Top Wireless Media Hubs for Home

A Look at Wi-Fi Drives For Personal Networks

Wireless home computer networks utilize Wi-Fi to share an Internet connection and data files. But while smartphones, tablets, and newer computers all have built-in Wi-Fi, sharing of photos and videos among these devices suffers from several limitations:

  • Inability to share when outside the wireless range of the home broadband router
  • Relatively small storage capacity of phones and tablets
  • Usability issues in finding files and streaming them to other devices

A newer category of consumer devices called wireless media hubs aim to address these limitations. Wireless media hubs (sometimes also called “Wi-Fi disks”) are portable wireless access points, able to run on battery power and establish their own Wi-Fi networks. These hubs do not contain any built-in storage of their own but instead accept pluggable portable storage devices, with the extra storage capacity available across all devices connected to the hub.

Software apps specific to each brand of hub allow for controlling the device. Users can offload files onto the hub to free up space on their phones, and stream music, videos and photos from the hub to one or more connected clients. Additionally, through their ​USB connections these products also can charge the batteries of phones (but may lack sufficient power to charge tablets).

Manufacturers introduced each of the below products in 2013. Each unit includes one USB port for connecting external hard drives and one port for connecting SD memory cards. Storage devices can be plugged into both ports at the same time, where apps can browse their contents and even transfer files between them if needed.

Kingston’s wireless hub supports simultaneous Wi-Fi connections from up to 3 client devices. "Kingston MobileLite" apps for both iOS and Android enable access to the unit, while its Web interface uses the same default IP address (192.168.200.254) as Kingston’s Wi-Drive products. MobileLite Wireless offers up to 5 hours of battery life and retails for USD $59.99 with a one-year manufacturer warranty. Some online reviewers praise its small size and weight while others have complained about the device’s unreliability.

The Apotop Wi-Copy is produced by the Carry Technology Company in Taiwan. Compared to other products in this category, Wi-Copy offers the best battery life (up to 14 hours) and ability to charge small tablets. Its Ethernet port enables the unit to also function as a travel router. These two features contribute to the relatively higher price tag of the device compared to others in this category. The Wi-Copy supports up to 3 simultaneous Wi-Fi connections, managed by "Wi-Copy" apps for Android and iOS. The unit retails for USD $109.99. More »

The IOGEAR supports simultaneous Wi-Fi connections from up to 7 client devices and boasts battery life up to 9 hours. IOGEAR supplies an "MediaShair" app for Google Android and a similar "NetShair" app for Apple iOS for browsing, transferring, and streaming media files over Wi-Fi. Like the Apotop Wi-Copy, the IOGEAR hub travel router support. The MediaShair Hub retails for USD $99.99. Online reviewers have praised the quality of the unit’s hardware design.

The RP-WD01 retails for USD $69.99. Users can manage the RAVPower hub through "AirStor" (formerly called "MobileFun") apps for Android and iOS, and through a Web browser at its default IP address 10.10.10.254. The hub supports simultaneous Wi-Fi connections from up to 5 devices. Like other products in this category, FileHub is light, weighing in at less than 5 ounces. RP-WD01 retails for USD $99 with deep discounts generally available from online retailers.

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