Not Your Average Drive Dock
Many of us have extra bare hard drive or two laying around and buying an external drive enclosure only really serves to make one useful as an external drive, leaving you with the mundane task of swapping them out. This is where docking stations come in handy, offering the ease of swapping drives on the fly. Still, most rely on a wired connection which effectively eliminates the use of the storage for smartphones and tablets without some creative solutions. Vantec has released a new NexStar drive dock that not only connects via USB 3.0, but also via wireless. Pretty slick! The USB 3.0 only version of this dock runs $29.39 shipped, so the addition of wireless adds about $60 to the cost of this product as the MSRP on the NexStart WiFi Hard Drive Dock is $89.99.
Compatible with both iOS and Android operating devices through apps you can download on the respective platform, the NexStar wireless hard drive dock makes it easy to expand the storage of these mobile devices. In addition, it supports the UPnP protocol so household devices that can leverage it can also benefit from the wireless storage. All of this can be done securely via an encrypted signal through WEP/WPA/WPA2.
Vantec has a nice video that outlines the use of the dock and the many features.
Vantec NexStar WiFi Hard Drive Dock (NST-D300WS3) Features:
|Device Support:||SATA I/II/III Hard Drive|
|Hard Drive Size:||2.5" & 3.5" Hard Drive|
|External Interface:||USB 3.0 (Backwards compatible w/ USB 2.0 & 1.1)|
|Supported File System:||NTFS, FAT32|
|System OS Support:||Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8 Mac OS X 10.6 or higher|
|Mobile Device OS Support:||iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch iOS 4.0 & higher
Android Phone Ver. 2.1 & higher
Android Pad Ver. 3.0 & higher
UPnP Compatible Devices
|Wi-Fi Interface:||802.11 b/g/n
Wi-Fi AP Tethering Supported
Wi-Fi Encryption: WEP/WPA/WPA2
Up to 150Mbit Transfer Rate
|iOS App Supported Media Format:||Video: h.264, .mov, .mp4, .mpv, .3gp, .m4v
Photo: .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .gif, .tif, .bmp, .tiff
Audio: AAC, .mp3, .m4a, .aif, .wav
Document: MS Office 97 or higher, .pdf, .rtf
Supports "Open-In" Function
|Android App Supported Media Format:||Video: h.264, .mp4,.3gp, .MPEG-TS, .mkv
Photo: .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .webp
Audio: AAC, .mp3, .ota, .imy, .ogg, .rttl, .rtx, .wav
|Dimensions:||136 x 83 x 87 mm|
- Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7/8
- Mac OS X v10.6 and Up
- USB 3.0, 2.0 or 1.1 Equipped System
- For USB 3.0 Speeds, System Must Support USB 3.0 Specifications
- iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch iOS 4.0 & higher
- Android Phone Ver. 2,1 & higher
- UPnP Compatible Devices
- NexStar WiFi Hard Drive Dock
- USB 3.0 Cable
- Power Adapter
- User's Manual
In the box is a multilingual manual, a USB 3.0 cable and the AC power adapter. Let's have a closer look!
A Closer Look
Around the back side of the NexStar WiFi dock we find the input ports for the USB 3.0 and AC connections.
There's also a recessed reset button to reset everything back to their defaults. This is done by holding in the button for 5-7 seconds.
The bottom features the product sticker complete with product number, legal info, and a brief features list. This is flanked by four rubber feet placed in the corners.
On the front, the big button in the center toggles the power and the ring around it alights in blue when the power is on. In the strip below, the are also blue LEDs that indicate disk usage as well as WiFi connectivity.
A view from the top shows the aperture where either a 2.5" or 3.5" drive with a pivoting flap to accommodate the larger drive. On the right is an eject button that mechanically disconnects the drive from the SATA power and data interfaces.
Drives are used simply as plug and play devices and are easy to swap out within seconds.
Usage and Performance
Using the Vantec NexStar WiFi dock is not much different than any other external dock when wired. Simply plug it into the USB 3.0 connector and the drive shows up just like a flash drive would. Access speeds through USB 3.0 is bottle-necked by the USB interface but still speedy as compared to USB 2.0. We used a 6Gbps Crucial M500 SSD in our test to make sure the drive wasn't the limiting factor. We hit 307MB/s read and 339MB/s write speeds with this docking station and SSD combination, so wired performance is excellent.
Wireless performance will vary widely depending on the connection type, signal strength and paired hardware. The dock operates wirelessly via a Ralink RT5350F 150Mbit per second wireless controller that supports 802.11b/g/n protocols. As such, it's going to be a lot slower than the USB 3.0 connection with the hardware although plenty enough for streaming content. We had no trouble streaming 1080p video to multiple iOS devices or to a UPnP capable TV.
Wireless connectivity is the real innovation on this devices allowing a myriad of devices to access whatever storage you have plugged in. It supports media playback of H.264, mov, mp4, mpv, 3gp, m4v, aac, mp3, m4a, aif, and wav in addition to graphical jpeg, png, gif, tif, bmp, and tiff files. In effect, it becomes a virtually limitless media server. Best of all, using the free software for Android or iOS, your smartphone or tablet can access the dock as well.
On iOS, there's additional functionality to support "Open In" functionality for file-types not natively supported which is very nice to have since iOS does not support all file types. Airplay is also supported to stream content and playlists can be created for music within the NexStar WiFi App.
Configuration is simple with settings for WEP/WPA/WPA2 security encryption to keep out leeches. Photos, music, video and data folders exist to keep things organized within the app. Overall, we were really impressed with how easy and robust the NexStar wireless dock was in use. It's build feels solid and the LED blue ring and operational lights contrasting with the white housing make for an attractive design. This is important as it will likely sit in a conspicuous place. We couldn't find pricing online but the non-wireless version (NST-D300S3) is $29.39 shipped and the wireless version (NST-D300WS3) has an MSRP of $89.99. It is currently sold-out on Newegg.
Legit Bottom Line: There's really no reason to purchase a dock that lacks wireless capability with this gem available as it really increases its usefulness by allowing it to expand the storage of a myriad of devices.