your iPhone 5S, Galaxy S5, or other smart phone while on-the-go.
- Features up to 12 hours of battery life.
- Connect MiniStation Air to an existing wireless network and share Internet access with multiple devices.
The hardware comprises the drive/electronics, a charging cable which plugs into a wall wart or a USB port on a PC and a USB 3.0 cable for connecting to a PC or MAC.
On the top you have an input for power, USB 3.0 connector and a switch to activate AOSS/WPS mode.
On the left side is a USB output connector to supply 5 volts to charge a device. I find this capability tangential to the purpose of the MiniStation. It seems anything that has a battery these days is considered battery backup for a smart phone and the Buffalo unit is no exception. I did use it once to charge my Moto G and it worked, but I carry a stand-a-lone battery backup for that purpose.
Aside from the WPS button, the only other one is the on/off switch. Hold it for 3+ seconds and the unit powers up. Tap it once and the unit turns on in battery backup mode. The two modes are mutually exclusive. You can have one or the other. The power indicator lamp just below the power button will illuminate green when the MiniStation is operating as a storage unit and will be orange when in battery backup mode. The indicator below that will show up as blue when a WiFi signal is being generated by the unit. The fourth indicator will light up when in WPS mode and the last lamp indicates the status of the on-board battery.
The first thing to do when getting the MiniStation is to charge it. While this was in process I downloaded the free apps for both my iOS devices and Android smartphone. You’ll need these to access the files on the unit.
After it was charged, I connected the unit, with the included USB 3.0 cable to my PC, so that I could load some media. As configured, the MiniStation has a couple of self-generated folders and I guess you are expected to dump all your files in the root directory, which is then labeled by the apps. I choose to make my own folders for the different types of media to make it easier for me. The apps will search through the drive and label media based upon its extension.
I unplugged the MiniStation from the PC and turned it on and waited for the WiFi indicator to illuminate. BTW, you cannot access the unit via WiFi when it’s plugged into the computer. I then went to my iPad mini and searched for and selected the MiniStation WiFi signal. It asked for a password, that is printed on the back of the unit, which I then entered.
I then fired up the app. Although the screen shots in this review are from my iPad mini, the interface looks and acts the same on my Android device.
Here is the app page for the movies I’ve loaded on the MiniStation. The GUI isn’t much to look at, but it’s functional.
The video player has minimal controls.
The music player isn’t too sexy either, but it does the job.
The MiniStation isn’t just for audio and video files. You can also carry your documents and work on them using the apps available on your phone or tablet.
It’s also possible to set the device up as a hotspot by connecting the unit to a WiFi router. Here, my iPad is connected to the MiniStation WiFi and I then routed that via my Netgear router to the Internet. Now, any device that connects to the MiniStation not only has access to the media on the device, but is also routed to the Internet. And, because the device is DLNA capable, any DLNA device on the same LAN can access the media on the MiniStation. I’ve accessed the media from my Windows 7 PCs and several DLNA media boxes I have on the net. All worked fine. When the MiniStation is connected to the router, accessing devices only have to be on the same LAN. The apps will automatically search and find the device.
Once you’re hooked to the Internet, you can access the MiniStation from a PC by using its IP address.
I’ve been using the MiniStation for several weeks and although I generally like it, there are a couple of issues. To begin with, the online only instruction manual is obtuse.
I learned the some facts, like if the device was connected via a router I didn’t need to connect my iPad directly to the MiniStation WiFi. (After re-reading the PDF, I found that it mentions accessing the device via the LAN without a direct connection to the MiniStation WiFi. It was under a section called RESTRICTIONS). There seems to be no logical flow to the manual and most of it consists of safety warnings and instructions on how to format the disk. More information is available from the help tab in the app. Secondly, as I mentioned above, the graphical user interface (GUI) is very rudimentary and could use some work. Lastly, although the specs claim up to 12 hours of run time, at best I’ve been able get about half that running several streams at once. Be aware and ready to plug it into your car’s 12v outlet using a USB power adapter.
Those minor issues aside, I found the MiniStationAir a complement to the items I carry with me on a daily basis. It’s most useful as additional storage for my smart phone, which only has the 8 GB of storage and no µSD slot. Now I can take along loads of videos and documents without having to either stream them from the cloud or delete some and then add some on the Moto G.
Here’s another great use: Do you have multiple kids, or as in my case grandkids, that travel with you on long trips? Can you get them all to agree on watching one movie? Probably not, so by using the MiniStation, it’s simply a matter of having an iPod/tablet for each of them and then they can watch different shows at the same time. I’ve had 5 different devices connected, streaming 5 different movies at the same time. Just for the peace and quiet that ensues, it’s worth the price.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Buffalo. For more information, visit http://www.buffalotech.com/.