Kanex may be more famous as a cable maker, but it still has priors when it comes to knocking out the odd device. meDrive is a small white box that's designed to turn any old USB HDD into a network attached storage (NAS) drive. We're no friend to buzzwords like "private cloud," but as the unit promises to swell the capacity of our microSD-slot lacking iOS devices, we couldn't resist giving it a go. Does this $99 box do all that it promises to do? Find out, after the break.
In the Box
Inside the rather stout packaging, you'll find the meDrive, an 88 x 58 x 24mm white, hard plastic box with a gray lower fifth. Alongside, you'll get a USB to mini-USB cable and a 23.5cm Ethernet cable. The limited accessories on show fly in the face of the company's reputation as a premium cable maker. Kanex omitted to include a power adapter, assuming instead that you've got a nearby USB outlet to provide power. While the stout Ethernet line is fine if you don't want to see too many trailing wires, it also increases the likelihood that you'll be swapping it out for one of your own.
Once we'd donated an Ethernet cable that could stretch between our router and a USB power adapter to get the thing running, setup was pretty painless. In fact, it took longer to get the hardware out of the box and download the app than it did to get the device running. Thanks to its adherence to Apple's Bonjour networking standard, it only required us to supply a password and boom, it was ready for use.
The app enables users to fling images and videos straight from an iPhone to the drive, but this process isn't as simple as just pushing the files through the ether. We shot a 95.2MB, 50-second, 1,920 x 1,080 video clip and sent it on its merry way. The app took around 20 seconds to compress the file and a further 30 to transmit it, and when we looked at the results, the file had been crushed down to 13.1MB. The finished results are viewable but grainy, so we wouldn't suggest using this as your only backup for your child's first steps or other momentous occasion. There's no in-app setting to disable the compression, either. When we asked the company about this, it said that it compresses videos down to ensure speedy transfer, but won't do it to your images or files.
When we pushed a file from the desktop to the unit, we got data writing to the USB drive at speeds of 0.85MB/s, so we'd steer clear of trying to move any 2GB DVD files. The app does allow you to import, email, move, rename and delete files, enabling you to push media straight to and from your phone while you're out and about -- assuming you've opened up port 80 on your router. Certainly, as long as your broadband's upload speed is strong enough, and so long as you had a decent connection on your phone, you'd easily be able to view movies on your phone if you were stuck without entertainment.
Compared to some other pieces of hardware that promised to do the same job, the ease of use and versatility on show here were a breath of fresh air. Attractive, well-made hardware and a decently put together piece of software create a rather solid experience. We can't be effusive in our praise, however, because we'd have liked control over the compression options, and we wish that the company hadn't been so stingy with the cabling on offer. In fact, it might have been better not to include one at all, rather than one that's so unsuited to the purpose. While it may be a niche proposition, we can imagine plenty of homes that would appreciate being able to open up their mobile device's smartphone and tablet storage -- just so long as you've got some spare wires lying around.