Wireless drives have been around for a little while now. There’s the Seagate GoFlex Satellite, and the Kingston W-Drive SSD, for example. They generate their own wifi networks, and you can then stream content from them to either a Mac or, more usefully, an iOS device.

Lacie has taken that concept a stage further, by adding the ability to upload content from iPhones and iPads also, and with 1TB capacity, you’re unlikely to find yourself running short of space.

I tested it with a MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone, and was generally impressed …

Exterior

Fuel_34_left

Physically, the drive looks something like a cross between a standard external hard drive and a DVD drive – it’s somewhere between the two in size. It’s a typical piece of ABS plastic: doesn’t feel premium but doesn’t feel cheap-and-nasty either. There’s a loop hook which kind of gives the impression Lacie is expecting you to sling it from the outside of a backpack as you hike across country, an image its promotional video tries hard to convey. I suspect most of us would simply put it inside.

On the front is a power button and two LEDs. When you switch it on, the green power LED lights, followed by a flashing blue wifi LED as it establishes its wireless network. Once up-and-running, the blue LED goes solid.

First impressions

first

The Fuel is very easy to use. Lacie supplies it with some sample content, so you can try it out right away. Switch it on, wait for the blue LED to go solid then look for the wireless network on your device. You can rename the SSID to make it easier to identify, but the Lacie part of the default name makes it pretty obvious.

Once connected, you simply go to laciefuel.com in a web-browser or use the free Seagate Media app on an iOS device. You can then immediately start accessing the sample media.

There’s a big menu to switch between media types, making it extremely easy to use. On the iPhone, this is a full-screen menu, on the iPad it’s a drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

Loading up content

folders

You can load content onto the drive via your browser and the wireless network, but that’s a little clunky on a Mac. It’s far easier to simply connect it via the included USB 3 cable (backward compatible with USB 2, of course). It then just appears as a standard drive and you can drag and drop content into the appropriate folders.

That much really was about as much as I was expecting from the drive in terms of uploads, but you can also upload content direct from an iOS device. Although you can only do this wirelessly, it could be very handy if you already have a bunch of movies, for example, loaded onto your iPad and want to offload them onto the drive.

photo

On an iOS device, you select your iPad or iPhone name from the drop-down, then you can navigate to the desired content, select the tick icon, select the files you want to upload and then touch the upload icon (fourth from the left in the above screengrab).

Security flaw

One major flaw is that, by default, there is no password on the drive. This means that anyone can connect to it, and not only download your content, but also upload to the drive!

The drive allows you to set a password (which I suggest you do as soon as you power it up), but really you should be asked to set this as part of the start-up process.

Separate device folders

I did find one oddity with uploads from iOS devices, however: uploaded content gets put in a separate device folder. For example, when I uploaded some photos from my iPhone, they didn’t get added to the main Photos folder, but were instead placed in a folder Fuel created called Ben Lovejoy’s iPhone. Similarly, iPad videos were uploaded to Ben Lovejoy’s iPad.

photo

So, if you navigate by folder into the main Photos or Videos folder, the uploaded content is not there. However, if you use the dropdown menu (which is instead a full-screen menu on the iPhone), then all the content is shown.

Accessing content

Again, this was a pleasantly easy experience. On a Mac, you simply open a web-browser and go to laciefuel.com. On an iPhone or iPad, you open the free Seagate Media app (downloaded from iTunes). In either case, you get an iCloud-style view of your documents.

The dropdown offering quick access to videos, photos, music or documents is also very convenient – and necessary, if you have uploaded content from iOS devices, as mentioned above.

Lacie says up to five people can access the drive at once. I tested it with four devices – two Macs, an iPad and an iPhone – and all were able to simultaneously stream HD video. However, I did notice that thumbnails lagged with four simultaneous connections.

lagged

Thumbnails lagging with multiple devices connected

Collaborative working

One thing I hadn’t expected was that multiple devices can also simultaneously upload content to the drive. I could definitely see times when this would be useful either professionally or socially.

Fuel effectively gives you a mobile server for when you have a group of you out of the office, perhaps in locations with poor wifi/mobile data coverage. At a party or other social gathering, you could allow everyone to upload photos to the drive to create a repository of everyone’s photos in one place, instantly. As people can also view the uploaded content immediately, I can see this as a fun way to share photos at a party.

For this type of group usage, the separate folder approach the iOS app uses could actually prove beneficial.

Battery-life

battery

Lacie claims the drive has a 10-hour battery-life. With a hard drive, real-life performance will depend a great deal on usage, so it’s not possible to give a definitive answer on what it delivers, but certainly when I used it intermittently (but always powered-on with at least one device connected to it throughout) for a little over six hours, it was still showing 34 percent charge remaining, so I would say the claim is at least in the right kind of ballpark, and that it offers enough duration to be genuinely useful.

Conclusions

exterior

The Lacie Fuel isn’t a cheap product. You can pick up a standard 1TB portable drive from around $70, while the Fuel will cost you three times that. Even I, someone who thinks wires are evil, wouldn’t pay that kind of premium just to avoid a USB cable connection to my Mac.

But for iOS devices, it’s a really neat concept that works extremely well. Going on a trip, you can carry virtually unlimited media in something small enough to slip inside any bag and with the convenience of wireless access with multiple devices.

I can see a particular market for families who use iPads to keep kids entertained on car journeys: you could just load the drive up once with a tonne of videos and then connect their iPads to the drive during the journey, rather than having to constantly change the content on the iPads themselves.

