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External hard drive for your car a great idea, but buggy Add to ...

Despite the ubiquity of digital content in the car these days, it’s not always easy to take a lot of it with you. Having a large, portable hard drive that can stream to multiple passengers in the car is one way to get around that hurdle and keep passengers of all ages entertained.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite

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Available at: Best Buy, Future Shop, The Source, Amazon.ca, Newegg.ca, Canada Computers

Seagate’s GoFlex Satellite is an external hard drive with built-in Wi-Fi that allows tablets, smartphones and laptops to connect directly to it and stream whatever media is stored on it. In other words, you can fill this 500GB drive with a ton of movies and shows, and be able to watch it at your convenience. Up to three devices can access the drive at one time.

The car connection here is obvious. With a 12V charger and a battery inside, the GoFlex Satellite can stay plugged in when necessary, or work on battery power (up to five hours) when the 12V socket is needed for something else.

To get this to work, you would need to first load it up with the content you want from a PC or Mac. Because it’s an NTFS drive, you won’t be able to copy anything over from a Mac, though Seagate includes a Mac app that gets around that. You can also use third-party programs like Tuxera or Paragon to ensure your Mac never has that problem again.

There is a dedicated GoFlex Satellite app that works on iOS (there are different versions for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad) and Android, but not Windows Phone or BlackBerry. Mac and PC laptops can easily access the drive either via USB or over Wi-Fi. The app is the main point of entry in getting to the content, which is separated by existing folders. You can create your own to separate yours or your kids’ favourites, if that makes things easier.

By default, the drive supports a wide range of file formats, but playback also depends on having an app on the tablet or smartphone that can handle them. For example, playing certain video file formats (MKV, AVI, WMV) won’t work natively on an iOS device, so you’ll have to convert them to M4V or MP4 first to ensure there’s no problem (Android plays those formats, too). Android isn’t limited that way because it will default to the third-party playback app of your choice after you’ve downloaded it.

All of this is great in theory, except for those times when the GoFlex Satellite doesn’t execute. Though it didn’t happen often, it was still annoying to see a video suddenly stop because of a lost connection (this happens far less with photos, music and documents). Then there are oddities like a video with no sound, or audio with no video. You do have the option to download a file directly to your tablet or smartphone, but it stays stuck to the GoFlex app, which can be frustrating. You also can’t play music in the background while doing something else on your phone or tablet, like playing a game, for instance.

Because of all that, the GoFlex Satellite is a bit of a mixed bag. When it works, it’s great, but when it can’t do something, or doesn’t work at all, it can be a frustrating gadget to have.

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