WD My Passport Ultra: Think Local Act Dropbox

WD-My-Passport-Ultra

Local storage is all well and good until a flash flood sweeps through your home or a thief makes off with all your tech goodies; cloud-based storage also has its drawbacks, should you lose your connection to the Web or if Amazon’s servers suddenly collapse under the weight of all your holiday snaps. It’s perhaps with these considerations in mind that Western Digital’s latest hard drive range uses software that combines local storage with Dropbox integration.

The new drives are the latest entrants in the established Passport range, focusing on slim, portable drives that only require a USB connection to power up. They’re ideal for swapping between computers and backing up your stuff, though they don’t quite reach the speeds or capacities of full-size external drives. The new line-up comes in four colours (red, blue, black or grey) and a choice of three capacities (500GB, 1TB or 2TB).

All the drives are USB 3.0-enabled and come with hardware encryption and password protection capabilities, as handled by the aforementioned WD SmartWare Pro software. The latest edition of Western Digital’s proprietary software solution does a neat job of mirroring the files on your drive with your cloud-based Dropbox storage, though you’ll only be able to have your most important files in both places at once unless you fork out for Dropbox’s paid-for packages ($49.99 or roughly £32 a month for 500GB, at the last check). Dropbox gives users 2GB for free, though you can quickly increase that with referrals.

Each drive comes with a carrying pouch and USB cable. The 500GB model has a RRP of €89.90 (roughly £76), while the 1TB version will set you back €129.90 (£110). Pricing has yet to be confirmed for the 2TB edition, which is coming to retailers in the next month or two.

My-Passport-Ultra-Hand

At first glance the most impressive aspect of the My Passport Ultra is how small and svelte it is, even when compared with drives from the same line up just one or two years ago. These drives really are getting to the pocket-sized stage. The 500GB version we put through its paces was set up in seconds and transferred data at an impressive rate, particularly over USB 3.0 — you can expect to shift around 5GB of data every minute, which blows most other drives out of the water. A transfer rate of around 30MB/s was achieved over USB 2.0.

Hooking the unit’s integrated backup software up to Dropbox only took a couple of mouse clicks, and there’s a useful quick backup option that picks out the most important folders from your PC automatically. We would’ve liked to see a tool for backing up to Dropbox and the external drive simultaneously, but for now it’s either one or the other. Of course, you can always use the My Passport Ultra to create a copy of your existing Dropbox folder to keep all bases covered.

With Western Digital’s wealth of experience, as well as the hefty capacities and polished looks of the new models, it’s difficult to look past the My Passport Ultra range when it comes to portable hard drive solutions. That said, there’s plenty of choice out there — Freecom’s Mobile range is worth considering, and the company seems to take as much interest in the look of its drives as Western Digital does. Seagate is another of the big players with a strong track record, and its Wireless Plus drive works without cables and can be accessed by mobiles and tablets as well as computers (though you will of course pay a premium for the privilege).

Acme MP-01 Media Player delivers Oscar-winning performance

Multimedia Players are the next evolutionary step in the home entertainment arena that started decades ago with the humble video player. The Acme MP-01 Portable Media Player is by all accounts an external hard drive that boosts 1TB capacity. By plugging the MP-01 into any compatible TV, you can play both films, programmes and video clips. Not only that, but it lives up to its multimedia billing allowing you to store photographs and songs as well, eliminating the need for a whole host of different devices for each.

Acme-Media-Player

Coming wrapped inside a smart-looking metallic silver box, the MP-01 is fully 1080p HD compliant, and boosts Dolby Surround sound for home cinema set ups. Small and slim-line in size, it measures 142.5(L) x 85(W) x 23(H) mm, and is light enough to carry around with you, which allows you to easily transfer it between your PC and TV.

No matter what format your movie comes in, you can be pretty safe in the knowledge the MO-001 will play it with every popular format supported. It couldn’t be easier to use – you simply plug it into your TV and scroll through the menu using the remote control, select the video or song that you wish to access, and away you go.

If you are looking for an all-in-one multimedia solution, then the £99 MP-01 makes for fantastic value for money. Sure, compared to some of its (far more expensive) competitors, it doesn’t come with Wi-Fi support or internet capability, but then for this price you cannot complain. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and if you are looking for an all-in-one device that will save you space and is convenient to use, then the MP-01 deserves to be high on your shopping list.

For more information visit: www.interactiveideas.com

myTwonky and Twonky Video for Android

PacketVideo announced recently the release of myTwonky (beta) and Twonky Video for Android. These free products provide the user with easy access to an existing library of music, photos and videos, as well as new content from the Web, whenever and wherever on your Smartphone, PC or Mac. Aww, how thoughtful.

Twonky

Let’s deal with the video app at first then, eh? So this Twonky Video (bit of a weird name, but we like it) for Android gives you the option to either browse online for your favorite video clips or access personal video content stored on your phone or home network. Good start.

