It's no secret that the market has gone mobile, with tablets such as the Nexus from Google or iPad from Apple, we are seeing more and more people shutdown their PCs and pick up a tablet. Often times, and the same is true with me, consumers will pick up the cheapest option possible when choosing a mobile device, because really who wants to spend their entire months' pay on a single device? With this choice does come a few consequences, most notably the paltry amount of storage, usually ranging from 8GB to 16GB.
With the market going mobile a lot of manufacturers have jumped on board creating Wi-Fi storage devices, most using the same basic design. PQI is part of this movement to mobile storage, in which they have created an entire line-up of "Air" products.
The PQI Air Bank that we will be looking over today combines a 500GB hard drive, USB 3.0, 10/100 LAN and even 802.11n into one storage device. PQI also claims that this portable storage option contains up to eight hours of battery life and maintains compatibility with Android 2.1+ and iOS 4+. The Air Bank is warrantied for a period of one year.
It is quite apparent looking at the packaging that PQI is marketing the Air Bank straight at smartphones and tablets, with each pictured on the front of the box. PQI has also proudly emphasized that capacity of the drive to the right.
Upon opening the box we found the Air Bank secured in a really nice vinyl case. The Air Bank does come with a guide to get you started with setup.
Pulling the drive out of the case we see that PQI has designed the Air Bank in a rather elegant fashion. The front of the drive, as well as the back, are both a glossy black with a slice of aluminium in between. At the top right you see PQI has included several indicators for Wi-Fi, battery life and power.
As I stated in the previous scribble, the back of the PQI Air Bank is a glossy black plastic. Included back here is the reset button along with identifying markings.
The top of the Air Bank houses the USB 3.0 port, Sync button and 10/100 LAN connection.
You will find the power button located on the left side of the Air Bank.
Turning on the Air Bank the green LED illuminates, while the blue Wi-Fi LED flashes.
Pulling apart the PQI, we find they have chosen the PSE 3000mAh Li-Po battery to power the enclosure.
The IC controlling the networking functions of the Air Bank is the Atheros AR9331.This functions a single port switch and access point.
When dealing with USB 3.0 storage solutions I'm always happy to see manufacturers use proper controllers. Here we see PQI has made the wise decision of using the ASMedia 1053, a UASP capable controller.
The disk PQI has chosen for the Air Bank is the Toshiba MQ01ABD050, a 500GB drive utilizing the new Advanced Format scheme.
Installing the app from the Android market was rather simple and took only seconds on my HP Touchpad. From here launching the app shows us the preloaded media PQI has put on the drive.
Running through the included wallpapers we can see PQI was a bit creative.
You will also find a number of videos on the Air Bank, all of which were taken using PQI's own Air Cam. Of course the one that caught my attention was track day.
Before testing the drive I stopped to show the total storage capacity of the drive. Here, as you can see, we get 465GB of usable space.
I was rather impressed by the speed of the Air Bank when connected via USB 3.0. We were able to hit 117MB/s read and 113MB/s write on the internal Toshiba drive. PQI does recommend you transfer all of your media to the drive using the USB 3.0 connection, just to speed things up a bit.
Looking over the aesthetics of the Air Bank, I am quite pleased with the work PQI has put into it. The drive in no way feels cheap and actually carries a bit of weight, thanks to the slice of aluminium along the sides and internal platter drive. The plastics, while being gloss black, aren't so shiny as to gather scratches and finger prints.
Performance of the drive was rather impressive. While I only used the Android app myself, I didn't notice any skips or stutters when streaming video or listening to music. While on USB 3.0 the drive is even more impressive reaching speeds upwards of 120MB/s.
Where PQI does get you is in pricing. I was able to find several eBay auctions listing the 1TB model at $229.99 and our 500GB model at $199.99, but nothing in the retail market at the moment.