On a holiday, you have the reassurance of being able to shoot as much video and take as many photos as you like, transferring them to the drive and then being able to delete them from your phone to create space for new ones (though you’d then have just a single copy).

My only real complaint is the flakiness of the Internet connection relay, something we found with the older Seagate product too. Given the frequency with which it drops out, it isn’t realistic to use it as a portable router, and without that you do have to switch back-and-forth between wifi connections depending on whether you want to access the drive or the Internet. But that aside, I was impressed.

The Lacie Fuel is available from Amazon for $199.99.

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16 Responses to “Review: Lacie Fuel, the wireless portable drive for all your iDevices”

  1. Shaun G says:

    I’ve looked at the Seagate version of this but didn’t go with it as I already have nearly 2TB of iTunes content in my library. I notice that this has the same 1TB limit. Do you know if it’s possible to daisy chain it so I could store my content spread over two of them? Alternatively I’ve been looking at the Kingston MobileLite Wireless and was wondering if you’d had any experience with that product? Thanks.

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    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      I haven’t tried the Kingston drive myself. I don’t think you can daisy-chain them as such, but you could of course split your content between two and access whichever one you wanted at the time if you really need mobile access to all of it.

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  2. S Miller says:

    You act like uploading from your phone or tablet is new.
    I have owned that technology for over a year already with Patriot Gauntlet.

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  3. danbridgland says:

    I’m in the market for travel storage. With iOS in mind it needs to be wireless, but my primary need is to download my SD cards to free up space on the move. my iPad once sufficed, but now the megapixel race has gone crazy, nd I can’t help but capture full quality, the iPad is woefully short on storage, not to mention costly.

    With a wireless storage device such as this, would I still need to use the iPad as a middle man, sucking up the SD card content (or as much as will fit on the ipad) and then offload the media once again from the iPad to the storage device, and repeat? Sure makes the ipad look like one heck of an expensive adapter! Or could I connect a USB SD card reader?

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  4. duanetwayne says:

    The name of the company is “LaCie” as in the French for “the company”; they’re not exactly a Johnny-come-lately.

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  5. Jai Vora says:

    Excuse what maybe a basic question – Can this device enable me to transfer ALL my audio/music ( less than 200GB ) data from iTunes Library so that I can play it all using an iPhone / iPad over WiFi ?

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    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      Yes – you’d want to connect it to your Mac via USB to do that transfer, but once it’s done, you could access at will

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      • Jai Vora says:

        Ben – To further clarify –

        Once the entire iTunes Library ( auio files, Art Work, and Meta Data ) have been transferred to “Fuel”, accessing the music would be through iTunes interface on an iPhone or iPad, correct ?

        What I hope I can achieve is that all the data is stored on the “Fuel”, but I can access it all just like the files/music resided on the iPhone/iPad – No change in user interface, Apple’s/iTunes “Cover FLow” would work just as it does normally – Can this be achieved ?

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  6. I like the idea of offloading iphone made movies when i travel light. How are the transfer rates though? The device becomes useless to me if I need hours to upload my content from the iphone. Say, I have a 3 GB iphone 5s movie in my camera roll. How much time whould I need to transfer it to the disk?

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  7. Thanks for a great review.
    Does this mean that your iPad or iPhone connects to TWO networks at the same time? I am wondering how you connect to the Fuel and your home network at the same time to stream video to your apple tv? Or do you have to connect your apple tv to the lacie?

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  8. I like to play itunes playlists in the car which I stream to my car radio using bluetooth. Is there any integration to enable me create music itunes playlists? Or at the least does the LaCie app allow music playlists?

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  9. I’ve had this for a few days now. I agree with all that’s said in this review, apart from battery, which seems a little shorter than you experienced. Granted, I have been using the SAMBA feature to connect wirelessly through Finder on my MacBook Air, which no doubt uses more. I reformatted for Mac so a) I could use Super Duper to back up my itunes library, and b) connect to the itunes library on the Lacie Fuel wirelessly. So now I have a backup of all my music and movies stored in iTunes and I can play it through my Macbook. iPods and iPads don’t have apps to use with an iTunes library, which makes it a little more restricted I.e using ipod in car. But heck, it’s got plenty of features and is a cool wireless drive for Mac heads.

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  10. mpias3785 says:

    I have the Kingston MobilleLite wireless (mid $40s to mid $50s depending on vendor). It has an SD card slot, a USB port for any USB capable drive and a built-in battery to power the device. Up to three devices can be connected at the same time and it can be charged while in use.

    The MobileLite, 128GB 600X card and a recently purchased 1 TB portable drive cost about $150. Not too bad.

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  11. It seems that you can easily copy photos from your iPad to the Lacie Fuel. This is certainly the case for JPEGs. But can you also copy RAW-files (Nikon) to the Fuel? For example: I copy RAW-files from my Nikon Camera via the camera connection kit to my iPad. Can I then use the Seagate Media App to copy the RAW files to the Lacie Fuel (and later on to my computer)?

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  12. I just got the LaCie Fuel and had (paid) about 700 CDs copied onto it. The one issue I have is that I can’t point iTunes to the drive as another iTunes Library. I can only listen through their app (or via browser on my laptop).
    I called their tech support about this and she said if I wanted to load music onto my iPod I should connect via USB and then drag the music I want into iTunes so that I can load it on the iPod. That stinks. I’m trying to keep music off my Macbook Air (to save space). Any suggestions?

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