27 May 2013

REVIEW: Buffalo MiniStation Air

Little black box

External hard drives are, for people like us who prefer their information to take the form of 1s and 0s, an absolute necessity. The truth of the matter is that although our laptops, mobiles and tablets may have increasing sized storage capabilities we'll always need yet more space to store our digital lives.

But what a faff eh? Wires, power leads, making sure you eject the drive before removing the USB cable (or a kitten dies somewhere) - isn't there a better way to save and access all that really important stuff? Yep, there is.

The MiniStation Air, from those stalwart suppliers of memory technology Buffalo, is basically an external hard drive that doesn't require wires - not even a power cable. We know, pretty impressive and it certainly caught our attention.

About the same size as most laptop power adaptors (that black blocky thing half way along the magic wire that charges your computer) the MiniStation Air combines three different elements that go together in an extremely clever way. Obviously there is the hard drive part; in this case packing 500 lovely gigabytes of storage space. Then there is the built-in battery, allowing you to use the drive while out and about and nowhere near a plug socket. All fairly standard so far, we hear you cry. But wait.

The third element is that the MiniStation Air can create it's own Wifi network, allowing you to connect to, copy to and access info wirelessly, be it from your computer or your smartphone via the handy app. Just think about that...

So you've got your brand new MiniStation Air set up in your flat, always on, always broadcasting a Wifi network. You get home from a crazy weekend at Glastonbury and desperately want to see all the photos and videos on your computer's big screen. Quick as a flash you upload all the pictures from your phone to the MiniStation Air (via the super fast Wifi), therefore also backing them up, then sit down at you laptop and access the images straight away. All this completed without a single wire.

Imagine also you're on a long haul flight with only your iPad for company. Your tablet's 32 gigabyte storage just isn't enough for you, not when you want to take with you every single episode of Star Trek ever made, just in case you get a sudden urge to watch that one where Captain Sisko grows a goatee beard. Thanks to your MiniStation Air you can do that, simply by connecting and streaming the media over the Wifi.

We decided (because we don't really go anywhere) to use the one we received as a dedicated mobile media back-up drive. Losing one's phone can be a total nightmare, particularly if it is filled with precious photos, texts and - more importantly - Angry Birds high scores. With the MiniStation Air happy installed in our house we could copy over our media without a moments thought, confident everything was backed-up and saved.

In doing this we learnt that transfer rates were impressively quick and the mobile app (for both Android and iOS) is extremely user friendly wit a very simple layout and operation.

Of course, you don't have to rely on the admittedly reliable Wifi of the MiniStation Air - you could always just plug it in and copy over stuff that way. Grandad. Fortunately even that seemingly stone age practice is handled splendidly by the drive, as USB 3.0 is present and very welcome. Included also is a very snaz
zy carry pouch which the drive fits into like a dream and goes a long way to providing peace of mind for anyone wanting to take the MiniStation away with them.

A genuinely unique little gadget that actually does what a lot of modern tech fails to do, despite claiming to; namely being something that revolutionises the way we look at organising our digital lives.

Around £100
Visit www.buffalo-technology.com

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