RAVPower FileHub RP-WD03 Seabird

| by Ken | in Technology Add comments

I’m pretty excited about this little black box I got recently.  It’s a RAVPower FileHub.  The codename is “Seabird” and the model number is RP-WD03.  “FileHub” isn’t quite descriptive enough, though.  Primarily, I got it to be a hub of files, that is true, but it’s got a lot more going for it.

The basic function that lured me in is I wanted a device to expand the space on the kids’ Kindle Fire HDX.  They only have 16 Gbyte of storage and that gets quickly chewed up by stuff they download, and the OS.  In fact, new, I think there was only maybe 6 Gbyte free and at this point we are constantly finding the storage full, purging and starting over.  I went through a massive purge effort recently and only got them down to 3 Gbyte free on each Kindle.  That’s enough to put a single movie on it.  But what if they want to watch a bunch of TV shows or movies for a long trip?  Out of luck on the Kindle Fire HDX.  The recommendation from Amazon is to use a WiFi drive.  Those things are somewhat expensive and they are a unitasker.  Besides, the idea that I could use a USB drive to load TV and movies made more sense to me than to deal with a captive drive in a WiFi device.

In searching for WiFi drive alternatives, I came across the RAVPower product line.  At first, I was looking at the “Combi”.  Although I don’t have specific plans for needing DLNA support at this time, the Seabird has that for a bit of future proofing for me and it also works as an Access Point and a Router.  So I bought the Seabird / RP-WD03.  And I bought a large 256 Gbyte SD card.  The RAVPower was only $34 which I thought was really cheap for such a device.  Although of course, the downside is that it does not include any of its own storage.  And my original plan was to just repurpose an existing SD card but I realized that for this thing to really work as  I want, I want to be able to load up the SD card with a massive amount of video, and all of my current SD cards would only get me part way there.  I could have gotten a 1 Tbyte WiFi drive from Western Digital for about the same price as the SD card plus the FileHub but it seemed like there’d be less flexibility with that.  After all, if I want at some point, I can repurpose the SD card for my digital camera and I can get a different SD card for the FileHub.  Also, 256 Gbyte is about as much as I can work with at this point.  More than that would be just wasted space for me now.

I’ve now got MythTV working to export TV shows to the SD card faster than I did last year.  I wrote out some to test the FileHub.  The way the FileHub works is that you download the FileHub app to your mobile device and then switch the WiFi connection on your device to point to the one the FileHub is creating.  Then, you use the FileHub app to browse the file system of your SD card or an attached USB drive.  (The app comes with large tiles for Videos and Pictures and Files but I couldn’t figure out how the FileHub would ever categorize those things.  Besides, my directory structure on the SD card is pretty logical so easier to work with the file system directly than futz with the app.)  I thought when I tapped on a video file that the FileHub app would call an external player but from what I can tell, the player is embedded in the FileHub app and it works really well.  In fact, it appears to function just like VLC so it may be a custom build of VLC that’s embedded.

I tested the FileHub app on 2 Kindle Fire HDXs, 1 iPhone, 1 iPad, and 1 Teclast X16 tablet.  It worked well on all of those devices.  The only snag I saw was on the older iPad, I didn’t get any audio on one of my video files but I checked and discovered that particular test file had been done with a direct audio copy during the transcode instead of transcoding the audio too.  Now, with the audio transcoded to aac, the iPad works too.  And considering that the FileHub app worked fine on my iPhone, it definitely doesn’t appear to be an issue of the port to iOS that is missing something so much as the older iOS is missing the capability to play the other audio format.  I also tested the FileHub with 4 mobile devices streaming different video files all at the same time.  No hiccups at all.  Sweet!

Okay, that’s the main reason I got the device.  But there are some other goodies too.  You can connect the FileHub to another network and let the FileHub serve as a bridge to the other network.  That’s useful for when you are in a hotel, for example, and the whole family wants to get on the WiFi but the hotel only lets you connect one device at a time through one of those silly authentication pages.  With this thing, you’d connect the FileHub and then the other devices would use the FileHub for the network.  I tested it in this mode at home and it worked great for that too.  In fact, with the FileHub hooked in to my home network, you actually don’t need to reroute your mobile device to use the FileHub’s WiFi – using your own WiFi, connects to the FileHub when the FileHub is also on your WiFi.  Not so useful for “real” use, but nice for testing.  Oh, and if the hotel or wherever doesn’t have WiFi to bridge, the FileHub has a WAN jack on it to convert the wired network into WiFi for your mobile devices.

One other useful thing.  Besides having a battery to power itself, it can also recharge other devices.  Of course, you’d need to decide where you want the battery power, but it is pretty cool that you could plug in your mobile device to charge while watching a movie streamed from the FileHub even after the mobile device was out of power.  Sure, you’ll drain the FileHub faster but that’s better than having a charged FileHub a depleted phone.

I haven’t tried it yet, but another useful application of the technology is to review pictures while on vacation.  Put the SD card from your camera in the FileHub and you can show them on a mobile device like a tablet – better than a camera’s built in screen.  And you could even transfer the files to a USB drive from the SD card, if you needed more space, for example.

It’s a great device for only $34.  Way better than simply fixing a silly limited space issue on the Kindles.

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