Personal Storage Tech Treasures [2011 Cool Yule Tools]

You gotta put all of that content somewhere, so why not put it on a cool device?

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The Wi-Fi connection (it has 802.11n support with about a 150-foot range) also supports streaming for up to three devices. For example, you can watch three different movies simultaneously, making this a great idea for streaming media content in a car (the device comes with a car charger). The drive also comes with a USB 3.0 cable that supports Seagate's GoFlex adapter, which is useful for transferring your media library to the device (you can either drag-and-drop or use Seagate's media syncing software).

Seagate says the lithium polymer battery on the GoFlex Satellite can last up to five hours on a single charge, and provide up to 25 hours of standby time. I preferred using the wall adapter or car charger to keep the battery up and running.

For iPad and other iOS devices, a free app (GoFlex Media) lets you access the GoFlex Satellite once connected via the Wi-Fi network. For other device users (Mac, PC, Android), opening up a browser will redirect the user to the GoFlex app on the device.

For users with media libraries that go beyond the storage capacity of their mobile device, this means they don't have to pick and choose which media to transfer. Seagate also allows for the playback of iTunes protected content -- as long as the device you're using (iOS devices only) is synched with an authorized iTunes account. The simultaneous streaming function is superb for allowing the kids to consume content on a road trip without having to transfer it to individual devices.

The software interface (and iOS app) has some rough edges in trying to locate specific songs or videos to listen to/view; album art is missing (Seagate says an update will fix this). Also, because the device uses its own Wi-Fi router in essence, users won't be able to access the Internet while using the device. While Seagate won't confirm this, I wouldn't be surprised to see a device down the road that solves this problem, perhaps through the use of a 3G/4G device like Novatel Wireless' Mi-Fi units (basically, imagine a Mi-Fi mobile router that also contains a 500GB hard drive).

But that's a future prediction -- for now, users can be happy in knowing that they can truly bring all of their media with them and view it on any mobile device without having to upgrade to a larger-capacity unit.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $200 (list)

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

GoFlex Slim external hard drive, by SeagateThe GoFlex Slim is the smallest external hard drive I’ve ever come across.  Despite its small size, it delivers blisteringly fast performance – a result of the 7200rpm spinning disk and USB 3.0 connectivity.  It comes in one capacity, which is 320GB – on the small side for most external drives today, but adequate for most users and a very fair trade off given the tiny size of the device.

The GoFlex Slim requires no external power source, and is very easy to travel with.  It’s thinner than most Android smart phones on the market today, and although it’s a bit wider, it should fit comfortably in most pockets (or easily in any bag).  And to connect it, all you need is a USB 3.0 cable – need to lug around an additional power cable.

The device includes Seagate’s excellent auto-backup software, as well as an encryption program to ensure your data is protected should the drive go missing.  Like all devices nowadays, it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac (and presumably Linux, although I didn’t verify that).

Due to the boom of popular programs like Bit Torrent, iTunes, and Amazon MP3 over the past decade, society’s need for higher and larger amounts of data storage seemingly knew no bounds.  If that were still the trend, I’d caution you to be careful before selecting a 320GB drive as your primary backup; but the trend has shifted, and with the proliferation of cloud-based storage moving to the forefront, I have no hesitation recommending this device as an excellent primary backup – assuming, of course, you have less than 250GB of data (leave some room for that to grow).

Seagate is my go-to brand for storage, due to a strong reputation for reliability and brilliant performance.  Assuming you’re not a downloading fanatic, 320GB should be more than adequate for most users, making this an excellent choice for personal use or as a gift!

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: $100

Reviewed by Dan Hunt

GoFlex Desk (4TB, USB 3.0), by SeagateWith so many Seagate drives reviewed in this guide, you'd think I owned stock in the company (I don't). It's just that they continue to innovate and make interesting products within the personal storage space. Anything remotely interesting within storage is bound to get my attention, because otherwise it's just a hard drive for storing your files.

For the most part, that's what the GoFlex Desk is - it's an external hard drive that can store your files. A lot of them. No, really, a lot - the version we tried had 4TB of capacity (OK, 3.9 something or other). I've stopped calculating how many movies, music, photos and other such things this can store. Let's just say you could probably dump everything on here and still have enough space to dump some more. This is meant to be used by multiple users, whether in your office or at your home.

