Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Toshiba FlashAir Wifi SD card review

Photo of a 16 GB Toshiba FlashAir Wi-fi SD cardI recently bought a wi-fi enabled SD card, to replace my standard non-wireless one in my DSLR camera. Part of the reason for this has been because I’m a bit rubbish at remembering to download images. But also because I can only download large number of images to my Mac desktop, which I don’t use very often nowadays. With a regular SD card, my only options for downloading images are connecting the camera directly to a computer, or using an SD card reader.

I have a wireless SD card reader: a RAVPower 5-in-1 FileHub, which I reviewed in 2013. But it’s slow, and requires you to take the SD card out of the camera. An SD card with wi-fi built in would be a big step forward.

Choosing between Eye-Fi, Toshiba and Transcend

When choosing a wi-fi enabled SD card, there are three major brands to decide between.

Eye-Fi is the best known, having been established for several years. Indeed, some cameras have menu options for managing Eye-Fi cards in their firmware. However, I gather that Eye-Fi was recently bought out, and modern cards don’t work very well as the online services that they rely on no longer exist. They’re also a bit more expensive.

That leaves Toshiba and Transcend. Lifehacker recommends the Toshiba FlashAir cards, and they’re cheaper, so that’s what I went for.

Between ordering the card and it being delivered, it was announced that Toshiba was in financial difficulty. Fortunately, even if Toshiba goes bankrupt, the cards should still work, as they’re not reliant on Toshiba’s servers being online. And whilst it’s possible that Toshiba’s apps won’t work in future, there are several third-party apps available.

How FlashAir works

The FlashAir SD card looks like any other SD card – it’s the same size and shape. But, in addition to the onboard flash memory (8, 16 or 32 gigabytes), there’s a tiny computer that creates a wi-fi hotspot. It uses power from your camera to boot up, and a ‘flashair_randomcharacters’ wi-fi network will appear. Connect to it, using the default ‘12345678’ password, and then open the FlashAir app on your device. Which you’ll have needed to download first.

The app is very simple. It shows you a grid of images on the card, and an icon overlay to show whether they’ve already been downloaded. You can view individual images (which take a few seconds to download fully), or you can select images in bulk. There’s the standard ‘Share’ icon – tap it, and you can download the images to your device, or share them directly to Facebook or Twitter, or via email.

You can also use the app to change some settings on the card. In particular, you can enable Internet passthrough, allowing the FlashAir card to connect to your home wi-fi network. This means that you can still access the internet on your device whilst using the card. Unfortunately, it can only store the details for one wi-fi network, and you have to type this in manually. Furthermore, you can’t seem to access the card’s content via your existing home wi-fi network; the only way to access the card is to connect to it directly.

Despite its faults, the FlashAir card is very fast. It’s a Class 10 SD card, so it performs well, and data transfers are reasonably quick. Thumbnails in particular download very quickly. The only other downsize is that there is less usable space on the card, as some of this is taken up for the operating system. My 16 gigabyte card had around 13 gigabytes of usable space. Hopefully though, it’ll make getting photos off my DSLR camera much easier, and so I’ll actually download my images more often!

As you’d expect, you can buy Toshiba FlashAir SD cards from Amazon.

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