Stick Computers and TV Boxes add another dimension to your online life. If you’re reading this, you probably already have a number of ways to access your media, be it local or on the Internet. Most of us have at least some sort of phone, smartwatch or tablet for accessing content on the go, a laptop, PC or console for more complex tasks, such as writing or playing games and perhaps a smart, Internet connected device such as the Amazon Dot to make routine tasks even easier.
No matter what devices you own, they all share one thing in common, and that’s a need for storing and accessing data. If your primary device is a tablet or phone, then you’re probably already committed to the idea of using cloud storage for your data needs. Even though your phones and tablets can have storage expanded locally, they don’t come close to storing the file sizes required by large music or video libraries. Cloud storage, on the other hand, is virtually limitless if you have the funds to rent the space.
PC, laptop and console users have it a little better. Cheap internal storage in multi-terabyte sizes is readily available for less than a hundred dollars. You can also find low cost external drives for a few dollars more. With 4 to 8 Terabyte drives widely available, you’ll have no problem keeping a decent size video library accessible for local playback to your connected PC.
But what about Android users? After all, Stick Computers and TV Boxes are becoming the de facto way to playback both streaming and owned content. Do Android users have the same options open to them? It turns out when it comes to tiny computers, the choices are not nearly so wide open. The limitations are two-fold and I’ll explain both issues below.
First, the primary file system used on hard drives today is NTFS. There are several reasons for this, but chief among them is data storage size. Both the size of the drive and the size of the files on the drive are dictated by the file system. In the case of NTFS, that size is HUGE. The size for an individual file can be much larger than even the largest hard drives we have available today.
The issue for many Stick Computers is that Android doesn’t support NTFS natively. Sure, you can install an app to help you read and write those big NTFS drives, but we’re not concerned here with making that kind of concession to ease-of-use. Some of the newer phones from Samsung support NTFS, so more support may be forthcoming in the future.
Until that happens, the default files system for Android is Fat32 or exFat and the limits of that file system are practically 2TB overall and 4GB per file. When you realize that BluRay rips of your favorite films can be 20 to 30GB you can immediately see the problem.
Secondly, when you want to connect an external hard drive to a TV Box or Stick Computer via USB, the drive will often require more power than your device can provide. This is, of course, if you even have a USB port available. While having a powered hub can eliminate this problem, the hub can itself create problems by introducing timeouts and buffering to sensitive media players.
One of the reason Windows-based Sticks and TV boxes have become popular in the last year is due to the fact they can read and write NTFS natively. So if you have one of these Windows devices, you may be free from the first issue, but are still bound by the problem of having to connect the external drive directly.
The solution to the problem can be found in Network Attached Storage (NAS). While the concept has been around for many years in business, it has only recently become known (and affordable) for home use. Inexpensive “personal cloud” devices are popping up everywhere in all sorts of media applications. It’s now possible to purchase your own multi-terabyte cloud device for less than what it would cost you for a year of equivalent online storage.
With Network Attached Storage, you can take advantage of the benefits of the NTFS file system without having to read it directly. Everything is streamed across the network at high speed regardless of the device. Having reviewed the options currently available, I’ve found the Western Digital 4 Terabyte My Cloud to offer the best of both cost/performance and flexibility for all your personal devices.
If you haven’t looked into Networked Attached Storage to solve your media data needs, I suggest taking a look at this excellent product. Keep in mind that this is an advanced media product and you should have some familiarity with setting up network devices or have somebody who can help you do so.
WD 4TB My Cloud Personal Network Attached Storage
- 4TB Storage Capacity
- Gigabit Ethernet
- USB 3.0 for expansion
- Package Includes: Personal cloud storage, Ethernet cable, AC adapter and Quick Install Guide, DLNA 1.5 and UPnP Certified
- Auto Network Discovery
- Windows, Mac and Android Compatible
- Stream to your DLNA/UPnP-certified connected TVs, media players and gaming consoles
What Customers Say:
Western Digital has put together a very nice network attached storage (NAS) device with the My Cloud. It was very easy to set up for both local and remote access.
So far this device is amazing! Once I found the most recent manual on line and spent time reading it thoroughly, it was easy to install and use. Just really slick–the technology just amazes me (and I was a CIO for the last 15+ years of my technology career!). Talk about bang for the buck!
This drive is very easy to set up. Worked great. Probably two minutes at the most to set up. Easy to share files or whole folders. Best bang for the buck by far.