Shared Media Self-Service For Eight
With the popularity of smart phones and tablets, the need expanded storage to house numerous large media files has increased. A big problem is, many tablets and phones (Apple devices in particular) lack the functionality to add additional capacity via media cards, etc. and upgrading to larger capacities is very expensive as compared to adding external storage. This leaves many buyers in a quandary of spending less and hoping they don't need the space, or splurging for the larger capacity models with a premium price tag. Patriot has recognized this dilemma and decided to answer the knock of opportunity by designing a device to give consumers another option. The Patriot Gauntlet 320 wireless portable drive allows users of iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire to access content stored on the drive wirelessly through an app that can be downloaded for free. Up to eight devices can be connected at once so sharing is encouraged.
As the name implies, the Gauntlet 320 comes with a hard drive already installed that's 320GB in capacity but can also be purchased without a drive (called the Gauntlet Node - PCGTW25S) if you have an extra 2.5" drive laying around to use or want something larger. The Node can be purchased for $96.90 and the Gauntlet 320 for as low as $129.99. We reviewed a similar product from Kingston that used solid state storage rather than a spinning platter drive which has its own set of pros and cons as we'll see. The Gauntlet supports the wireless 802.11 b/g/n spectrums with WEP/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK security protocols which should allow it to connect with just about every mobile device available that has wi-fi capability.
Patriot Gauntlet 320 (PCGTW320S) Features and Specifications:
- Wifi 802.11 b/g/n
- WEP/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK security
- USB 3.0 port for high speed wired connection
- Connect up to 8 devices at a time
- Stream HD movies (up to 720p) and music with up to 5 devices simultaneously
- Supports internet connection through a home or business Wi-Fi network (Internet Pass-thru)
- AC Wall Power Charger (100-240V ~ 50-60Hz)
- Lithium-ion Battery
- Up to 5.5 hours of operation on a full charge
- Note: Battery life will depend on the configuration of the product as well as usage conditions.
- iPad, iPhone (3GS or higher), iPod Touch (4th generation or higher) running iOS 4.2 or higher, or Android phone with v2.3 or higher, or Android tablet with v3.0 or higher, or PC running Windows XP/Vista/7/8 or higher, or Apple Mac running OSX 10.5 or higher, or Kindle Fire
- USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port (when not using a Wi-Fi connection)
- Gauntlet Connect app for phone, tablet, or Kindle Fire device for data transfer (available online at respective app stores)
- Note: Mobile device operating systems may have native file support limitations.
- Unit Dimensions: 3.39” (D) x 5.47” (W) x .96” (H) or 8.62cm (D) x 13.9cm (W) x 2.44cm (H)
- Weight: 182.5 grams
- 2 Year Limited Warranty
- 1x Gauntlet 320 Unit
- 1x USB Wall Adapter
- 1x USB Type "A" to DC Power Cable
- 1x USB 3.0 Type "A" to Type "micro B" Cable
- 1x Quick Start Guide
- 1x User Manual
Included with the drive are the necessary components to support usage. There's a USB 3.0 cable, a 10W power brick with collapsible prongs and the corresponding removable DC cable. There are two pieces of literature included in the product and quick start guides. That's all you need outside of the app for the device(s) to be used which is a free download from the applicable app store.
Physically, it's not overly large which is important for portability. It's about the size of 3.5" hard drive and weighs a little over six ounces which isn't too much more than most smart phones these days. The bulk of this weight comes from the battery and hard drive as the rest is nearly all impact plastic.
The Gauntlet has a slightly arched profile so is slightly taller in the middle than the edges but less than one inch overall. Impact resistant plastic covers the entire exterior and on the next page we'll look at all sides of the device in our brief product tour.
Gauntlet 320 - Product Tour
There's not a whole of external features to point out because Patriot designed it with simplicity in mind and were economical in their use of button and ports.
The front is the busiest part of the device in terms of features. On the left is the USB 3.0 port, followed by the power switch and the DC input for charging. The one comment we have here is even through the power button is somewhat recessed, it could stand to be a little more so to prevent unintentional presses or change it so a long press turns power on/off. As it stands, a quick press is all it takes to change the power state.
The battery level indicator lights up from one to four white dots upon press of the button to give a status of the charge level. Similar to the inidcators on many laptop batteries. Other than the ventilation holes located in the groves along the edges as seen here, the opposite side is bereft of features as is the rear so we'll skip the images.
Along the top near the front are three symbols with LED's that alight to indicate use for drive activity, wi-fi activity and charging. If the charging light is red, charging is in progress and if green it's fully charged. Pretty standard. If the wi-fi light is solid, wi-fi is on and if blinking data is being transferred. This is standard practice as well. A little different is the light for drive activity as the white light will blink of reading/writing but turn pink if there's 10% or less charge left so it serves a dual function. Embossed along the long edge is the Gauntlet moniker.
