HSTI Wireless Media Stick Review – Model WMS186U02

We are living in a time when everything is connected and the content needs to be shared across devices. However, many of our gadgets are still not network enabled, or do not have a WiFi adapter included. I am talking about the last generations TV units, photo frames, receivers, DVD players, boom boxes, stereos, etc. Most of our readers have at least a computer that can share media, some even a dedicated server or  NAS (network attached storage) units. How do we get that content to our gadgets that don’t support wireless sharing? HSTI, a Canadian technology company has a simple answer: Wireless Media Stick, a small USB device that connects to your wireless network, can access network shares and mount all the content available as a normal USB memory stick. We were provided with a sample and after extensive testing, our experience is summarized in this review.

Unpacking

The Wireless Media Stick comes in a very simple package that contains the wireless stick and a quick start guide detailing the software installation. The software is included on the stick itself in one of the memory partitions. Notably, the package doesn’t include an extension USB cable, although one is needed for certain devices that don’t offer enough space around the USB port.

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Design and Functionality

The design is an attractive two tone 24 grams USB stick which due to its internal circuitry is a bit on the fat side. The dimensions are 1.122” x 3.254” x 0.630” (28.5mm x 82.7mm x 16.0mm) which for some devices that have very crowded USB ports represent a challenge. Among my devices, the only one that couldn’t accommodate the Wireless Media Stick and required an extension cable was the WD TV Live Plus, every other device had enough space for the wireless stick without an adapter. The HSTI Wireless Media Stick Review needs about 1.3W of electricity while working, about half of what a regular USB port can provide.

Functionality wise, The HSTI Wireless Media Stick connects via your WiFi network to one or more network shares available (the included software takes care of the authentication as well) and mounts those shares as folders emulating an USB memory stick. No special configuration needs to be done for the device that will use it, it will just be accepted as a regular memory stick and the media will be played seamlessly just like from a regular USB memory stick / USB external hard drive.

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Technical Specifications

Specifications
Wireless Radio IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
Host Interface USB 2.0
Frequency Range 2.400 ~ 2.500GHz
Security WEP 64/128, WPA, WPA2, TKIP, AES-CCMP
Output Power -6 dBm (OFDM)
Power Consumption 1.3W in operation, 1.1W idle
Weight 24g
Dimensions (W x L x H), cap on 1.122” x 3.254” x 0.630” (28.5mm x 82.7mm x 16.0mm)

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Installation

Once you plug-in the device in one of your PC’s USB ports, wait until the device boots up and you’ll notice a volume containing the setup files. Launch the WMS_SetupWizard.exe and you’ll have the chance to go through the setup dialogs (also detailed in the included booklet) and configure the wireless connection (supports all the modern encryption methods including WPA 2) and the network shares. You can choose between normal Windows share or Samba shares if you have a more advanced setup.

After you finish with the installation, you’ll have access to the media stick’s internal website where you can make changes from any computer in the house, in a similar manner with changing the settings of your router.

After the initial setup is complete, you can remove the stick from the PC and plug it in the device of your choice. It will take anywhere between 30-60 seconds for the stick to boot, after which the shared files will become available. The stick will mount two different volumes, one for the shared media, the other one containing the setup files which will be obviously useless in this case. The root of the first volume will contain a folder with the same name as your server hosting the media, inside it will be another folder with the name of the network share used and inside it the actual media files.

It is important to know that the Wireless Media Stick can also play the media stored on your Android device once you install the free app from the Google Play Store. For more information, you can consult the HTI Wireless Media Stick manual available online.

Testing

As an avid gadget fan, I have a huge amount of devices that accept and play media from a USB source, from several HP smart photo frames to a couple of TVs, several PS3 and XBOX 360 consoles, WD TV Live Plus and Roku media streamers, a couple of GoogleTV units (Logitech and the new Vizio) and many others.

Devices

60PS80 LG Plasma TV with USB interface

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WD TV Live Plus – USB Interface
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Sony PS3
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Onkyo TX NR-809 Receiver with USB interface

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Results

The HSTI Wireless media stick performed flawlessly with each and every device I tested. Once the stick boots up (somewhere under 60 seconds) and connects to the network, it appears as a memory stick and you can use your player’s remote control to navigate through folders, just like you would do it with a regular memory stick. The browsing speed is very fast as well, and the connection is stable.

It is important to mention that every time you connect the Wireless Media Stick, it will read the entire list of shared files from the server (this is also how it is able to show the updated list). If you share tens of thousands of files, it will take several minutes until the entire list is updated. For hundreds of files, the process is very fast though.

Limitations

Before buying the HSTI Wireless Media Stick, you need to be aware of various limitations, some due to its software implementation, some inherent of the devices you will interface with it:

  • The Wireless Media Stick will only access the media that you shared over the network and emulates a USB thumb drive. It doesn’t stream anything by itself so don’t expect to stream Netflix, Pandora, etc or any transcoding for that matter.
  • The playability of shared media depends of the capabilities of the device that will play the media. If your receiver only plays photos and mp3, that’s all you’ll see.
  • The USB Wireless Media Stick can only share up to 1 TB storage or 30,000 files (whichever comes first). In my experience, the gadget itself will be limited of how much data can display from a USB memory stick, so this should serve most of the needs.

Usability ideas

  • You can use the Wireless Media Stick to add shared media access to devices that don’t have a network connection, or devices that cannot access network shares by default. While you can use PS3/XBOX 360 to access DLNA servers, various Samba sharing capable devices like NAS drives cannot run DLNA servers.
  • many Photo Frames, DVD players, etc cannot access network at all, but they do play media from a USB unit
  • Some Sony media streamers offer better format support for media played from a local USB drive that from a network source
  • Remember those $3 USB mp3 car FM transmitter players? You can now send music from your own Android Phone/tablet using this device.
  • There are a lot of TVs on the market (and probably in your house) that don’t have network support but can play media via an included USB port.

Conclusion

HSTI created a very useful little device that can bring wireless connectivity to many gadgets designed just with an USB input. Once you have it configured, you can move it around to whichever device you are currently using, from your TV, to your boombox or even to your car. In our tests the Wireless Media Stick performed flawlessly and we fully recommend it. The HSTI Wireless Media Stick can be currently purchased from HSTI’s own website for $89.95 at the time this article was written.

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • universal compatibility since it is seen as a regular USB memory stick. I tested the stick with a variety of USB enabled boxes and had absolutely no compatibility issues.
  • device independent, you can move it from one device to the other, just like you would do with a memory stick

Cons

  • No USB extension cable included
  • The access is limited to 1 TB of shared data or 30,000 files (whichever comes first). Not a problem for most, in my opinion.
  • The file system implemented is FAT32 which will limit the file size to 4GB. If you are using files larger than 4GB you’ll need to re-encode or split them. However, the manufacturer mentioned that NTFS support is in work.

Gallery

 

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