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Imagine you’ve just snapped a thousand photos on your digital camera — it isn’t one of those “smart” models with Wi-Fi like the Samsung Galaxy Camera — and now, back in your hotel room and equipped with free wired Internet, you’d like to share them with your friends and family right away, but you don’t have a computer, or an SD card reader. I’d be willing to bet good money that this has happened to some of you. If so, the devices I’m reviewing today would be right your alley.
Today, in a double review, I’ll be taking a look at the Apotop Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro — two portable, wireless SD card and USB drive readers and routers. They’ll also be given away, so be sure to read through the entire review and join the competition.
Introducing the Apotop Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro
Apotop’s Wi-Reader (DW09) and Wi-Reader Pro (DW17) are marketed to operate as wireless SD card readers and USB hubs. Basically, they help to connect external media with iOS and Android smartphones, tablets and computers by bridging the physical media gap. In addition to that, both devices can also be used as portable routers by acting as gateways or repeaters. As a plus, the Pro model can also be used to charge external devices through a 1A USB port. Both devices utilise internal, non-removable batteries to operate — the Pro’s more capacious 2,600 mAh battery allows it to operate for 7 continuous hours while the Wi-Reader only has 1,100 mAh to work with, which lasts around 3 hours.
For the same amount of money as the Wi-Reader, a similar device by EasyAcc is a good alternative — it also functions as a portable WiFi router/repeater, wireless SD card and USB drive reader, and it even has a 8,800 mAh built-in battery which can be used to charge external devices.
The $45 RAVPower RP-WD01 is a device (which we’ve reviewed) with a similar range of features — it acts as an external battery pack and wireless file hub. However, it doesn’t include any routing capabilities.
If you’re looking to spend a bit more money, you could pick up a $150 Corsair Voyager Air 2 (read our review of the Voyager Air) which includes 1 terabyte of storage without any SD card reader functions. The Voyager Air 2 can act as a portable hotspot by passing through a wired connection, but doesn’t support PPPoE.
Finally, the cheap option. For $18, there’s the HooToo TripMate. Personally, I have zero experience with this particular device, but it did receive 87 reviews and currently holds a 4.5-star rating on Amazon. It seems to perform almost exactly like the Wi-Reader, minus the SD card reader.
Unboxing the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro wasn’t very exciting. Both products were packaged in white cardboard boxes, with their slew of features labelled on the front. Ironically, the Wi-Reader Pro came in a smaller box despite being a larger device; the Wi-Reader, which is almost half the size of the Pro, had almost twice the amount of packaging. I can’t even begin to fathom what drove Apotop to make that decision.
Both devices also had accompanying quick start guides as well as mini-USB (Wi-Reader) and micro-USB (Wi-Reader Pro) cables for charging.
Aside from the incomprehensible size of the box that the Wi-Reader came in, there wasn’t an excessive amount of packaging material — both devices were wrapped in minimal plastic, and the rest of the packaging are recyclable.
Even though just three letters separate the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro, they couldn’t be more different, design-wise. The Wi-Reader (DW09) is a small and cutesy device encased in white, glossy plastic. At 2.4 x 2 x 1 inches, it’s about the size of a thick matchbox. Its 1.98 ounce or 56 gram construction weighs next to nothing and is extremely portable. The Wi-Reader is small enough to be chucked into a purse or even your front pocket without too much of a bother.
The Wi-Reader has quite a lot going on in terms of ports and LED indicators, and that’s completely understandable since it has to fulfill several functions. Four LED lights occupy its top surface — from left to right, these lights indicate charging activity, SD card or USB activity, WiFi connectivity, and power state (green when operating normally, amber when internal battery is low). On the front surface, you’ll find the SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, and the power toggle. A micro-USB port for charging as well as an 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port reside on the right side of the device. The DW09 also features a screwless design, and with its rounded corners, it’s very comfortable to hold.
On the other hand, the Wi-Reader Pro (DW17) is a completely different-looking beast. Its enclosure is made of plastic, but sports a silver, “anodised-aluminium” look. At 3.3 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches, it’s flatter, longer and wider than its non-Pro brethren. Weighing 3.56 ounces or 100 grams, the DW17 is almost twice as heavy as the Wi-Reader, but still portable. Holding the Wi-Reader Pro in my hand, it feels like a small deck of cards.
Not much else distinguishes the Wi-Reader from the Pro. They both share the same array of LED indicators and ports. Aside from the power toggle, which is found on the Pro’s right surface, both devices are pretty much similar.