Outside of the branding and model information located on a sticker in the center, there are four rubber feet at each corner of the base. These are held on with mild adhesive and can be removed to access the screws that allow access to the inside. Of course, we couldn't resist opening it up and peeking inside.
Taking the base off, we see the bottom of the enclosed hard drive. The rubber bumpers on the sides of the drive keep it in place and mitigate physical shock.
Taking out the drive, the 12.4Wh Lithium-ion battery and internal components become visible. Handling the conversion from USB 3.0 to SATA is an ASMedia 1053 bridge. On the wireless front, the Ralink 5350F controller takes care of things and provided a stable connection although don't expect to leave the room and maintain a reliable connection as range is limited to about 20 feet or so depending if there are hindrances to the signal such as walls or interference from other devices on the 2.4GHz band. Add to that the fact that the antenna is integrated internally and power is limited to the radio for the benefit of battery life which keeps the range modest.
The hard drive included is a Toshiba MK3276GSX 2.5" spinning platter drive that clocks in at 5400RPM with a 8MB buffer. It provides more than adequate performance for the needs of the Gauntlet which uses a 3Gbps SATA interface. The rubber bumpers screw off and can be placed on any other 2.5" drive (9mm height) if you choose to replace the existing drive.
Usage and Final Thoughts
For the Gauntlet 320, available to the user is 298GB of space which is a very reasonable allocation for storage of media accessible on the go. Of course, there's always the opportunity of upgrading the drive inside the Gauntlet housing which is one of the perks of this device over some others.
Using the Gauntlet is simple. Plug it into a USB port and it shows up like any other external drive. Note that the Gauntlet doesn't automatically power on when connected so you must turn it on for the host to be able to see the drive. I forgot this several times and sat waiting for Windows to see the drive before I realized my error. It's also important to noth that when the drive is connected via USB, the wireless functionality ceases. Once connected, you can simply then drag and drop your files to the drive just like any other connected drive. You can also upload files wirelessly but it's slower and you can't run it as a background task, effectively tying up your device until it completes.
Setting up the wireless network is simple and be sure to change your password! The Gauntlet supports wireless pass-through so you don't have to switch networks to surf the web or pull up email but it will potentially cut your bandwidth some and is only possible with 2.4GHz networks. The lithium-ion battery life seemed to vary and but we found for a single device running video from the Gauntlet yielded just over 4.5 hours of run time. Plenty for a few movies but won't match the battery life of most tablets. With the unit on and not transitting, the battery lasted six hours which is more than the rated 5.5 hours specification. Battery life is a tradeoff between portability with the size and weight and battery life. Honestly, I'd take a smaller device and less battery life but everyone's needs are different. Popping in an SSD will certainly add to the battery life but will certainly add cost and likely diminish capacity. You need to stay relatively close by (within 20ft or so) to maintain a reliable connection. As mentioned, just about any device running iOS (4.2 or higher), Android (phone v2.3 or higher, tablet v3.0 or higher) or Kindle Fire is fair game to use with the Gauntlet.
The configuration user interface is virtually dummy-proof and intuitive. There are settings for the photo slideshow along with the pertinent network and wireless settings. Anything on the 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n spectrum is in play and various levels of network security can be implemented with WEP/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK protocols. It's highly recommended that you leverage these along with changing the SSID broadcast name.
For the bare drive alone, you can see that read and write performance tops out at around 94MB/s so the SATA II interface is in no way a bottleneck. This is plenty fast for it intended purpose and moving to a 7200RPM drive will only suck down more battery life. As far as the device performance goes, per the specifications eight devices can be connected wirelessly at once, but only up to five playing video at 720p. We were able to confirm this with playback across five devices simultaneously (2 iPads, 1 iPad Mini, 2 iPhones) from a 720p resolution .m4v file without so much as a hiccup. We could even play the same movie with each device at a different spot in the movie without any problem at all so that was pretty impressive. Photos and files also opened quickly without fuss. Overall, we had no complaints about the performance, user interface or overall design of the Gauntlet 320 in general. However, we all know how fragile spinning platter drives can be, especially on small devices that get tossed in bags and such. Near the end of testing we starting hearing loud clicking sounds coming from the drive at various intervals which usually signifies a near death state for the drive. This is a little concerning since we really didn't carry it around anywhere that it could get jostled or bumped - especially while in use. It's still ticking along though (pun intended) so maybe it will be ok. The other downer is it doesn't really appear that the lithium-ion battery is replaceable, so for long term usage that could impact some buyers. For around $129.99, it's priced appropriately for what you get and there are currently few peers in the market space which should serve Patriot well.
Legit Bottom Line: The Patriot Gauntlet 320 is a handy way to carry around a sizeable media library to share with up to eight devices simultaneously and can save consumers from paying for expensive tablet storage upgrades.