Buffalo Technology are quite well known for their storage offerings; they offer high quality enterprise solutions and chances are, if you’ve found yourself browsing around in store or online for a portable hard drive recently, you will have come across their consumer options as well.
Buffalo products are available in all sorts of ranges, with varying sizes of HDD / SSD to choose from and connections including USB 2.0 & 3.0 and Thunderbolt. Part of their newest range of products is the Mini Station Air: on the outside a standard looking 500GB portable hard drive that is in fact hiding the ability to create its own WiFi network.
Networked storage devices, and those that can connect to a wireless network, are nothing new, but in being able to produce its own WiFi network, the Mini Station Air allows you to connect your portable devices such as smartphones and tablets to it on the move. Included is a USB 3.0 cable (backwards compatible at slower speeds with USB 2.0) so you can load up the Mini Station Air with content from your home computer – just like a standard portable drive.
Buffalo have produced a Mini Station Air app (currently for Android and iPhone) that will let you browse the files stored on your hard drive – good folder structure and file organisation appears to be key, some reviews have noted that long file names get truncated when viewed on the apps, so dumping thousands of files into the root folder isn’t the best idea if you want to find something quickly later! Images and music files are played within the app, video files get handed to the native video player on the device.
The standard SSID and passkey details are printed on the bottom of the Mini Station Air, which can be changed in the settings later, as to be expected. Another great feature is that you can change the WAN settings to allow the Mini Station Air to connect to another, Internet connected wireless network. This allows for pass through Internet access, so you don’t need to keep switching between two Wi-Fi connections on your smartphone / tablet for Internet / stored files.
Battery life clocks in at about 4 hours of continuous use, which seems reasonable for a device producing its own WiFi network and should last for a few journeys – the unit recharges through USB as well so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep the power topped up. Mini Station Air also supports up to 8 simultaneous streams (3 in HD), so multiple users can connect and enjoy content at the same time.
As an alternative to cloud based storage, which may not be accessible or stable, especially when travelling in a vehicle, the Mini Station Air is a great solution