Apple, Google, and Amazon won’t put microSD card slots in their tablets, but other companies have come up with clever ways to get around this limitation. Take the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick, which can add up to 128GB of additional storage to an iPad, Nexus, Fire, or other device.
That extra space can be used to store files of all kinds: video, music, and thousands of pictures, freeing up valuable space in the tablet’s internal storage.
The Connect Wireless Stick can also do double duty as a standard USB flash drive. It comes in capacities from 16GB to 128GB, with prices that range from $29.99 to $99.99.
Build and Design
This accessory looks quite a bit like any other flash drive: it’s a black rectangle 3.0 x .75 x 0.4 inches (11 x 19 x 11 mm) with a full-size USB Type A jack on one end. It’s all plastic, but nevertheless feels solid and sturdy.
SanDisk always goes the extra mile with items like this, designing them so they are not just functional but also attractive. The front of the Connect Wireless Stick is decorated with a slightly raised pattern of hexagons. It looks both stylish and professional.
On the right side is a power button that sits almost flush with the casing so it won’t be accidentally pushed. On the front is a status LED to indicate whether the Connect Wireless Stick is on, if the battery is low, if it is charging, if data is being transferred, or if it is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
The USB jack is protected by a removable cover. There’s the potential to lose this, but it fits tightly — and losing it wouldn’t affect the functionality of this device.
Before anything can be done with the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick, some content needs to be loaded onto it. The most obvious way is to plug it into a USB port on a PC or Mac, where it will function like any other flash drive, appearing as removable drive.
It only supports USB 2.0, not the faster USB 3.0, giving it a maximum data transfer speed of 60 megabytes per second (MBps). The exact speed will depend a bit on the computer doing the transferring, but in our tests with a Surface Pro 2 the transfer rate was under 20 MBps, so that this isn’t a very quick drive — it will take 3-4 minutes to transfer a 4GB file.
Of course, USB isn’t the only way to put items onto this drive; they can also be transferred from a tablet or phone over a Wi-Fi connection. More about that later.
Unlike the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive, the Connect Wireless Stick can’t be connected to an iPad via its Lightning port, and it also doesn’t have the micro-USB jack required to connect it to a Nexus 9 or other Android tablet. Instead, the connection to these devices is over Wi-Fi.
All that’s necessary is to turn this accessory on, wait a few seconds, then use the tablet’s Settings app to connect, just as if this was a regular Wi-Fi hotspot.
Three different devices can be connected at once, with each of these users able to access whichever they wish. In our tests, we were able play three different movies, play the same movie on three different devices, and play a movie on one, music on another, and access files on the third, all without interfering with each other… there was no stuttering in playing any of the multimedia files.
Whether the tablet is Android or iOS, getting access to the files stored on the Connect Wireless Stick requires installing a special app called Connect Drive. This acts as a file manager for the accessory.
The iPad version of this software has an intuitive design, with a column on the left side of the screen displaying files and folders. A larger area to the right is where the contents of files are displayed, and a wide variety of multimedia and business formats can be viewed. In addition, the app supports the iOS “Open in…” function, so files can be transferred to other applications to be edited.
The Android version is even easier to use because it can open files up directly into other applications, without the Connect Drive app having to include the viewers the iOS one does. On the other hand, it supports only portrait mode, not landscape, a slightly irritating but not fatal flaw.
There’s a version in the Amazon app store for this company’s tablets like the Fire HDX 8.9, but this is exactly identical to the Android one.
Both iOS and Android versions have a music player that plays files right off the external drive, with a choice to play song in order or shuffled. There are no playlists, though.
Both versions both allow files to be moved, renamed, and deleted.
Wirelessly Adding Files
On an iPad, transferring photos from the Camera Roll can be done one by one, or they can all be transferred at once, with the option of deleting them after they had been moved. It’s more complicated with other types of files because iOS doesn’t have a central file system accessible to users. Still, other applications that support “Open In…” can send their files to the Connect Drive app, where they are moved to the Wireless Stick.
The Android version makes this much simpler. SanDisk’s app can access the tablet’s central file manager, where any files can be selected and moved to the flash drive. This software also includes the ability to back up the entire image gallery with the push of a button.
If the tablet is communicating with the Connect Wireless Stick over Wi-Fi, it can’t also be connected to a hotspot, which means the tablet has no Internet access. Fortunately, SanDisk thought of this and built this accessory so that there can be both an Internet connection and file access.
The setup is potentially slightly confusing, but only has to be done once: connect the tablet to SanDisk’s accessory, then go to settings in the Connect Drive app and choose which available Wi-Fi hotspot to use for Internet access. Next, connect to tablet to that same Wi-Fi network. Even though the tablet is no longer directly connected to the Wireless Stick, its contents can still be accessed through SanDisk’s app.
SanDisk says the Connect Wireless Stick can run for 4.5 hours of streaming video on a single charge, but warns that connecting multiple tablets or phones to it will lower this figure.
The status LED on the front blinks red to warn when the charge is below 10%, and a more exact battery level is displayed by the Connect Drive app.
That’s probably enough time to watch a movie or perhaps even two, but more is needed for a long car trip. One option is to copy long videos from the drive to a tablet, then shut the drive down. This isn’t much help for those who want to listen to music all day, however. Fortunately, the accessory can be used while it’s plugged in, so all that’s necessary is to keep it in a USB charger and it will run for an unlimited time.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is well built, both the hardware and the software. It’s relatively easy to use — not as easy as the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive, but it’s more powerful.
The benefits of this accessory are obvious: it can greatly expand the storage capacity of up to three mobile devices simultaneously, whether they be iOS or Android, tablets or phones.
It can enable someone to buy a 16GB iPad and/or 16GB iPhone, rather than higher capacity ones, saving at least $100 on each, but still have plenty of room for additional files. Or this accessory is a good option for anyone who bought a iPad Air 2 16GB and later regrets not getting the 64GB or larger version
The extra space can be used to store several movies or a large music collection. Business users could easily carry around thousands of reference documents and access them easily.
The 16GB version of this accessory is $29.99, the 32GB one is $39.99, the 64GB model is $59.99, while the 128GB version is $99.99.
For comparison, the 128GB version of the iXpand Flash Drive, which connects to an iPad through the Lightning port, is a startling $299.99, and even the 16GB version is $59.99. Compared to these prices, the Connect Wireless Stick is a bargain.
While standard USB drives are much cheaper, these can’t be used with an Apple, Google, or Amazon tablet, so a comparison wouldn’t be fair.