Over the past few days, I've been able try out Escort's new MediaFlair, a production model that was sent to me last week, ahead of its announcement. After a few days of hands-on experience, I'm impressed! It works very well.
The best way to describe MediaFlair is that it's a solid-state streaming file server that uses SD media with WiFi. I've been testing it with all sorts of digital media using my Windows 7 laptop, my Mac laptop, my iPhone 5 and my iPad Retina. And what's more, I did so using all four simultaneously! It's a versatile device, and its WiFi range and speed are pretty surprising. I tested it out to 30 feet!
Escort is positioning the MediaFlair as an in-car media-streaming & sharing device, but I can also see this being used at family gatherings, in small workgroups, and any other time that limited file-sharing/streaming might be handy. I could imagine, for example, how a photographer who has just finished photographing a wedding might use this device to share the photos with the bride & groom's family at the wedding reception, perhaps even throwing the images up on an available big screen (using an HDMI cable and a supported smart device). It's definitely do-able, because I was able to mirror my iPad to my TV.
I don't have any Android devices, so I'm afraid that I can't offer any experiences using the Android platform. But I have every reason to expect a similar experience.
All said, this is a pretty nicely-conceived product. The device itself, its execution and the apps work well. But like any new product, there are a few nits and picks.
Picks (the good stuff):
- Small, lightweight and affordably-priced.
- Easy setup and implmentation
- Password-protectable access (if enabled)
- Connected users can upload/download files from the device using the WiFi connection
- Good WiFi range (I tested 30 feet) running HD movies and Audio, using up to four devices, simultaneously
- Fast WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
- Supports up to five devices simultaneously
- Decent battery life. I used the device continuously for almost six hours running on its battery
- Accessories include the USB to Micro USB cable, a cigarette lighter-to-USB car adapter, and an 8GB Class-10 SD card
- The MediaFlair can be charged using the USB port of your computer, or using a third-party AC-to-USB adapter power adapter
- Works with Android, iOS, Windows, and Max OS X devices. I've heard that it also supports Kindle devices, but I haven't been able to confirm that
- Free, downloadable app for both Android and iOS devices
- MediaFlair can bridge into Hotspots and other WiFi devices to give the end users Internet access if their WiFi SSIDs are discoverable (caveat applies below in the Nits section).
Nits (areas for improvement):
- The MediaFlair browser works in landscape & portrait on iPhone, but only in landscape mode on an iPad
- If there are multiple audio files on the device, the iPhone app's browser plays thru them, and then repeats the list. There is no option to override this behavior.
- AVI files in iPhone MediaFlair browser play only the audio portion. To view the video content, the AVI files must be saved locally as a Temp files, and then they can be played on the smart device using an app that supports the AVI format.
- XLS, PPT, DOC and TXT files all work natively in the app. XLSX, PPTX, DOCX files must be downloaded locally as Temp files, and then opened by a supporting app on the smart device (e.g., Smart Office 2, Numbers, Keynote or Pages, etc.)
- Temp files are often created on iPhone/iPad in the "Local" directory (as viewed in the MediaFlair app), but they aren't deleted automatically. The user must delete them manually to avoid storage bloat.
- After opening any of the TEMP files using an external app on your smart device, you'll find that the MediaFlair browser in iOS will be stalled when you return to it. Exiting and restarting it resumes normal use.
- Non-replacable internal battery.
- The charging indicator LED doesn't change color or turn off to show when the internal battery is fully charged.
- Although the MediaFlair can bridge into Hotspots and other WiFi devices to give the end users Internet access, (which is a PICK above), it can only bridge into those WiFi devices that broadcast their SSID names. There is no option to enter the name of a hidden SSID. For me, I can't bridge into my own home network because I suppress my SSID for security reasons. There should be an option to enter the SSID name so bridging could be completed.
- No PC or Mac Tools for managing the device directly, for owners who don't use smart devices.
All of the "Nits", none of which are "deal-breakers", can be remedied via software or firmware updates in the device.
In conclusion, I like the MediaFlair, and I think that it has great potential. For the value and for what it delivers, it's a great addition to Escort's line-up.
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