- Review Date: 3/13/2014
- Bottom line: The LaCie Fuel wireless media drive can supplement your smartphone or tablet storage. It lets you carry most, if not all, of your music, photos, and videos with you and share them with a small group of devices.
- Pros: Large-capacity storage. Wi-Fi. Fun design. Uses Seagate Media Sync on PC/Mac or drag-and-drop. Uses Seagate-Media-branded iOS-, Android-, and Kindle-compatible apps. Caches media lists. Internet pass-through.
- Cons: Only USB 3.0 interface.
The LaCie Fuel ($199.99) is a portable wireless media drive that can significantly increase the media storage of your smartphone. This is a 1TB external hard drive with a built-in Wi-Fi router and media server, allowing you to share videos, photos, music, and other documents simultaneously with up to five users. It's a good companion for family travel, whether by bus, car, train, or plane. The LaCie Fuel is our new Editors' Choice for wireless media drives.
Design and Features
The Fuel differentiates itself from the other wireless media drives competition with its design. Unlike the Seagate Wireless Plus, it looks more like a piece of rugged action gear than an external hard drive. It measures a 4.5 by 4.5 by 0.9 inches (HWD), and the chassis is a darkish gray polycarbonate with a lanyard hole cut into one corner. There are diagonal lines molded into its surface, and the lanyard hole has a bright orange insert.
This 1TB hard drive can hold a few hundred movies or about 100,000 songs or pictures. This will certainly be much more storage than even the highest-capacity tablets, which currently top out at 128GB for the Apple iPad Air. This should allow you to carry your entire media library with you (that is, if you're not an obsessive collector). Even if you keep your files in AAC lossless or 320Kbps MP3 formats, you'll start to get bored before you fill up the Fuel.
The drive can copy files over by drag-and-drop, like most other wireless media drives, such as the Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive (32 GB), G-Technology G-Connect, and Corsair Voyager Air. Seagate now owns LaCie, so the Fuel uses the same apps as the Seagate Wireless Plus. This gives you iOS, Android, and Kindle compatibility for your smartphones or tablets. It also means that the Fuel can use Seagate's Media Sync app to automatically search for and copy over files that your tablet can play. Media Sync can either simply copy over the files it knows an iPad can play, or it can search for all known photo, video, and document files and copy them over, whether your device can play them or not.
There's a built-in USB 3.0 port and a detachable cable, so you can use the Seagate Media Sync app or drag-and-drop to copy files over. Decoding the files happens on your device, so your phone or tablet handles DRM issues like when playing back protected movies and music. Just make sure your phone or tablet is logged into your device's online store (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc.) when you're connected to the hard drive. That way the drive doesn't have to deal with DRM at all, just your devices playing back the media.
The Fuel automatically indexes the files you store on it. So after the initial setup, you should be able to navigate your video, photo, music, and documents files fairly easily on the drive. The Media app has search built in, and you'll see thumbnails of your pictures, album art, and video covers if present. You can use the Seagate Media app on your portable device to copy files from your local storage to the drive. This is key for people with 8GB and 16GB devices, so you can back up and then clear your phone's memory of all those videos you shot on your last night out. With 1TB of data, there's plenty of space to store your phone files, as opposed to the smaller capacity of flash-based media drives like the SanDisk Connect, HP Pocket Playlist, or Kingston Wi-Drive.
On the Road
While using the drive in a car on a road trip, I was able to connect the Fuel to a Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MHS291L and pass the Internet connectivity through to devices hooked up to the Fuel. Essentially, the Fuel acts as a Wi-Fi router.
The Fuel automatically shows up as a shared drive to systems on your local network if you connect it to your home Wi-Fi or any public hotspot. The Seagate app has settings to lock down the Fuel and make it password-protected, and we'd recommend doing that if you connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. The Wi-Fi network that the Fuel creates can also be password-protected to keep prying eyes away from your media files. Note that the Fuel comes with the security turned off, for ease of use.
The device claims a battery life of 10 hours, once the initial indexing of the drive completes. The Fuel comes with a USB power adapter, which you can use to charge the drive, and a two-year warranty.
The LaCie Fuel is a very good alternative to the Seagate Wireless Plus, and we highly recommend it as a wireless media drive. It is certainly a better choice than the G-technology G-Connect or Corsair's Voyager Air, because the Fuel's interface, networking, and management are so much more refined than either of those devices. The former Editors' Choice Seagate Wireless Plus has some adapter flexibility with USM modules for Thunderbolt, FireWire, and eSATA in addition to USB 3.0. However, USM is gradually being phased out, and general consumers hardly use connectors like eSATA and Thunderbolt. The LaCie Fuel has more physical protection from bumps in your travel bag and a handy way to clip a carabiner clip to its shell. Thanks to a high 1TB capacity, mature software support, and easily configured Wi-Fi router, the LaCie Fuel is our new Editors' Choice for wireless media drives.