The whole idea here, is that you get even more freedom to enjoy your videos, music and photos on more devices, myTwonky also contains Twonky’s (patent pending) Beaming technology that allows you to beam content found within your myTwonky account with any Web-connected TV or device in your home. Proper Star-Trekking stuff!

Jim Brailean, CEO, PacketVideo says: “Our goal with myTwonky and the Twonky Music and Video apps was to re-imagine how people collect and consume media content. We’re creating a truly immersive experience that lets you easily engage with your existing media library, what you find on the web, things you already love and things you are about to love.”

The Twonky Video app works with Airplay-enabled devices, such as Apple TV, and UPnP- and DLNA-certified devices.

Right, now we’ve sorted that. What the flippin’ heck is myTwonky? Well, put simply-ish it’s a user-customised web portal that searches the Internet for new content based on your personal video, photo and music preferences. Basically, it eliminates the need to comb the Internet one website at a time for new, relevant content. Simply tell myTwonky what topics you are most interested in (e.g, Lady Gaga, Johnny Depp or Hull City…okay, so the last option is personal…whatever) and you’ll instantly receive a running stream of related videos side-by-side with videos, music and photos from your existing library of media content. Pretty sweet.

Once you create a free Twonky account, you can begin creating specific video channels and bookmarking favorite content for easy playback. Select streaming radio stations by genre (my favourite feature) and view your own music library in the same location.

If you’re an open-minded soul, then you can choose to integrate your Facebook, Flickr and other social media networks with myTwonky for easy access to multimedia stored within those networks. You can also share content found using myTwonky directly with your social networks.

Usefully enough, when it’s coupled with the Twonky Video app (the thing we’ve detailed above), myTwonky gives you the ability to access both online and personal content anytime. Preferences set within your myTwonky account translate to your Twonky Video app, eliminating the need to reset your personal settings for each platform. Adults can use myTwonky’s parental controls to ensure the young’uns are receiving appropriate media content.

myTwonky works with UPnP- and DLNA-certified devices, with Airplay compatibility to be added in early 2012.

myTwonky is currently available at www.myTwonky.com. Twonky Video is available in the Android App Marketplace. Twonky Music is available in the Android App Marketplace.

Multimedia multitasker – Nero 11

If you want to do anything with multimedia files, whether it’s editing MP3 files, create slideshows, edit video, receiver data from damaged discs and loads more, Nero software seems to be able to do it all. Long gone are the days when all it did was burn data to CDs (although you can still do that too!)

This is version 11 so what’s new since its last outing?

Nero-11

Well, there is a LIVEBackup feature, which offers automatic, continuous backup with one click, plus there is an Express Editing mode. This allows you to use a simple storyboard, rather than a multitrack timeline, so that you can cobble together basic projects simply and easily There are also some advanced features such as 3D effects and picture-in-picture overlays.

Photographers can create personalised photo books, cards and calendars and then order online using Nero Kwik Media, should they wish.

File conversion and sharing offerings are also greatly improved – Nero Recode allows you to convert media from most file formats and then output it to almost any other device. Social networking is catered for as there are tools for sharing to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and of course for burning to DVD and Blu-ray.

Mobile devices are becoming more and more vital nowadays, so it’s nice to see the ability to sync media between PC and Android using either USB or Wi-Fi.

Martin Stein, senior vice president of global products, said:

“Nero 11 helps you do more with your photos, videos and music faster. It is the only software you need to access and organise your photos, videos and music across all of your devices; create impressive videos and slideshows; optimise videos for your iPad or smartphone; back it all up securely with just one click; and share your memories with friends and family on an online social network, Blu-ray disc or photo book.”

The software is compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP and costs £69.99 (Nero 11 Platinum £89.99).

AirTies: Hands on

Let’s face it: streaming video technology tends to be a bit crap. The problem is, manufacturers make bold claims such as a line-of-sight range of 50 metres. And then when you bring it home, you get two metres and a kick in the face (metaphorical).  We met the nice people at AirTies, who then promised us a streaming video range of 50m LOS. Uh-oh.

AirTies

And everything turned out okay. The range held up in our real-world conditions, and we were streaming. Proving the device isn’t useless, let’s talk about the features.

The wireless inside the system works in either 2.4 or 5 GHz – 802.1 1b/g/n. The company seemed particularly excited by the 5 GHz band. It allows high-speed 300 Mbps transfers, which means the three HD streams can travel across the device without losing any quality.

It also means that the already crowded 2.4 GHz network will not interfere with your streaming operations. It also means that you’re not at risk from microwave interference.

And even if you do choose to operate on a slower speed, AirTies has a unique software that detects interfering channels and cycles through alternatives until it finds the least crowded network. Due to 2ms buffer on video content, the routers can do this without interrupting the streaming content. From our tests, that’s entirely true.

Setup is simple. The Air 4420 routers (of which you get two in the Wireless Kit) have a one-touch network set-up. Plug one into your existing route, the other into your DLNA-compatible device, and push a button on each. That’s it. The routers will then talk to each other and create a secure WPA connection. There’s a web-interface to access this later, but you’ll probably never need to.

