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Hands On: Seagate GoFlex Satellite review

We get an early look at the GoFlex Satellite, a portable hard disk with built-in wireless hotspot for streaming video to tablets and smartphones.

Hard disk giant Seagate has just unveiled a portable hard disk designed specifically for iPad and smartphone owners. The 500GB GoFlex Satellite uses a built-in WiFi hotspot to stream multimedia content to any wireless device, including Apple and Android tablets. We got to test out the disk, as well as the official GoFlex Media App, during a hands-on session at a London preview event today.

The battery-powered disk will look very familiar to users of other GoFlex products, as it uses the same glossy black plastic finish. The minimalist power and status LEDs look great, but it picks up fingerprints very easily. A data connector port is hidden beneath a removable cover; like other GoFlex products, the included USB3 cable can be removed when not in use, or the whole port swapped out for a different connector, such as powered eSATA or Firewire 800. The Seagate representative also hinted that a Thunderbolt connector will be appearing soon, for owners of new iMacs and MacBook Pros.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite 2

Setup was incredibly simple; after powering on the disk, it automatically started broadcasting a wireless signal that we could connect to using an iPad or smartphone. The wireless network comes unsecured to make it easier for first-time users, but it supports WPA security if you want to restrict access to your content. Up to three wireless devices can stream video from the disk simultaneously, but only iOS devices will have access to the GoFlex Media app. An Android version is in the pipeline, but there was no indication of when it would be available.

On an iPad 2, we could stream MP4 and H.264 videos almost instantly over WiFi. Whether you use the free iOS app or the web interface, file formats are still limited by Apple’s defaults. You can play unsupported content using third party apps, which launch automatically when you choose a video (assuming you have one installed). There’s certainly room for improvement, as the music section doesn’t currently support album art and it took several seconds to display individual picture files.

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