Model: Media Streamer
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touches running iOS 5 or later
Dane-Elec Media Streamer
It’s tough to examine Dane-Elec's Media Streamer ($40) without comparing it to MobileLite Wireless from Kingstson, which earned our strong general recommendation earlier this year. Take a look at the feature sets of both, and they’re close to identical. Both devices are wireless media streamers, allowing you to connect a USB flash drive or SD card and broadcast music, video, or other content to iPads, iPhones, and iPods over Wi-Fi. While Dane-Elec’s box isn’t nearly as handsome as Kingston’s, it’s physically much smaller, and less expensive, too. It ships with a micro-USB cable, and is supposed to be able to beam to up to six devices at once.
Clad all in white plastic — a step down from the gunmetal and black plastic MobileLite Wireless — Media Streamer measures only 3” by 2.25” by 0.6”. That’s much shorter than an iPhone, just as wide, and about twice as thick. On top, there’s a square on/off button, surrounded by an LED, and five more lights to the right. A horizontal line of three LEDs shows the remaining battery life of the 2500mAh cell, while one above them indicates that the Internet Bridge is on — more on that in a bit — and the last lets you know if a SD card is plugged in and being read. Labels describing all three, plus a micro-USB port for charging, can be found on the perpendicular edge. Opposite that, there’s a data card slot and a USB port, in addition to a reset button. Finally, on the bottom surface, you’ll find a white sticker with operating information, including factory default passwords, and regulatory specifications.
You can plug either a SD card or flash drive into Media Streamer, but it doesn’t support external hard drives, even if they’re receiving external power. Otherwise, though, we had no issue getting the system to recognize the storage devices we plugged in. SD cards notably don’t stick out, but rather sit flush with Media Streamer’s edge; pushing down triggers a spring to pop the card out. Since SD storage is so inexpensive, users can easily and cheaply add additional space to their devices without having to spring for pricier options.
Communication with your device is handled through a free app. It instructs you to turn Media Streamer on, and then toggle your Wi-Fi connection over to the one Dane-Elec’s accessory puts out. There’s notably no way to get Media Streamer on your network, but there is an Internet Bridge feature that allows your iPad, iPhone, or iPod to continue using the Internet even when it’s connected to the accessory. We had some trouble establishing an initial connection, but once it was up, everything worked properly.
The app itself isn’t terribly well designed — on the iPad version, for example, there’s overlapping text — but it’s workable. You’re presented with five categories: Media Streamer, Photo Upload, Upload, Downloads, and Setting, each of which does pretty much what it says. The first allows you to access whatever media is on your card or drive, the next two allow uploading of content from your device, while the fourth shows what’s been copied over. We found file reading and audio and video playback to work just fine with one device connected, but as more were added, there were hiccups in the connection. At best, we were able to get three separate devices streaming three separate videos without issue, rather than the advertised six.
Media Streamer may have some issues, but for $40, it’s hard to write it off. Neither the hardware nor software are terribly attractive, and we did experience some connection issues, including an inability to bring on as many devices as advertised. But ultimately, three devices is still pretty good, and the rest of the functionality is there, earning Dane-Elec’s streamer our flat B rating and general recommendation. We’d pick Kingston on looks and feel, but this one if you’re really budget-conscious and need something that’s just good enough to handle the basics.