Kingston MobileLite wireless card reader and USB drive: Photos and hands-on

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I am lucky to have three storage devices sitting on my desk that give a glimpse at the future of consumer storage; nimble, affordable, mobile and universal.

All of them cater for fairly different audiences and share common features; they can wirelessly transfer data and essentially act like mini NAS boxes that you can actually shove in your jeans’ pocket.

Today, I’m playing with the last of the three, the Wireless MobileLite from Kingston which the storage specialist is presenting as a reader and (wireless) media streamer for SD Card and USB devices. The two others are the Maxell AirStash and the Startech S2510U2WUKEU.

At under £50 (on Amazon and Ebuyer), it competes in an increasingly busy category but still manages to flash some unique selling points. The unit that was sent to us comprised of the device, a microSD to SD card adaptor and a USB cable.

Connecting it to your computer charges it and you can even connect another USB device to it; it acts as a pass-through which means that you don’t lose any USB ports.

You will be able to use the device concurrently with a wireless internet connection on the go. Up to three devices can connect to the MobileLite and the built in battery can power the unit for up to five hours. You can also use it to power another device simply by connecting it to the USB port. This can be anything from a smartphone, a tablet and even (we’ve tried it) a 2.5in external hard disk drive.

Physically, it weighs less than 100g and measures 12.5 x 6 x 1.67 cm and integrates a wireless hotspot, a 1,800mAh battery and a SD card reader. There’s a sticker at the bottom of the unit that shows its MAC address plus a power button on the side as well as a trio of lights that indicate the status of the battery, Wi-Fi and Internet. The SD card reader and a microUSB and a USB ports are located at either side of the device.

Connecting to it is a doodle. Doing it via Windows for example only require you to connect to the device’s SSID (MobileLiteWireless) while accessing files through Android and iOS-based devices means that you will need to download the free accompanying app first for the respective platforms.

The device really comes to life when you use both the USB plug and a SD card slot. This means that you can get a portable 2TB hard disk drive (like the Toshiba Stor.E Basics which costs only £89 from Currys) and grab a 12,000mAh battery (like this one from Amazon for £22.56) and you end up with a solution that costs less than the Corsair 1TB Voyager 1TB but has more than twice the battery capacity and twice the storage capacity.

The MobileLite Wireless is a definite step up from the Maxell Airstash. It is more versatile and cheaper than the latter although Maxell’s unit is way more compact and doesn’t require any cables (although for many, both would be moot points).

There are two ways Kingston could now take this. Come up with a battery-less version that would not only cost less but also take user-replaceable, rechargeable AA batteries like these 2,900mAh models which could provide up to 61 per cent more battery life. A £30 model would probably sell like hotcakes.

The second alternative could be to release a beefed up version of the MobileLite Wireless with a bigger battery capacity, more expansion capabilities and, may we dare to mention, even more features. As for the Startech S2510U2WUKEU, we wouldn’t mind seeing an Ethernet port, an extra USB port, a web-based interface and even a built-in computer (like those nifty little HDMI computers) in that beefier, more expensive version.