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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gadget review: Imation Link Power Drive

It's almost refreshing that in a world where technology - especially consumer devices - are all competing with one another across aesthetics and design that one device would be brave enough to be ugly. That device is the Imation Link Power Drive.

The Power Drive is like a device from the 90's. It's a sinfully ugly box, with a cheap silver finish sitting on top of the kind of white base that you just know is going to yellow quickly. It's got a USB and Lightning port cord that pull out from the side of the box to connect it to other devices, but these cords never tuck back in properly. And finally, when you do connect the box to a device, be that an Apple iPhone or iPad, or a PC, it hangs ackwardly from the side, and dangles in such a fashion that you'll wonder just how long the cords will last.

And that's the only negative thing I have to say about the device because, aesthetics aside, there is no more useful object that you could pick up if you're an iPhone or iPad user, because it fulfils two, equally valuable roles. On the one hand it serves as a battery pack, giving your iDevices a shot of juice while on the road. On the other, it's a small hard drive that you can use to store movies and photos, freeing up space on the iDevice itself for apps or other non-media bits of data. Shoved together in a single, ugly, box, the Power Drive immediately became my iPad's best friend.

To use the hard drive, you'll need to first download a very lightweight and efficient app from the App store. This app is little more than a couple of icons representing folders on the Power Drive, and requires no settings tweaking or proper set up; as long as the Power Drive is connected to the iPad over the Lightning cable, you'll be able to access all the content on it through this app.

The device comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models (I'm testing the 16GB model), and it's easy enough to copy data from the iPhone or iPad to the device. At those sizes you won't be carrying around entire libraries of films or a massive collection of music, but when you're away from a WiFi connection and thus can't access Spotify or Netflix, then sticking your favourite films and music albums on any model will get you through an evening on the rare hotel that doesn't offer a decent WiFi service, or through a long haul plane flight.

The device can also connect to your PC over its USB port, and you can copy movies from your hard drive to it that way, and then watch those movies over the iPad or iPhone in the same way. There's a good range of formats that are supported (most critical .mp4, which is the format I exclusively use), and for people with a large library of films sitting on their laptops, but don't necessarily want to travel with it, this is a useful way to take the favourite films with it. That USB connection also allows you to hook the device up to TVs to watch content that way when you're more stationary.

But of course, the hard drive is only half the story with the Power Drive. It also acts as a battery charger for some back up juice on those long trips. Regardless of the size of the hard drive, you get access to a 3000 mAh battery that can work as a backup. This battery can be charged in a couple of hours over a USB connection, and contains enough juice to roughly double the length of time you can use the device while using it. The hard drive data can still be accessed when the Power Drive's battery is out of power, too, which is handy. It's not an industrial grade power solution, but as an added extra on to the extra storage, it's a heck of a bonus feature.

The only disappointment to the Power Drive is that it becomes very, very hot while it is charging. Uncomfortably hot. Hot enough that if you're holding your device, then you're not going to want to be charging it. I found it was best to let the Power Drive to charge my device when I wasn't using it, and then switch the charge feature off when I wanted to watch a movie off the hard drive.

Aside from the heat and the sheer ugliness of the device, however, the Imation Link Power Drive is a brilliant accessory to throw in the bag if you're the kind of person that carries and iPhone and iPad around with you. The additional battery power will help save you from getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat phone battery, while the hard drive provides a boost to the amount of entertainment you'll be able to access and enjoy on your devices while you're out an about. Apple might not be happy having its beautiful devices sitting next to this ugly duckling, but it's a real swan at heart.

- Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

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Gadget review: Imation Link Power Drive
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