The Apple iPad and Android tablets lack some features that laptops have. IOGear has released the NetShair Link to add some of those back: support for removable drives and Ethernet networking.
The NetShair Link includes an Ethernet port, two full-size USB ports, a single status light, and an on/off switch.
At 3.2 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches without its electrical prongs, it is somewhat bulky, but it does a lot for its bulk. And it can also take the place of the power adapter for your tablet. The prongs can be removed for storage so it's not quite so thick.
If you go to a hotel, office, or relative's house that doesn't have Wi-Fi but does have wired networking, you can plug the NetShair Link in and create your own personal wireless network for a tablet, laptop, portable gaming console, etc.
The range and speed of this Wi-Fi router is quite good -- benchmarking with Ooklao Speedtest found that the NetShair Link offered similar performance to a Cisco wireless router. And up to seven devices can be connected simultaneously.
Network setup is easy, just follow the instructions that come with this gadget.
But the NetShair Link doesn't stop there. Once you have a wireless connection to this accessory, you can access the contents of USB drives that have been plugged into it. You can make use of memory cards too, but only if you have a USB adapter for the card.
IOGear's accessory comes with an app that shows you the contents of your storage device, and you can use it to play videos directly off cards, as well as view many types of files. So if you want to keep yourself (or the kids) occupied during long trips, you can fill up a removable drive with hours of video and not have to strain the capacity of your tablet.
You can use it to save your vacation photos to a USB drive and clear up space on your tablet as well.
Video played off this device starts fairly quickly because it doesn't wait to have the whole file downloaded before beginning. Large, high-megapixel images can take 5-15 seconds to open, though.
The software that comes with the NetShair Link lacks some features, like the ability to move and rename files, or use "Open in...". Fortunately, the device functions as an FTP drive, so you can access the contents with a range of apps as long as you are connected to the accessory's Wi-Fi network. You can even access the contents and settings from a web browser.
If you're in a location that has Wi-Fi but you also want to access the contents of a removable drive, you can do so, as IOGear's gadget is capable of connecting to a Wi-Fi network and passing that connection along to everyone that's connected to the NetShair Link. This results in a very significant network slow-down compared to connecting directly to that Wi-Fi network, however -- a roughly 80% decrease in speed according to Ooklao Speedtest. Still, it's handy to be able to receive emails while watching video or reading a long document.
As a bonus, this accessory has a second USB port that's just for charging.
Tablets make great companions when traveling. But those who are often on the road are well aware that their iPad or Android device lacks some useful features. It's a tradeoff -- smaller and lighter models have to sacrifice some of the bells and whistles for their svelteness.
But those who would like occasional access to the missing features should consider the IOGear NetShair Link (GWRH1), as it can greatly increase the effective storage capacity of a tablet, while also giving users access to Ethernet networks.
It sells for $60 -- a bargain when one considers that with this device one only needs to buy the 16GB version of the iPad, as it removes the need for additional built-in storage capacity.
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