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SD cards are mostly just plastic – put a tiny WiFi chip inside and suddenly they take on a whole new life, allowing for wireless data transfer. But not all WiFi SD cards are made equal. Today, we’re putting three different brands to the test to see which is worth buying. At the end of the review, you’ll get the chance to win the best.
We’ve gathered two popular brands, as well as a generic Chinese import, to see how they compare. Each card is Class 10 SDHC, with 16GB capacity.
Note: Since purchasing these cards for review, the Transcend WiFi SD card product line has mysteriously disappeared, resulting in 404 errors on the Transcend site. There appears to be no way to download updated firmware either. Stay well away from this company – it may be related to violations of the GPL licensing.
The Transcend card includes free SD reader, as apparently some standard readers can have a problem with WiFi cards. The manual recommends you only use the one supplied.
Setting up the card consists of downloading an iOS or Android app, and connecting to the default network broadcast by the card. When you launch the app, you’ll be taken to the initial setup process. In my case, I was told the firmware needs updating, but only given the choice to “Remind later” or “Never remind”. There was no button to actually initiate an upgrade, disappointingly.
On the first screen, I’m invited to change the default WEP-encrypted built-in WiFi settings. On the second, you can add an “Internet hotspot”, which I assume means the card can connect directly to your home internet. It doesn’t however give a choice of existing networks – you need to manually enter in the SSID. Then it informs you a power cycle is required – I turned my camera off and on, then went through the rigmarole of forgetting the existing network so the password can be changed, and reconnecting; closing the app because it was unresponsive, and relaunching while it scans.
Viewing a 4.7MB JPG image took just under 7 seconds; 20MB RAW file could also be viewed directly, and in a fraction of the time – around 3 seconds – presumably because the format includes a thumbnail feature (.CR2 from a Canon 650D).
“Shoot and view mode” which is described in the quick-start manual as
1. Take a photo on your camera
2. Latest photo appears instantly on your device
… is even less responsive. After pressing the shutter, theres a 5 second delay, then a further 7 seconds once it detects there’s a new picture and tries to load the JPG. “Instant” apparently means upwards of 12 seconds. If your camera shoots in even higher resolution, you might as well bring a book to read.
You can also view movies, but there’s an equally long wait time, and even then it’ll only playback 2 frames per second.
Despite entering the SSID hotspot details during setup, it wasn’t automatically set to connect through that, which seems odd as it would certainly be easier than messing around with switching WiFi networks from a phone. You need to enter the card’s default username and password of admin/admin in order to adjust settings.
Once connected in Internet mode, there is in fact, the option to save up to three different networks, allowing you remember multiple locations such as home or office – it will automatically connect to whichever it finds. Unfortunately, I found the network would drop out midway through loading an image – at which point, your only option is to power cycle the camera, rendering the Internet mode essentially useless.
Files aren’t cached locally on your mobile device: if you view a photo, go back, and view it again, you still have the exact same wait time as it loads from the camera again.
You can also connect to your camera via direct share mode, assuming your computer has WiFi connectivity, then you can access the card contents from a Web browser at 192.168.11.254. Downloading directly, I was able to achieve a speed of about 200KB/sec, so around 20 seconds for a full size JPG image. Curiously, Trasncend left the page encoding as Chinese, despite being in English, so I was prompted by Google to “translate” the page.
I found trying to use the Transcend WiFi SD card to increase productivity to be more or less like gouging out my eyes to improve my vision. It’s a pathetic interface coupled with slow hardware, and Transcend should be ashamed of releasing such a bad quality product onto the market. Yes, it “works”, but the effort involved with switching networks and the speed of transfer means taking out your SD card and attaching it to a carrier pigeon to send halfway across the globe would be a more fulfilling experience.
The packaging is considerably bulkier; oddly, because there’s not even a setup guide contained within – just the card, and a USB reader.
The box labels the USB card reader as “for computer setup”. It’s not immediately obvious that the software is included on the SD card itself.
The setup process is quite user-friendly though – but establishing up an online account is required. If you’re the kind of person who resents being forced to set up any kind of user login, you should look elsewhere. Later, you’re given the option to automatically back up your photos to the Eye-Fi cloud – this is enabled by default, but can be easily disabled.