The drive also comes with a USB 3.0 cable to provide fast performance when transferring files and folders to and from your PC or Macintosh. In our tests, we were able to achieve read rates of between 95 and 96 MB/s (in one case, I topped 101MB/s), and write rates between 55-58 MB/s. Wooooo!

The system comes with Seagate's Dashboard management tool, which lets you schedule backup (automatic continuous backup is supported if you want) and manage file encryption. Links to backup and synchornization apps (from partner Memeo) are also offered via the Dashboard software.

Because it's a GoFlex unit, the system is adaptable with previous Desk systems - if you want to upgrade to a faster cable in the future (let's say either USB 4 if/when it happens, or maybe Thunderbolt?), the system lets you do this without needing a whole new hard drive.

In addition to the 4TB version, Desk models are sold in 1TB and 2TB capacities.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $269 (via Seagate's site, on backorder)

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

DataTraveler 109 (8GB) with urDrive, by Kingston TechnologyYou may wonder why we're reviewing a USB flash drive - after all, they've been around for years and years, and apart from some of the U3 technology a few years ago (where companies attempted to put apps that you'd run off the USB drives instead of a computer), there's not much more innovation going on other than more memory and smaller sizes.

The Kingston DataTraveler 109 certainly fits the latter statement - seeing 8GB on a drive that tiny is sure to impress people, since the drive is no larger than your thumb (literally, making it a "thumb drive"). It's so small that I'd be worried about losing it almost immediately - if you want to get one of these, invest in some string or something that you can attach the drive so you don't lose it. Sadly, the package doesn't come with a string or keychain or other attachment.

The urDrive app is a bunch of bundled apps that give you a graphical interface for managing the files on the drive, it looks more like a desktop interface rather than just another window that pops up. Included is the ability to browse the Internet via a browser on the urDrive rather than using the computer it's on, which I suppose is good for people who might want to use this on a public computer when they're traveling. Other apps include a bunch of games, backup and protection apps, as well as an apps store that include other things to download to the drive.

The apps approach to a USB flash drive is an interesting approach by Kingston, but I'm not sure whether this will take off like apps for the iPhone or Android smartphones. Getting people to change their behavior from computing on a computer versus computing through their USB drives might be a hard sell. The urDrive software is also Windows-only, so Mac and Linux users are out of luck.

But hey, there's 8GB of space on this really tiny drive, so if you need the space and aren't afraid of putting it through the washing machine because you left it in your pockets, it's a cool device, and a great stocking-stuffer idea.

Cool Yule rating: 3 starsPrice: $9.95 for the 8GB; $19.50 for the 16GB (Amazon)

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

SuperHero Backup & Charger for iPhone, by IomegaBacking up images and contacts stored on an iPhone isn’t a real high priority for most of us, which is why I think the folks at Iomega decided to invent this very handy and easy-to-use device. While backup of these things can be done by connecting the iPhone to your PC or Mac, I think they discovered that not a lot of people end up doing this, or doing it as much as they should. With this device, you can backup the photos and contacts on your phone without connecting to your PC (thereby saving you from opening iTunes and doing backup that way).

The SuperHero comes with two components – first is a small docking station with a power adapter (for the recharging part), and an SD card slot – the unit came with a 4GB Lexar SD memory card, although you could backup to your own SD card if you wanted to. The second component is a free iPhone app (SuperHero), which you download onto your iPhone. After you’ve installed the app, you just attach the iPhone to the docking station and the app can automatically back up your photos and contacts to the inserted SD card. You can also restore those images and contacts back to your iPhone if the images get erased or if you’re transferring them to a new phone.

The backup process is really slow, at least at first – during my initial backup, I had 929 photos to back up to the card, and it took more than a week (during work hours) for the device to do this. The good part, though, is that the device recharges your phone while doing the backup, so you can dock the phone and leave it on your desk to get the recharge and backup all in one action. If you need to grab your phone to leave or make a call, you can interrupt the backup and it remembers where you were when you get back to it. After the initial backup, future sessions only do backups on photos and contacts that haven’t previously been done. Once the photos and contacts are on the SD card, you can remove it and put into your PC or other system for transfer as well.

If Iomega could just add a speaker system to the dock so you could listen to music while this occurs, it would be the perfect accessory. However, for what it’s worth, this is a great device to guarantee that the most important data on the iPhone (photos and contacts) are saved without much thought on behalf of the end user.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $59.99

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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