Following a favourable mention in Lifehacker last month, I recently purchased a RAVPower 5-in-1 RP-WD01 FileHub Wifi-Disk. Although it claims to offer five features, these can be distilled down to the following: reading SD cards and USB mass storage devices, and making these available over a Wifi connection to computers, smartphones and tablets whilst charging them up from an internal battery and maintaining internet access. I’ve nicknamed mine ‘The Thing’.
The device is about the same size as a phablet, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note. It has a USB port, a SD card slot, an on/off button and a micro-USB port for charging its internal battery. It’s quite light, and made of similar white plastic to the 2006-era MacBooks that Apple used to sell.
Once switched on, the device will create its own Wifi SSID to connect to, with a default password that can be changed later. Open a web browser and pop in the device’s IP address and you can view the contents of your SD card or USB hard drive – or both. You can also configure it to connect to your home Wifi network, effectively making this a wireless router for the devices that are connected to it. WEP, WPA and WPA2 are all supported.
On iOS devices, you can install the free AirStor app to access your storage, and manage the device as well. It’s a universal app which will work on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, and works on iOS 4.3 and up. On Android, Solid Explorer is suggested but others may be available.
Desktop computers can also access the device, using standard Windows file sharing protocols, effectively making this a Network Addressed Storage (NAS) solution. It works fine on my Mac.
It’s been useful for when I’ve taken a photo on my SLR camera and wanted to quickly upload it on Facebook. I can take the SD card out of the camera, put it in the device, open AirStor on my phone, and then save the photo to my phone’s camera roll. From there I can edit and upload it, without needing to use a desktop computer. I can also open Microsoft Office and PDF files, amongst others. File transfers can be two-way so it’s possible to transfer content from your device to the SD card, if you wish.
Whilst iPad users can buy a Camera Connection Kit from Apple, it isn’t compatible with iPhones, so this is the only way iPhone users can access USB devices and SD cards. It also offers the advantage of compatibility with non-Apple devices, and will still work even if Apple change the connectors for future devices.
It’s not perfect; the AirStor software is a bit flaky and not very well-designed (although it is usable). And when connected to a computer using a USB cable to charge up, it won’t act like a regular USB SD card reader. Therefore, if the computer you are using doesn’t have Wifi, it’s a bit useless. You can also only connect it to Wifi networks that use PSK (Pre-shared Key) authentication, and not WPA-Enterprise networks that authenticate with a RADIUS server like Eduroam.
For some, this device will replace several that they may already own. In my case, it mostly replaces my SD card reader, and my portable battery pack. It’s certainly handy, and at £33 on Amazon I feel it was a nice little investment.
Update – January 2014: I came across this video (embedded above) which explains its features in a little more detail. It also shows the app in use on an Android smartphone, although it looks almost exactly the same as the iOS version.