Photofast i-Flashdrive HD for iPhone 4/4S/5 hands-on preview and pictures

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I first came across Photofast more than four years ago when the company unveiled a solid state drive that runs off PCI-e. The G-Monster was back then available in capacities of up to 1TB and was (and still remains) a seriously powerful piece of kit with read/write speeds of up to 1GBps.

This unconventional product placed Photofast in my “cool-and-quirky” company quadrant. Earlier this year, it unveiled a new gadget destined for iPhone and iPad users and one which is billed as the first (and only) two-way storage device that can navigate seamlessly between iOS and a Mac/PC. That said, you still need to install a free i-FlashDrive HD app from iTunes prior to using the device.

The company says that the i-FlashDrive HD sells for between £60 and £210 for a storage capacity ranging from 8GB to 64GB. Expansys sells the 8GB model for £69 and the 32GB one for £150.

The storage device is essentially a USB drive with 30-pin or a (detachable) Lightning connector at one end. It has a shiny white plastic finish à la Apple and easily fits in a shirt pockets. We’re unsure about the build though especially as you need to plug the device at the bottom of your smartphone or tablet where it is the most vulnerable as it can be easily be snapped off, breaking the connector in the process. Ditto when you connect it to your laptop via the USB port.

Bear in mind as well that plugging it in means that you won’t be able to charge your device or connect it to any sort of docking station. The i-Flashdrive, it seems, is best used as a transfer device rather than as a consumption device. And that highlights yet another problem with the i-FlashDrive HD; the fact that it is so sluggish compared to traditional USB 2.0/USB 3.0 devices available on the market.

Writing a 300MB file took us around a minute and reading back from it around 15 seconds which yields rough write/read speeds of 5MBps and 20MBps. So clearly when it comes to the hardware, the i-Flashdrive HD is clearly too expensive for what it offers; a 32GB USB drive for example costs around 14 times less than the equivalent 32GB i-FlashDrive HD.

Where the product shines though is when it comes to the bundled app which includes a document viewer, a file manager, a text editor, a voice recorder, a contact backup and is compatible with Dropbox. Using it is fairly straightforward and intuitive and although it has its quirks, like its inability to play DRM-protected files and its lack of drive-wide encryption, we’ve seen much worse over the years.

Your challenge though will be to evaluate whether £69 is cheap enough for 8GB worth of data for what is essentially a glorified USB drive. The Kingston MobileLite wireless card reader and USB drive or the Maxell AirStash wireless card reader might be better bets but they’ve got their own issues. The £30 RavPower wireless SD card reader – which we will be previewing soon - might also be another interesting option.

What Photofast needs to do is think outside the box, something it is very, very good at. Cue the GM5500X4, a quad-card reader that offered a total capacity of 256GB. All in all, the i-FlashDrive HD is, IMHO, too expensive for what it offers and likely to be damaged by disaster-prone users like myself. Change the form factor, drop the onboard memory/swap it for a card reader, make it cheaper and Photofast may have a winner on its hands.

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