Japanese company Maxell is better known for its batteries (Maxell is the contraction of Maximum Capacity Dry Cell). It has since diversify to include television speakers, tablet devices, LED lightning, flash media, optical media, MP3 players and even wireless Qi chargers.
We managed to get our hands on the Maxell AirStash wireless card reader, a product that has been launched a while back and which even appeared in our tech deals pro section back in the days. And this little nifty device actually solves one big problem, it can be used as a micro-NAS to share files wirelessly amongst a number of devices (Windows/Mac/Linux via browser, iOS and Android).
Our model, version A02, came with a 16GB Maxell-labelled SDHC card but you can get one with an 8GB model from Expansys for just under £80. Arguably, you can fit much bigger cards in there like this 128GB model from Komputerbay (£60 on Amazon) or a 64GB model (same manufacturer, same Amazon for £28). In comparison, Seagate sells its Wireless Plus portable hard drive (with a 1TB capacity) for £170. Tthis is a much bulkier peripheral that relies on a traditional hard disk drive.
The Airstash comes without any charger or cables, only a pamphlet that succinctly describes how to use it. The device itself looks like one of the many HDMI dongles we’ve encountered. Size-wise, it measures 93 x 32 x 13mm and weighs a mere 41g; in other words, almost nothing.
Its USB connector is covered with a translucent cap and at the bottom is the SD card reader. We would have preferred a microSD one to reduce the size further but this device is also aimed at photographers, whose cameras are likely to use full size SD cards.
There’s also a switch button on top plus an embedded Wi-Fi transceiver (b/g/n) and a rechargeable lithium battery which can power the device for up to seven hours (continuous usage). You can only charge it via the USB 2.0 connector and you can simultaneously use it as a wireless storage device and charge it at the same time, something we couldn’t get working.
By default, you should be able to access the device via your browser by going to www.airstash.net. The dongle is initially unprotected but you can always change the security (WEP 128 bit, WPA2). We initially had some issues connecting to the device from a laptop but these seem to be random and disappeared when we updated the device with the latest available firmware (v2.01).
We managed to stream a video within line of sight (and a door in between) over a 30m range on an iPhone with the Airstash app. You should be able to do up to 50m according to Maxell. Note that in theory, you can only connect to one Wi-Fi network at a time, which means that you won’t be able to connect to a hotspot while accessing content from Airstash.
Maxell tries to solve this using a proprietary technology called Sidelink which circumvents this issue although you will need to make sure that AirStash connects to the same Wi-Fi network (which means that you will have to configure AirStash over a computer beforehand, a hassle if you’re roaming around).
All in all, the Airstash is a convincing solution, one that performs as expected. Until we play around with the likes of the Transcend Storejet Cloud, the Hama Wi-Fi SD card reader, the PQI Air Drive, or the Kingston Wi-Drive, Maxell's solution remains our top choice.
Check out the hands-on pictures of the Maxell Airstash below.