The Pro version does offer an additional feature — its larger 2,600 mAh Lithium Polymer internal battery (compared to the non-Pro’s 1,100 mAh) can also be used to charge external devices at an output current of 1A. That pretty much covers all smartphones; the Wi-Reader Pro cannot be used to charge iPads and other tablets. Admittedly 2,600 mAh isn’t a lot of juice. Taking into account that the Wi-Reader Pro also consumes power from its internal battery to operate, I’d recommend only using it to charge other devices when absolutely necessary. We’ve covered other power banks like the elegant 8,000 mAh Kinkoo Infinite One, the 15,600 mAh Hyperjuice Plug and Poweradd Apollo Pro 23,000 mAh Solar Battery and Charger which would be better suited for charging devices on the go.
Wireless SD Card and USB drive reader
Using either the Wi-Reader or Wi-Reader Pro as wireless SD card readers or to read data from a USB drive is pretty painless. Slot the SD card into the reader or plug in a USB device (formatted FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS), and switch on the device. While the Wi-Reader Pro has three toggle positions (charge, off and “wireless”), the Wi-Reader can only be toggled on or off — once it’s enabled, it’ll automatically read the contents of the SD card or USB drive, and broadcast its own wireless network.
In order to browse through the content, the Wi-Reader iOS or Android application are required. Once the appropriate application is installed, connect to the device’s wireless network, denoted by “Wi-Reader_xxxxxx” where xxxxxx are six random letters/digits. After successfully connecting, launch the Wi-Reader application to navigate through the SD card or USB drive.
The Wi-Reader mobile application is rather responsive. In the main tab, I could browse through the media by type (videos, photos, music, and documents) or through the normal folder view, which I actually prefer. Browsing through a folder full of photos, I was pretty impressed by the speed at which thumbnails were generated — it was almost instant. This allowed me to quickly scroll through the entire folder and select the photos I wanted to copy.
Some media, such as videos, can be streamed through the Wi-Reader application without very many hiccups. For photos, they can either be viewed live, copied to the in-app Collections folder, or imported directly to the phone’s Camera Roll.
By default, both the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro broadcast unsecured networks. Fortunately, the wireless network settings can be easily configured by logging in to the management page through a browser. From there, the devices can be set to function either as a gateway or wireless repeater. Both the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro support 802.11 b/g/n standards, with speeds up to 150Mbps. Like I mentioned earlier, they are almost identical.
In terms of signal transmission strength, don’t expect this tiny portable router to generate a wireless network capable of penetrating concrete walls. It’s designed to work with devices in the same room, and has a short range of 15 feet. With the Wi-Reader’s 1,100 mAh battery, the estimated operation time is roughly 3 hours — more than enough to check your email on your iPad, transfer files to your Android phone, maybe watch a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead. The Pro’s 2,600 mAh battery approximately doubles its operating time.
Regular or Pro?
In terms of choosing which device to purchase, it really boils down two things: the price, and charging external devices. The latter is what really distinguishes the regular Wi-Reader from the Wi-Reader Pro, on top of the $17 price difference. If you don’t really need to charge your smartphone, I’d recommend going for Wi-Reader. The Pro’s 2,600 mAh battery may not be able to fully-charge a modern smartphone anyway. Using a dedicated high-capacity battery pack like the Kinkoo Infinite One would be a better idea.
Living with the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro
Personally, I really enjoy the Wi-Reader’s small form factor — it’s small enough to convince me to rekindle my love for digital cameras; that’s a really good thing, I shall explain: I’ve practically stopped using my digital camera in favour of the iPhone 5s. Why bring along another device when the camera in the iPhone 5s works so well? Plus, I get the ability to instantly share taken on my iPhone through iCloud. With a digital camera, any sharing or even viewing would have to wait until I arrived home, and by that time, I’d probably be too tired.
The Wi-Reader bridges the gap between physical storage and connectivity. By allowing me to transfer photos from my camera’s SD card to my iPhone on the same day really helps to keep the excitement going.
Should you buy them?
The Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro are extremely utilitarian devices. For me, they sort of invoked the aha! moment — how could I have possibly lived my life without them? I wished I had them when I was touring Europe and Japan. I wished I had them when I was searching for a wireless network, and all I could find was an ethernet port.
If you’re in need of a wireless SD card reader, USB file hub, and portable router, the Wi-Reader and Wi-Reader Pro are excellent devices. At $43 for the Wi-Reader and $60 for the Wi-Reader Pro though, they’re not cheap. Between the two, I’d recommend the less expensive Wi-Reader, foregoing the charging feature.
MakeUseOf recommends: Buy the Wi-Reader if you’re looking for a wireless SD card reader, USB file hub, and portable router. Choose the Pro version if you’d like more than 3 hours of battery life, and the ability to charge other devices.
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