SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive, first take: Useful, but pricey

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive, first take: Useful, but pricey

Summary: A USB stick you can expand and connect via wi-fi to devices that lack USB ports? SanDisk's wireless flash drive is handy, but not perfect.

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SanDisk's Connect Wireless Flash Drive incorporates 64GB of removable MicroSD storage and a wi-fi access point in a USB 2.0 stick. Image: SanDisk

USB memory sticks are convenient for transferring and carrying files — unless, of course, you're using a phone or a tablet that lacks a USB port. You can always keep your files in the cloud, but if you want to back up 10GB of high-resolution photos from a Lumia 1020, or get three HD movies onto your iPad to watch on a long plane journey, then uploading and downloading those files takes quite a while (and when you're travelling, data and wi-fi costs can add up).

SanDisk's solution is to add wireless (2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n wi-fi) to the memory stick. You can still copy files on anything with a USB port, but you can also use it with any device that has wi-fi. We've seen this with portable hard drives in the past, but the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive, while bulky for a memory stick, is quite a bit smaller. It's also expandable because the 64GB of storage it comes with is actually a MicroSD card that you can remove and replace with something bigger. Or you could carry a couple of cards with you and swap between them — the card slot is on the side, protected by a cover that fits safely but is easy to pop off.

Getting connected to the drive is a little more complex. You can plug it into a PC or Mac to load it up with files straight away and it will charge the battery that the wireless uses while it's in the USB port. But in practice you'll want to charge it for a while before transferring files because if it's very flat you'll find it powers down and then up again as you're using it, causing the drive to disappear and reappear in Explorer. And that power level won't be enough for wi-fi.

As a USB 2.0 memory stick, file transfer speeds are what you'd expect: copying files to the SanDisk Connect from the USB 3.0 port on a Surface 2 tablet peaked at 12Mbps; copying files back to the Surface 2 peaked at 14Mbps.

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You can see the same information when you connect via a web browser (left) as you do in an app — iOS in this case (right). Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

SanDisk offers iOS, Kindle and Android apps for the Connect; other devices can connect to it through the browser, at a fixed URL — but only once you've connected to the USB stick as your wi-fi access point. In the Windows Phone browser, say, you see folder and files, but no thumbnails; the app shows thumbnails, which makes it easier to pick the photo you want from an album. A browser connection lets you change some basic settings, like renaming the Connect SSID, putting it on a different Wi-Fi channel, changing the 30-minute timeout for saving power and turning on WPA2 security so you need a password to get to the drive. However, you need the app to flash the drive with new firmware, bulk-download files (rather than opening and saving them), copy files to the Connect (including making new folders), see the battery level or set up pass-through Wi-Fi. As a result, we couldn't use the Connect to back up a Lumia phone directly, but it proved a handy way to copy screenshots and photos from an iPhone right onto a memory stick that we could plug into any PC.

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You see a listing of files in any web browser (left). In the iOS (right), Android and Kindle apps you get thumbnails too, and can upload and download multiple files. Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet
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You can change basic settings through a web page (left), but the SanDisk apps (iOS, right) give you a lot more options. Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

With the iOS app, you can associate the Connect to a wi-fi access point so that when your phone or tablet connects to the USB stick it also gets an internet connection. Even with the Internet Connection setting turned on, other devices that connect to the drive without an app can't piggyback on the internet connection — they still only see the Connect itself. Putting the drive into Internet Connection mode also disables the password protection, so anyone else who has the SanDisk app installed, or who just knows the www.sandisk.com/WFD URL can connect to your drive and access files. They'd have to be on the same wi-fi network as you, but it's worth bearing in mind if you keep private files on the drive.

The battery in the Connect delivers between four and six hours of streaming movies — less if you connect from multiple devices at once, longer if you're copying a few files and coming back to it later. However, you can't just toss it in your bag and expect it to be charged a month later, so you do need to plan ahead a little. We also found that after using it wirelessly, the Connect would occasionally fail to work as a standard USB device.

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In a web browser you can open one file at a time and save it locally if you want. Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

Android, iOS and Kindle users will get the most out of the Connect, although $99.99 is on the pricey side for a 64GB memory stick (it can be found online in the UK for around £80). But if you want to carry lots of media with you, it's a convenient way to do it.

