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Computerized Investing > December 10, 2011

Maxell AirStash

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

As the owner of two iPads, a Motorola Xoom and a Samsung Galaxy Tab, I know how useful mobile devices can be. One major drawback, however, is the difficulty of transferring files to and from these devices. Depending on the device, you may not have connections for external drives (as is the case with the iPad). While you can use cloud-based storage services such as Dropbox, you must have Internet access to order to make the transfer. In response to this need, devices have been coming to the market that allow you to wirelessly transfer files. A couple of months ago, I reviewed the Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage device, and had a mixed experience. One advantage was the Seagate GoFlex’s storage size—500G. If you are looking for wireless storage but don’t require that much capacity, there are devices such as the AirStash from Wearable Inc. and Maxell Corporation. According to the companies, AirStash is the first and only wireless flash drive with media streaming and two-way wireless document transfer capabilities. The AirStash works as a standard USB drive using a standard SD/SDHC card with up to 32G of capacity or SDCX cards with 64G to 2T (terabytes) of capacity, which allows you to share and transfer files with laptops and desktops via a USB port. However, it also has a built-in wireless radio that allows you to transmit files.

Setup

You can access the contents of your AirStash from any Wi-Fi-enabled device, but there is a special app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. This app, AirStash+, is downloadable for free from the iTunes App Store, and it is suggested that if you have an iOS device, you install this app before using your AirStash.

Once you have installed the AirStash+ app on your iOS device (and made sure the drive is not plugged into a computer or USB charger), press and hold the power button on the device until the wireless indicator turns green. The wireless indicator will blink three times to indicate that the AirStash is turned on and accessible wirelessly. To turn off the AirStash, press and hold the power button until the wireless indicator blinks three times and goes out.

After you turn the AirStash on, it will show up on your mobile device as a standard wireless network. To connect to it on an iOS device, go to “Settings” and choose “Wi-Fi.” The AirStash should appear in the list of available networks; otherwise, if the wireless indicator is blinking on the AirStash, wait a few seconds while your device refreshes the list of available networks. Once you are connected to the AirStash, you can use the AirStash+ app to access the contents of the SD/SDHC card (or the SDCX card) in the AirStash. In all, up to three people can simultaneously stream audio or video from the device.

If you have an Android or other Wi-Fi-enabled device, you can still access the AirStash without using a dedicated app. After connecting your device to the AirStash network, open a web browser and go the the AirStash website: http://airstash.net. From this site, you can browse the files on your AirStash. Note that some media files may not be compatible with your device and that other devices, such as the Amazon Kindle and BlackBerry PlayBook, may not be able to access the AirStash.

While you can access and transfer files to and from the AirStash wirelessly, you can also plug it into a computer with a USB port or a port on a powered USB hub. Since the AirStash is a standard USB flash drive, you can drag and drop files to and from the SD card. You can also charge the AirStash’s internal lithium battery by plugging it into your computer or a powered USB hub. While charging, the AirStash’s red indicator LED will pulse (this light will also pulse when your computer is accessing the drive). According to Maxell/Wearable, a fully charged AirStash provides five hours of wireless streaming.

Overall

I found the AirStash to be much easier to use than the Seagate GoFlex Satellite. I installed the free AirStash+ app on my iPhone 4S, and within minutes I was streaming video and audio from the AirStash to my iPhone. The latest software upgrade now supports SDXC cards that can hold up to 2T of data, although there is a price premium for flash memory versus traditional hard disk drives (HDD). I like being able to share files between Wi-Fi-enabled devices without having to rely on having an Internet connection (a necessity if I am making use of cloud-based storage services). I think the AirStash is especially useful for digital photographers—you can take pictures with your digital camera using an SD card and then use the AirStash to offload the files from the card to your mobile device. The device itself costs around $150, depending on the vendor. I think this is a reasonable price to pay, given the AirStash’s level of flexibility, portability and usefulness. The only problem is that, at this time, you cannot buy it directly from Maxell or Wearable, so its availability may be limited.

Pros

  • Transfer files wirelessly without an Internet connection
  • Pocket-sized for easy portability
  • Allows wireless streaming to up to three devices at a time

Cons

  • Price premium for SD cards relative to hard disk drives (HDD)
  • Five hours of battery life

Maxell AirStash

www.airstash.com

Currently $169.99 for 8G model from Amazon.com.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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