HTG Reviews the RavPower 5-in-1 FileHub: an Ultra-lightweight Travel Battery, File Sharing Hub, and Photo Dump
The FileHub is a little digital Swiss Army knife of useful tools; you can recharge your devices, link them together via mobile hotspot, stream files to them, and in turn back files up from your devices to the FileHub. Read on as we put it through the paces and see if a device smaller than a deck of cards can really shine in all those categories.
What Is The RavPower 5-in-1 FileHub?
The RavPower 5-in-1 FileHub is a combination device, similar in many ways to the previously reviewed TripMate. Like the TripmMate, it’s part battery pack, part Wi-Fi hotspot, and can server as a hub for sharing and streaming files. Unlike the TripMate it does not have an Ethernet jack so it can’t function as a hardline router (to convert, say, a hotel data jack into a Wi-Fi router for your hotel room) but it does have a built-in SD card reader (a feature sorely missing from the TripMate).
Also, like the TripMate, it includes a battery that both powers the device itself and recharges other devices; the FileHub sports a 3000 mAh battery more than capable of running the devices for hours (or recharging your devices on the go).
How Do I Use It?
The most basic function of the FileHub is the battery backup function. To use it, you simply plug in the USB charging cable of your device into the USB port located on the edge of the device next to the SD card slot. There isn’t even a button to press, the FileHub will just start charging any device attached to it that has a partially or fully depleted battery.
The advanced functions of the device are only accessible via Wi-Fi enabled devices such as Android phones, iPads, laptops, etc. When you are ready to use the device as a Wi-Fi hotspot, transfer files to an SD card, or stream files from that SD card, you’ll need to tap the small button located on the left hand side of the device just above the micro USB charging port.
When you press that button the device will light up, as seen in the image above, with the battery light on (indicating the device is active) and the Wi-Fi light blue (indicating the Wi-Fi antenna is on).
In our review of the TripMate, we showed you how to setup the device from a Windows computer and how to connect to it from a Windows computer. We’re going to mix things up in this review (as the process is nearly identical) and show you how to setup the Filehub and access the files all with an Android phone.
Once the blue indicator light is on and solid, grab a Wi-Fi enabled device and look for a Wi-Fi access point with the name FileHub-XXXX wherein the XXXX is a distinguishing identifier assigned to your FileHub unit.
Log into the access point; the default password is “11111111″ (that’s eight one’s). After logging into the access point open up a web browser on your device and navigate to 10.10.10.254 to access the device’s administration panel. The login is “admin” with no password.
Upon first administrative login you’ll be prompted with a configuration wizard which will walk you through setting up the device. The first step is focused on linking the device to an existing Wi-Fi network so that devices attached to the FileHub have Internet access; if you don’t have an available Wi-Fi network or don’t wish to link the FileHub to the network, you can skip this step.
In the next step, regardless of whether or not you configured the device to connect to the internet via nearby Wi-Fi access point, you review the local settings including the device’s SSID, password, IP address, and other network configuration options. At minimum you should change the default password from “11111111″ to something that isn’t included in the manual.
The next step is to set up a user password (this password will replace the blank no-password setup with a password of your choosing).
After the device finishes rebooting and the changes are applied, repeat the login process to reconnect to the device. Remember your SSID password will be new and there will be a new password for the administrative control panel. You’ll see the normal dashboard, sans startup wizard.
Here you can adjust all the settings you set while using the startup wizard (and can, in fact, just run the wizard again if you want), as well as check to see that your SD card storage is mounted and do basic file manipulation via the Explore function. The file explorer on disk is pretty rudimentary, however, so we’d leave it as a tool of last resort.
It’s far more practical to connect to the device from another system (such as an Android phone) using a file browser capable of navigating network drives. For our purposes the Android file explorer app ES File Explorer is a perfect fit. You can easily fire up the app and navigate to the FileHub using the LAN file browser. Tap on the little world icon in ES File Explorer and then select LAN.
Select the entry for the FileHub (you’ll only see it if you’re connected to the FileHub) and entry the same login information you use to connect to the FileHub control panel.
Once you’re logged into the network share, you can easily move and copy files between your device and the FileHub as well as stream media off of it.
How Does It Perform?
Setup was easy enough, but the real question is how well the FileHub performs. All the file transfer and hosting capabilities in the world aren’t worth much if the network connectivity stalls out all the time or the SD card fails to mount.
In palling around with the device for the last few weeks we haven’t run into any stability issues, explainable connection drops, or other problems. In our tests the FileHub did a great job streaming music and video to companion devices (such as an iPad and an Android phone). It was also very easy to backup files from our portable devices to the FileHub’s SD card; when transferring large files the transfer speed was consistently around 1.6 MB/s. Given that we conducted our tests by transferring files from a phone’s internal microSD card via Wi-Fi to a second device (the FileHub) with a standard SD card, those speeds are quite satisfactory. They might not be blistering 802.11ac transfer rates but given the limitations of all the hardware in between the sending media and the receiving media, we are OK with the transfer speed and quality.
When in use as a simple portable battery there were no hiccups, and the device was able to recharge our smartphones completely and our tablets partially (the 3,000 mAh battery can only do so much).
The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict
So after putting the device through the paces, what’s the verdict? Let’s break it down.
- It’s very light and very slender; it’s about the size of a deck of cards, narrower, and weighs only 4.2 ounces.
- Very easy setup; even with password updates and the like the setup process is around 30 seconds.
- SD card storage is easily upgradeable (and SD card prices are always falling).
- LED indicators are well designed and give immediate and useful feedback about the state of the device.
- We’d really love more juice in the little guy. 3,000 mAh isn’t a whole lot to go around.
- The file management software they suggest you download is pretty cruddy compared to solutions like ES File Explorer.
- No flashlight. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: LEDs are so cheap there’s no good reason to not add a little LED flashlight to every portable battery pack.
Despite the lack of LAN port (which we really loved on the TripMate) and the small-ish battery inside, the FileHub excels at exactly what it promises to do: linking your Wi-Fi devices together, giving you easy access to shared files, and offering a spot you can dump your files. The secondary functions, the backup battery and the ability to function as a Wi-Fi node when linked to an existing network, are really just bonus features on top of the solid file sharing and device linking functionality.
If you don’t need the hardwire LAN functionality offered by the TripMate and you’d really benefit from easily expandable but compact storage (like that offered by the FileHub’s SD card slot), there’s little reason to not pick up a FileHub.