Topics: Storage, Mobility, Reviews

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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12 comments
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  • Re: SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive....

    Interesting concept but with a fundamental flaw. Should the wireless go down it would be rendered utterly useless.

    Other major question that needs to be asked. Why not USB 3.0 ?
    5735guy
    • not sure that's true

      aren't you actually connecting directly TO the sandisk device? not through your wifi router or anything? that's the way I take it. so the point of "if wireless goes down it's useless" isn't necessarily true, is it? Now, if the wireless hardware w/in this stick were to fail, you have a point.

      I, too, wondered about USB 3.0 - I won't even bother w/ 2.0 drives anymore.
      bc3tech
      • I bought 12 of the 32 GB ones and ...

        You can connect to it directly with wireless

        OR

        You can connect to it wirelessly via your router which lets you access the Internet at the same time.

        OR

        You can plug it into a USB port and use it like a normal thumb drive but the wireless is disabled when using it this way.

        The 32 GB one is $59.99 on Amazon but you can install your own 64GB SD card but you have to format it a special way for it to work whereas the new 64GB model is different HW and FW and the latter is not necessary.

        All in all I think the 32GB stick is the best bang for the buck.
        Albert Shurgalla
    • You can physically connect or connect via wifi

      ... at least, that's the way I read it. It sounds like you can plug it in to a USB port if you want, connect via wifi if you want, or supposedly take the microSD card out and plug that in to a card reader if you want.
      bsalloum
  • Half the price for 16GB

    The same unit is $49.99 on Amazon with 16GB instead 64GB. If, like me, you already have high capacity SD Cards then save $50 bucks and replace the built in 16GB SD Card with your own.
    jimoro
    • here it is...

      http://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-Connect-Wireless-Flash-SDWS2-016G-E57/dp/B00DBX37H6/ref=cm_cd_al_qh_dp_t
      jimoro
  • Maybe Bluetooth would be more versatile

    or put a wi-fi ROUTER into the stick (it could connect itself to a higher level router for an internet connection) so it doesn't need a separate router. Also, I suspect a separate charging/power cable would help.
    jallan32
    • Nah WLAN is better !

      You can connect to this stick directly or via your router. It's a setup option. I love it. It's especially good for iphone/ipad users to save precious memory. You can put all your photos/movies etc on this stick and access them wirelessly as if they were on your device as long as the movies are mp4 that is. On the Android there is no such limitation as long as you have a player that will play the file type. I play mkv and mp4 all the time on my Galaxy Note.

      I load the stick up with videos(TV shows) and watch em on my Note or Nexus/7 HD wirelessly sitting on my bedside table at night or when traveling.
      Albert Shurgalla
  • Haven't found it too useful yet.

    I got a 32 gig on a lightning deal from Amazon for 24.95 prime! The 32 gig sd was worth it alone. I wanted to use it for storage with my kindle fire hdx8.9 and hd7's. But the device uses the internet connection and I can't use the web if I'm connected to the drive. Also seems you cannot connect to wirelessly if you have it connected via usb. So that nice NAS router I have still has a 16 gig traveler in it and the main uses I saw for this drive I havn't gotten to work. Kinda makes it a nice speed boost thumb drive if I had paid full rip I would return it.
    JTParts
    • Haven't found it too useful yet.

      You obviously do not know how to use it yet. You can connect to it via your router using the android or iphone app while accessing the internet as well. Read my earlier post stating that when it is plugged in and being used as a normal thumb drive the wireless is not functional BUT if you plug it into a USB charger OR into a power only USB cable it will stay charged and be accessable 24/7 by any wireless client in your home.
      Albert Shurgalla
  • Can't Move Files to iPad or iPhone

    The author omits one very important flaw with this, you can NOT move files off of the thumbdrive and put them on the iPad or any iOS device. That is a major problem with the iOS "locked" down devices. To use any of the thumbdrive's files, you have to leave them on the thumbdrive, and use it as a wirelessly "attached" external drive. What good is that? I want a way to move files back AND forth to the iPad. Apple screwed the pooch on these iPads by refusing to put USB ports on them. Yes, this wifi thumbdrive is a good idea, but it still can't overcome the jerks at Apple, that decided that we can't do what we want with "our" data, on an iPad or any iOS device.
    nevertell
  • Jailbreak

    That's what jailbreaking is for.
    airjer