The Patriot Connect app, available for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire, affords the usual upload, download and streaming capabilities, with support for up to five simultaneously connected devices. However, the apps make for poor MP3 players, lacking both search and play-all options. You can build a playlist on the fly, but it's a slow, cumbersome process. Thankfully, all my sample videos played just fine.
As with the Corsair, you can set up a pass-through connection. However, the iOS app in particular was very slow to discover my home network, and both the Android and iOS apps produced a curious 45-second countdown timer for "restarting the Wi-Fi connection," followed by a message indicating I needed to manually reconnect to the Patriot. Ultimately everything worked, but it was a slow and confusing process to get there.
That annoyance notwithstanding, the Patriot Aero makes a great all-purpose portable drive, especially for accessing video and documents that wouldn't otherwise fit on your mobile device.
Capacity/price: 500GB for $79.99 (direct)
The 500GB Seagate Slim — not to be confused with Buffalo's drive of the same name — has style to spare, with a brushed-metal black top (also available in silver) and a pulsing sliver-shaped status LED sliced into that top. It is, in a word, gorgeous, by far the most attractive portable hard drive in the group. And, yes, it's slim, only 0.4 in. in depth — though that metal exterior makes it slightly heavier than competing drives.
Sometimes good looks belie what's underneath, but the Seagate blew the doors off most of the others in this roundup. Only Western Digital's My Passport Ultra turned in faster benchmark scores, and those by a narrow margin. What's more, the Seagate is compatible with both Windows and Mac systems, requiring no reformatting to switch between them.
Seagate's Dashboard software took an annoyingly long time to install, required a reboot, and ultimately failed to run on two Windows 8 testbed systems, crashing after each launch attempt. And although it provides convenient one-click and scheduled backup options, including handy archive capabilities for your Flickr, Facebook and other social-network media, it has no security or encryption features.
That's a potential deal-breaker for business users, who might otherwise appreciate the Slim's attention-getting design and blazing speed. Likewise, Seagate's crash-prone software makes this drive more frustrating than it should be.
Silicon Power Diamond D20
Capacity/price: 500GB for $51.69 (retail)
Although Silicon Power isn't as well-known as some of the other brands in the group, its Diamond D20 drive bears a strong resemblance to the Buffalo MiniStation Slim and Seagate Slim, at least in terms of form factor and capacity. It's a compact 500GB drive with a solid aluminum chassis. There's only one color choice, a glossy white that resists both fingerprints and scratches, and although it has a plasticky finish, it's pretty.
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