UPDATE | This nifty piece of tech has gone on sale in Australia today, for $219 inc GST -- practically the same price as the US$199 price, which excludes sales tax. Australian Business Traveller had a brief hands-on with the hard-drive this morning and it works as described, streaming video, music and photos to iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
It still has one of the key limitations we mentioned in the original article below, that it creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot that your iPhone/iPad connects to, but can't give you any internet access at the same time. Seagate says it is looking at making a software update to improve on this, but can't promise anything.
We'll be publishing a full review as soon as we can get our hands on a review unit.
New wireless hard drive expands storage for iPads, iPhones, Android handsets
A new wireless hard drive from Seagate is set to revolutionise the way travellers store and share movies, photos and info while they're on the move.
The GoFlex Satellite hard drive is much like a standard USB hard drive, except that it has an inbuilt battery that lasts for five hours between charges, and high speed Wi-Fi built in.
As a result, anything a traveller has loaded on to the hard drive is available to their laptop, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android-based smartphone.
The Wi-Fi built in to the hard drive is the fastest available -- the "N" type -- which Seagate says will allow up to three iPads to stream a movie at once from the hard drive.
(On the flip-side, it's no more than three -- Seagate is limiting the maximum number of devices that can connect to the hard drive to three at any one time -- a precautionary measure to ensure good performance for each user.)
Laptop users can access files on the hard drive directly on their computers without an app -- it comes up in My Computer or the Mac OS X "shared devices" list as a networked hard drive.
It also comes with a compact A/C wall charger, as well as a car charger for use on the road. (Nice that Seagate is not going down the path of providing nothing but the USB cord for charging, as Apple has done with iPods nowadays.)
It comes with a three year warranty, too -- longer than most bits of tech, and especially good for travellers who might be subjecting the drive to a bit of rough and tumble.
The capacity of the hard drive is 500GB, which should be enough for 300 movies at 720P HD resolution.
Seagate has made a special app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch which provides a menu system for accessing stuff stored on the hard drive. You can already download it from the iTunes App Store (US link | AU link) though the drive itself won't be available until July.
The one big downside of the drive is that because it creates its own Wi-Fi network (which isn't connected to anything except the hard drive), any laptop or iPad connected to it can't access the internet via Wi-Fi.
To get on the net, you have to disconnect from the hard drive's Wi-Fi network and reconnect to another Wi-Fi hotspot, or a 3G network.
Seagate says it is planning to fix this with a software update, making it possible for the GoFlex Satellite hard drive to act as a Wi-Fi extender for an existing Wi-Fi network such as one of the compact travel routers that many travellers user to set up a Wi-Fi network in their hotel room or one of the many MiFi type 3G/Wi-Fi modems.
The GoFlex Satellite is priced at $219 and is available now in Australia.