Stream media to multiple phones and tablets from Seagate's updated Wi-Fi drive, without the initial irritations.
Most of what we want more storage for on mobile devices is fitting in enough media to keep us amused: not all phones and tablets allow removable storage and microSD cards are fiddly and often mean removing the battery, so you're not going to be swapping them frequently; the capacity is also rarely significantly more than the internal storage. The £178 GoFlex Satellite is a USB 3-connected 500GB external hard drive that you can connect to from any Wi-Fi-equipped device.
Since the original launch earlier this year, Seagate has updated both the firmware for the drive and the apps it offers for iOS and Android, to add extra features and a lot more convenience.
Put 500GB of storage on multiple mobile devices with the Wi-Fi-connected GoFlex Satellite drive
If you have the original GoFlex Satellite, updating is simple; download the firmware update, connect the drive to your PC or Mac with the USB cable and save the file onto the drive, unplug it and turn it off, then turn it on and let it update itself. The new versions of the iOS and Android apps are on the App Store and Google Play.
You can also connect to the drive from phones without the app, or from a PC or Mac, using the browser. To connect and stream content, you treat the GoFlex Satellite as a Wi-Fi access point and connect as normal (do that in Windows and a browser opens pointing to a page of content and tools that looks like the tablet app). When you're connected to the drive you can't also connect to your usual Wi-Fi network to get online; with the original model, you wouldn't get email or be able to browse the web while streaming music. The update turns the GoFlex into a pass-through, so you can use the app or the web page to connect to your usual Wi-Fi as well; you have to type in any password for the Wi-Fi the first time, but the drive remembers this and anyone else connecting to the drive gets the internet connection as well (so you could share a hotel internet connection at a pinch).
Browse the media you can stream from the GoFlex Satellite or connect to your usual Wi-Fi to get online too
You can connect more users to the GoFlex Satellite after the update, and you get the option of having password-protected connects if you want to control who can stream from it. If you do that, you can connect five devices at once — without the overhead of encrypting the connection it can be eight , but if you have more than four devices connected you can only look at photos and documents and stream music, but not videos. If you want to stream HD video, keep it down to three devices connected. With two devices we were able to stream videos to both without noticing any glitches or interruptions (even when watching the same video on two screens at once), although the Galaxy Tab didn't always play videos smoothly even when it was the only device — which we'd call a flaw in Android or the Tab rather than a problem with the drive as we had no similar problems with multiple iOS devices connected.
Playing video from the GoFlex Media on a Windows PC
Seagate has also used the update to turn on mini-DLNA support; if you have a DLNA-compatible TV or a gaming console like the Xbox, you can use the GoFlex Satellite app to play a video there. But this isn't a full DLNA profile so you won't see the drive as a source from the TV's interface.
You can't load content onto the drive over Wi-Fi, only when it's connected to your computer by USB and the update doesn't change that. It doesn't change the file formats supported either. What you can play on your device is up to the devices you're using rather than the GoFlex Satellite itself; it isn't transcoding files, just streaming them. We found an iPhone could play a lot more video files than a Galaxy Tab, for example (Windows can play video streamed from the GoFlex, but it has to download the file first, which would take quite a while for a full-length movie). Seagate has written its own media player for the apps, but it hasn't added any extra codec support beyond what's native on the devices you use, and iOS has the advantage here.
Seagate suggests the update improves battery life from five hours to seven; what it actually does is give you the option of downloading a media file to your device to play rather than streaming it from the drive, at which point the drive goes into standby to save power. You have to have enough space on your device to download the whole file, so it may not always give you extra battery life in use though — but you do get the option.
Frankly, these are all features that should have been in the GoFlex Satellite from the beginning, and it feels like Seagate rushed the product to market too quickly in the first place. If you have the drive already, make sure you get the update. If you're shopping for a way to stream media to one or more mobile devices, the update makes it worth considering.