Unlike Transcend, the Eye-Fi did give me the option to upgrade the firmware.
You’ll also need to make an initial choice as to where files should be transferred – to your computer, or mobile device. Eye-Fi is the only WiFi SD card that is capable of automatically transferring to a computer.
Setting up a direct mode WiFi connection on the Eye-Fi is made easier by the use of device profiles, at least on iOS. There are two buttons, the first downloads a WiFi profile to your phone, the second copies the password to access it. Oddly, the network is only broadcast once there are photos to upload, so if you’re having trouble connecting, just take some photos on the camera to initialize things.
Trasnfer times were impressive: about 3 seconds for a full size JPEG, and about 10 seconds for the complete RAW file – though you can disable the automatic transfer of RAW files since there’s not an awful lot to do with them on a mobile device.
Most settings are changed via the desktop app: this is forgivable though, given the sheer amount of options available to you. The first I did was add my home network to the card: unlike the 3 network limit of Transcend (which doesn’t stay connected anyway), the Eye-Fi allows you to add up to 32 private networks.
Also of note is the relayed transfer mode, which means your camera and computer needn’t be on at the same time: I assume this mean it’s transferred to the cloud as an intermediary then synced when your computer turns back on, but there’s no further configuration and it’s separate to the other online services. Endless memory mode means you can just keep on shooting, and once the card is a specified percentage full, it’ll start deleting old items that have already been transferred.
Really, the amount of configuration and options with the Eye-Fi is quite dizzying. Within no time at all, I had a fantastically productive workflow setup: take a picture, and it goes to my computer – and that’s without needing to be mess around with directly connecting over WiFi. Done. Simple. That’s what a WiFi SD card should be capable of doing. You even get a little square notification to show a transfer is going on. It just works.
The packaging is simple, and no SD card reader is included – just a quick start guide and the card itself.
Using the EZ Share is very similar to the Transcend card – you’ll need to open up your phone settings and connect to the obviously named WiFi network first – the default password is 88888888.
Upon launching the EZ Share iOS app for the first time, you’re greeted with a curious mix of tutorial screens and promos. I’m still not sure what the iMagazine thing is supposed to be, but all I see is a series of blog posts in Chinese – none of which can actually be read because when you’re connected to the WiFi of the SD card, your internet will cease to work.
Manual transfer speeds are faster than the Transcend for JPG images, requiring 3-4 seconds; but far slower to view RAW files at around 10 seconds. No thumbnail is provided for RAW images either. After sharing the image to myself, I realised why: the image had been resized to about 1000 pixels, far lower than the native resolution of the camera. There is no option to change this, and video is not supported.
Like the Transcend, there is no way to automatically upload to PC, but you can enable “Autopush” for mobile. If your PC is equipped with WiFi, you can still directly connect to the card via your browser and download images that way. Autopush works reasonably well – the images seemed to transfer pretty fast, and were soon added automatically to the internal album. I should note however that this isn’t the same as your Photos app – if you want them in the systemwide album, a further manual step is required. Oddly, the share dialog shown when viewing an image and after entering edit mode is entirely different: the latter includes options like Facebook and Twitter but not email, while the former includes email and saving to the “Cloud” (not iCloud, I might add, but a selection of other services).
I’ll reiterate at this point: there’s no mobile network connection, so you can’t actually share anything without disconnecting the WiFi to the card and re-connecting to your home WiFi or using your mobile data plan.
EZ Share is the only card on test to include a physical WiFi on/off instead of standard SD card lock button. For the privacy conscious who don’t want to be broadcasting a potentially hackable network in a public area, this could be a boon. Personally, I found the transfer speed acceptable and could vaguely see this being used out in the field, so long as you don’t actually need Internet access simultaneously. For home use though, the EZ Share is no better than Transcend and really offers no benefit over manually transferring images. The limitation of both the EZ Share and Transcend being tied to mobile devices is crippling.
Sometimes, budget devices are just as good as the brand names: this ATCO projector is half the price and just as good as similarly specced brand name HD projectors. In the case of WiFi SD cards, this just doesn’t hold true. The budget brands are just not worth the added inconvenience to save a quick buck.
How do I win the WiFi SD Cards?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
Congratulations, Keith Wolstenholme! You would have received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please respond before August 8 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 11. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.