Imation was set to announce its first-ever Wireless USB hard drive a year ago, but it lost a dear friend shortly before it materialized and we'd heard nothing since then. Today Imation has returned -- holding hands with its new partner, Staccato -- to release the Pro WX 1.5 terabyte Wireless USB hard drive for both Windows and Mac. At $449.99, though, we thought to ourselves: does the Pro WX offer something extraordinary for the premium price? Or are you better off with a NAS device like Apple's infamous Time Capsule? We ran some quick tests to find out -- do read on for some juicy results.
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Imation Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive reviewed

Imation

Pro WX Wireless USB Hard Drive

Pros

  • Free backup software
  • Easy setup
  • Safer than NAS shared over WiFi

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slow wireless transfer rate
  • Short wireless range
Summary


First impression
From the outside, the Pro WX shares the same utilitarian and frankly unattractive case design as Imation's Apollo drives -- we can't say we're big fans, but it's what's inside that counts. The only noticeable changes are the now chromium-plated feet, an extra wireless LED indicator, and the addition of an antenna. Like the Apollo series, the Pro WX has spring-loaded feet, which always cause us concern -- it can't do much good to the drive's longevity each time the feet bang the body. On a positive note we do like the power button's pulsating standby light, as well as the load indicator that spins soothingly on the sync button -- it's less intrusive than traditional blinking LED mess. Inside, our particular unit houses a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5 terabyte drive pre-formatted in NTFS, but it can obviously be reformatted for your shiny Mac.

Wireless vs. wired

Here's the deal: USB 2.0 and WUSB have the same maximum theoretical speeds of 60MB/s, but Imation only promises a wee 15MB/s for the WUSB on the Pro WX – half the 30MB/s that USB 2.0 gets in the real world, and far less than the the speeds of FireWire 800 (400MB/s) and eSATA (750MB/s). Sure, the Pro WX did achieve 15MB/s in our tests, but only at close range -- we couldn't get radio reception beyond the wall of our small room, so you might as well use a cable which gets you twice the speed anyway. On the other hand, our 802.11n Time Capsule also achieves 15MB/s at the same close wireless range, but it can also transmit from any room in the flat, albeit at reduced speeds. A WiFI NAS isn't necessarily the perfect solution, however -- the Pro WX's one-to-one connection works better for dedicated backups while avoiding WiFi snooping and accidental data overwrites from competing machines.

Backup tool

The Pro WX comes with preloaded Memeo backup tool, which does incremental backups, just as you'd expect. We quickly got the hang of its interface and like its many levels of customization (target files, destination and schedule), but it refused to back up the entire drive and warned us that it's "not designed to perform system backup." Ah well, at least both Mac OS X and Windows 7 have backup tools built in -- both worked fine over our wired and wireless tests. Memeo has also thrown in 1GB of online storage, which can be handy for those who aren't already using services like Dropbox and Windows Live Mesh.

Wrap-up

The Imation Pro WX is definitely a fun toy, but at the age of terabytes it should be aiming for much higher WUSB speeds, although we have yet to spot a WUSB device that can transfer quicker than 15MB/s. Nevertheless, for the money, the Pro WX just doesn't do it for us: we've seen other wireless storage devices of better value and better range, so we shall wait -- WUSB is promising, just needs a speed boost to match its premium price tag.