At first glance the Hitachi LifeStudio Mobile looks much like any other external USB hard drive. It does come with quite a neat docking station which could be convenient for use when swapping between a desktop and a laptop (using the laptop with the also supplied USB cable.)
Where Hitachi claim to have an edge is in the software supplied. This is provided pre-installed on the disk drive.
More than a hint of Metro design to the install screen.
Interesting to see it uses Microsoft Sync Framework.
An explanation of why it needs network access would be nice!
Immediately on start up it detected a newer version – maybe that it is why it needed network access.
Updating was smooth and the app immediately started…
Now this is getting kind of interesting
This is more likely what that network access was actually for and is a pleasant surprise. Each user gets 3GB of free online backup space which is a nice to have and 48$ /year for 250gb is reasonably competitive. It appears the 3GB is per signup to the cloud service not per drive purchased
Setting up the cloud backup was pretty easy and it was particularly easy to choose what I wanted to send to the cloud.
Here both a local and a cloud backup are in progress at the same time. Even with my 50meg cable internet the cloud backup is going to take a while.
Once the cloud backup completes you can get to your files from a reasonably well designed web interface. One nice feature is the search option which allows you to search for anything in your online backup.
Overall the backup functions are well done and easy to use. Anything that simplifies backup and works cannot be bad.
So what else does LifeStudio have to offer:
MyLife is quite a neat way of organising your media. It has a visually appealing 3D Scrolling interface and clicking on an image zooms into the content really nicely. Having said that I am not sure I would use it over and above the tools already available in Windows 7. The interface is based on Cooliris technology of which more later. One thing I did like was the share to FaceBook, Flickr and Picasa options available when you open an image.
MySocial allows you to view your FaceBook, FLickr and Picasa images in the same manner as MyLife.
Here the Cooliris roots are showing and you can click through to the LiveShare site
The claims for the TV and Cinema section sounds great but try as I might I couldn’t find all of the content promised. Now this may be because I am in the UK and some of the content is US based but it would be nice to be told. Instead when I clicked on Family Guy from this screen all I got was a whirring finding files at the bottom of the screen. I left this for over 20 minutes just to make sure but nothing was found.
I did find some content in this section but it was mostly trailers and short clips. The full episodes were limited and, in the main, not what I wanted to watch. Having said that if you like anime there are quite a few full titles including for example Babel and Warrior Zero but in the main it is just clips. The interface is again nice and the quality good but, without any real content – at least in the UK – a little disappointing.
On the face of it the music section looked better with quite a good selection of modern music videos to choose from. The embedding of an ad for Cooliris in every list though gets tiresome and it was unfortunate that on a large number of videos I tried I was greeted by a content rejected message.
It is a shame as there is potential here and the interface is again nicely done.
The news section is very similar but I was pleased to see UK news being the default in the list
However the Cooliris ad is now very annoying. My advice to Hitachi – this only needs, if anywhere, to be in the first list to be accessed.
This is the one thing which would definitely stop me using this software and to my mind devalues the whole offering.
Rant over and back to news. This provides a collection of images of news of the day laid out in the now familiar 3D Wall display. Clicking on these either takes you to the associated video or website and is quite nicely done.
The games section was a pleasant surprise with a number of very simple games listed which, in the main, turned out to be quite playable.
The Hitachi drive is well built and the docking station is nice to have but in hardware terms it doesn’t offer much of an edge over many other external drives. You have to make the choice whether the Hitachi brand name or the bundled additional software makes up for the slight price premium over other similar sized drives.
I would have to say that in the main LifeStudio is a great concept with plenty of potential spoiled by incessant plugs for the parent product and a lack of UK content. Where it does shine for me is in the Hitachi Backup solution and the very welcome inclusion of cloud backup space. The backup solution is very easy to use, easy to setup and works. That alone may be worth the purchase price.