The debate on how much storage someone needs on their mobile devices will go on forever, but if you’re someone who just can’t get enough storage, than you might want to take a look at the Aero Wireless Mobile Drive from Patriot. It will essentially give you 500GB or 1TB of storage for your smartphone or tablet. Don’t worry, you don’t have to open your tablet and stick a new drive in it. The Aero is a separate portable hard drive that features WiFi connectivity. All you need to do is connect to it via WiFi, and you will have access to a lot of music and videos from anywhere. The 500GB version costs $149 and the 1TB version goes for $199. Does it work as advertised? Head on past the break to find out.
I tested the 1TB version, which is a little bigger than your normal 1TB portable hard drive. It measures 5.44 x 3.31 x .88 (inches) while my basic 1TB drive measures 4.75 x 3.13 x .81 (inches). The larger size is due to the fact that it has a built in power supply as well as WiFi. On one end is the USB 3.0 port, the power button, and DC in. The DC in is for simply powering or charging the device. You can also charge it by connecting it to your computer via USB. One side has a battery level indicator along with a button to turn on its display. There are four lights, each representing increments of 25%. The top has indicators for charging, WiFi connections, and streaming. The drive itself is solid and durable. It’s a little larger than I would like, but it’s also understandable. It still is small enough to put in a bag for traveling.
In order to copy files over to your Aero, you will need to connect it to your desktop/notebook using the supplied USB 3.0 cable. Just pop it in either a USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port on your computer and it will recognize it just like any other portable hard drive. You can freely move files to it just like you would with any other drive. While it is connected to a computer via USB, the WiFi will be disabled so you won’t be able to connect any portable devices to it.
You will want to download the Patriot Connect app for your tablet or smartphone via the Play Store. This app will allow you to see all your files on the Aero as well as upload and download any of them. You will also find various settings that you can control such as the network password and network name. You can play media files from the app, but as I will show you later, you don’t need to use the Patriot Connect app to do that.
Now you might be thinking to yourself that if you connect to the Aero via WiFi, you won’t have internet access. Now if you are out and about, that might not be an issue since you wouldn’t anyway. However, if you are home or near any other internet connected WiFI, you can connect the Aero to that WiFi. What this means is that any smartphone or tablet that is connected to the Aero will also get internet connectivity. So if you’re home, just connect your Aero to you home WiFi. When you connect your tablet to the Aero, you will still enjoy the internet. There is only one caveat. You will lose a lot of data speed. I normally get 30Mbps down on my home WiFi, but when I am connected to the Aero, I barely get 1Mbps down. This shouldn’t be an issue for casual use, but something I needed to point out.
One last thing I need to mention is that you can connect up to 5 devices to the Aero, which makes it great for families. You can even connect a desktop or notebook to it for streaming. It can essentially be a network drive for your house or on the go.
If you want to play a song or a movie, you can simply use the Patriot Connect app to find the file and choose it. The Patriot connect app isn’t a player, but it will allow you to open files with other apps that are compatible with it and are installed on your device. So for movie files, you could use your built in media player or a third party app such as MX Player or Archos Video Player. When you select a file, you will get a popup asking you which app you want to open it with.
Now what’s really cool is that while you are connected to the Aero, it actually becomes a network drive so you can access your content directly from other apps, and in some cases, get cover art. For example, you can use the Archos Video Player and add the Samba Patriot directory to it. It will catalog the items and create cover art for you. So whether you are home, on a plane, in the car, or wherever, you will have a pretty slick interface. See my video below for more about this.
The Aero works really well, but there are some slight annoyances. Sometimes it can take a little longer to connect to the Aero Wifi upon turning it on. It isn’t a huge deal, but if you are trying to set up your child with a movie in the car, it can be a little annoying. The other thing is that depending on what quality movies you have ripped, you might have to re-encode them. Most of my movies are either 1080p or 720p Bluray rips, but they will play choppy at best. Your best bet is to use Handbrake or some other encoder to re-encode them. I usually select “Android Tablet” in the predefined settings, and they work wonderfully. I also have many non HD DVD rips that don’t need to be re-encoded, and they work great.
As far as battery life goes, you will get about 6 hours. This will only be an issue for long trips. Unfortunately most tablets last about 9 to 11 hours playing video so the Aero will run out of juice first. I would liked to have seen a power adapter for the car included. I like using it in the car for all my son’s movies, but without a power adapter, I have to constantly bring it inside to charge. Because of the flexibility of what the Aero offers, it’s not a dealbreaker. Plus I don’t think I own anything that I don’t have to charge, so one more isn’t going to hurt me.
Here’s a hands on video showing you the Aero in action.
If you want more storage, the Patriot Aero is a really good deal. You not only get more storage for you mobile devices, but you can also use the hard drive for other things such as backups. It also can be a network drive for your home. it’s not a perfect device, but what technology is? The Aero is well worth the $149 for 500GB or $199 for 1TB and will give you tons of flexibility.
Note: You can also opt for the Gauntlet Node – Portable Wireless Enclosure, which will let you use your own 2.5″ drive up to 2TB. It’s priced at $99.