If you have trouble with the device’s range, and always buying more and create a mesh network, extending the range by another 50m LOS.

There’s even a USB port for plugging in a USB stick or external hard drive. Any files on the USB device can then be accessed remotely over network. Every AirTies box can have a different USB device, and it does the same for USB printers, too.  A DLNA streamer with a built-in Media Server? Sweet.

All-in-all, it’s a great offering. For £89.99, you can get your DLNA TV connected, hook up your console to the internet at speeds of 300Mbps and create your own media server (or two). Oh, and we got it working through 10M and two quite thick walls.

AirTies: Dry your hair, cook dinner – and still enjoy a wireless connection

Connected TVs are big news nowadays – with the ability to download videos and catchup TV direct to your TV set, they sound like the perfect multimedia solution. But because our homes are so full of gadgetry (maybe some more than others!) there’s an added problem.

Wireless connections can be at the mercy of signals from other gadgetry such as microwaves and hair dryers, which means that your connection can prove jittery and suffer from lag.

AirTies-unit

Step in the good folk at AirTies, who have taken pity on us techno geeks by coming up with Air 4420, a solution that connects hybrid and IPTVs and Ethernet-enabled TVs and players wirelessly to your home network and the internet – and they promise it can all happen with one-touch self-service installation.

The Air 4420 wireless devices are installed in pairs. One is connected to the IP Gateway while the other connects to the IPTV set top-box or the Ethernet port of a network-enabled TV or player. Next, says AirTies, you simply press a button to wirelessly connect the TV or the player to the net or your home network. If you have several TVs, wireless repeaters can be added to extend the wireless range.

Because Air 4420 operates at 5GHz frequency, it offers 22 channels for interference-free, high-speed 300Mbps wireless networking, so you can watch High Definition video, listen to music or view photos at high speeds.

Add an external USB disk drive and you have a UPnP AV compatible media server which will allow video, music and photos to be displayed on UPnP AV compatible TVs and players.

For more details log on to www.airties.com

Digital Stream DPS-1000: Catch-Up TV player … plays catch up

With the digital switch-over in full swing, now has never been a better time for manufacturers to unveil the latest in set-top box technology.

In August we had a look at some of the market’s best options for those who hadn’t made the step-up to digital television yet, with the Boxee Box – a hub allowing you to watch content from your computer – leading the way in innovation.

DigitalStream

But now John Lewis has announced that they’re putting on sale the Digital Stream DPS-1000 Catch-Up TV player, at a price of £89.50.

The box’s selling point is all about watching catch-up television (BBC’s iPlayer etc.) without the need to connect to a computer. Yes, that’s right – missed that episode of The Apprentice? Well you don’t need to get up, find your laptop and load up your browser anymore. Simply connect the set-top box to your Internet connection and your TV and away you go.

It also lets you connect to streaming outlets such as YouTube, CNN Daily Video and Delicious TV – but we’re left wondering if the first of three is the only one of real use.

One of the more redeeming features here however is social networking connectivity, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter on hand – although older devices like Microsoft’s XBOX 360 foreshadowed this some time ago.

One glaring drawback of the Catch-Up Player is its lack of wireless ability, meaning that you’ll have to have the box near enough to phone-line access to connect the Ethernet cable to – no Sunday morning catch-up of Doctor Who in the cosy loft then.

Compared to the other set-top boxes and digital television delights we looked at – including integrated Freeview HD – the Digital Stream Catch-Up TV player seems quite like the Emmerdale of set-top boxes. It’s got good intentions, but with strong competition, it doesn’t quite cut it.

Marmitek Connect350 and Split312: High definition HDMI hubs

Clumsy cable clutter is the often the bane of a living room’s existence. Behind your TV set can be like a clump of Medusa’s Hair – although last time we checked, there usually aren’t any snakes involved.

All that is about to change. Marmitek have announced the release of two cable collaters for today’s high definition generation – but not only do they provide cleanliness, they also give you great amount of flexibility with all your HDMI sources.

Marmitek

One of the new products is the Connect350 – and as its name suggests, it offers supreme connectivity. It is essentially a HDMI hub, allowing you the opportunity to connect up to five HDMI cables – be it from a HD set-top box, a games console or a blu-ray player, for example. Once the cables are all snugly in place in the Connect350, only one cable from the hub is needed to plug into your HD television set and you can switch between your devices with a remote control, with supported resolutions of up to 1080p. Perfect.

The Split312 similarly revolves around a central hub, but it has two HD outputs instead of a solitary one, meaning you can play games for half an hour on one TV, then watch a bit of that Coronation Street episode you recorded on Sky + HD last night on the other.

Very much saving on the back-bending rigour of swapping cables behind your TV set, these products indeed are high on convenience and clutter-cleansing, but it does of course promote the use multiple electrical devices at the same time which, in a time of global concern, isn’t the best message to disseminate to the public. But hey, who really cares when you can switch between two HDMI devices at the touch of a button? Quite a few people, probably.

Both products can be bought for a recommended retail price of £39.95.