The RAVPower FileHub is a clever gadget that has two main uses. It can be used as a wireless hard drive for your smartphone or tablet, or it can backup your camera’s SD cards when you’re on the move.
With storage on smartphones and tablets always at a premium, especially with Apple devices which have no expansion options, this former use is of particular interest to many.
The basic idea is you plug in a USB drive or an SD card in the portable, battery powered FileHub. The FileHub broadcasts its own WiFi network which you connect to from your smartphone or tablet. You can then browse your attached storage like it’s directly attached, using a free app. You can stream even large media files directly in the app, or you can transfer files between the attached storage and your device. And with this latest version from RAVPower which support 802.11ac at 5GHz, the transfer speeds are actually pretty good.
The FileHub also does a lot more: it can be configured as a wireless access point, a bridge or a router and it’s also a portable charger with a useful 6700mAh battery.
So let’s take a closer look.
The FileHub comes with a RAVPower branded 60cm flat micro-USB cable and a 46 page English user manual which is surprisingly comprehensive, but not particularly easy to follow.
It looks quite smart with a modern design and a matte finish. It’s a little heavier than I was expecting at just under 200g but it’s quite compact: about the size of a USB hard drive, just a little thicker.
The top of the unit has 5 LEDs, some of the which have various meanings, but in the main, the first LED indicates a connection to the Internet, the second and third LEDs identify which wireless radios are enabled, the SD card LED comes on when an SD card is inserted and the battery light shows the status of the charge: steady indicates more than 30% charge remaining, red when there’s less than 30% charge and flashing red with less than 10% charge remaining.
Down from the LEDs is the power button. If you just press the power button the battery light comes on and you can use the FileHub as a portable charger, but it took me a few minutes to realise you need to hold the button down until the battery icon flashes to turn the unit on properly, something the manual doesn’t mention! The wireless light will flash and then go steady when the unit is ready to connect. A long press of the power button also turns it off.
At the end of the FileHub a flap reveals 3 ports. There’s a USB port for attaching USB thumb drives or portable hard drives. When a storage device is attached the wireless lights will flash and then go steady when the drive has been recognised. Or you can charge gadgets off this port although it only has a 1A output which means it would struggle with tablets but it’s fine for most other devices. The internal 6700mAh battery should charge an average smartphone at least twice.
Next there’s a micro-USB port for charging the FileHub using the included cable. There’s no wall charger in the box but if you use a tablet charger or something similar it does support charging up to a decent 2A. The battery light flashes whilst charging. You could also run it off this port, but the manual warns of damage to the internal battery if you use the USB port at the same time. You can also use this port for attaching micro-USB devices like micro-USB thumb drives but I don’t have one to try out.
On the right there’s an Ethernet port for using the FileHub as a wireless access point or router. In between the micro-USB port and the Ethernet port there’s a reset hole. Poke a paper clip or something similar straight through the hole and hold for around 10 seconds to factory reset the device.
Around the side we have a WiFi mode button to cycle between 2.4GHz, 5GHz and a dual 2.4GHz plus 5Ghz mode. Press and hold the button for a few seconds to change mode. I’d recommend switching to the dual mode to start with. Press and hold the button and the wireless LED will go off and the 5G LED will flash. The unit is now switching to 5GHz mode. Wait until the 5G LED goes steady, and then press and hold the button again. Both wireless lights will flash and then go steady when the unit is ready to connect with both radios available. It’s quite slow switching between modes.
Next we have the SD card slot which will support cards up to 2TB SDXC. The wireless lights will flash while it recognises the card and then they’ll go back to steady and the SD light will come on.
Lastly, there’s the One-Key backup button. With an SD card and a USB drive attached and all lights steady, press and hold this button for about 5 seconds until the SD card indicator starts flashing. The complete contents of the SD card will be copied to a dated folder inside an SDBackup folder on the USB drive. It’s done when the SD light stops flashing.
My main interest in the FileHub is for wireless storage. You can access any device connected to the FileHub using the free RAV FileHub app. First download the app to your phone or tablet. It’s available on iOS and Android.
As I described earlier, turn the FileHub on, change the wireless mode to dual 2.4Ghz + 5Ghz and attach some storage either via the SD card slot or the USB port or both. Storage drives can have various file systems but fortunately the FileHub doesn’t care too much what you have connected. FAT32, NTFS, exFAT file systems are officially supported. But I found Mac OS formatted drives also worked. I’d recommend using exFAT if you have the option.
Wait for the wireless LEDs to stop flashing.
Open WiFi settings on your tablet or smartphone and connect to the FileHub’s 5GHz WiFi if your device supports it, otherwise just use the 2.4Ghz WiFi which will be the only network you’ll see. By default the 5GHz SSID will be RAV-FileHub-5G-xxxx and the 2.4GHz will be RAV-FileHub-2G-xxxx. By default the password is eight 1s.
Open the Filehub app. If you get a prompt to choose a device, just tap ok. I’m on an iPad, so the app may look slightly different on other devices.
At the top of the screen, you can view details of the attached storage. You can see how much storage is available and you can swipe between drives if you have a SD card and USB drive connected.
Tap on File Management and you’ll see the attached storage drives listed. You can then browse the folders as if they were attached locally. The app has pretty good file support. I could play many files types right inside the app including photos, videos, PDFs, and even Word documents are opened, although formatting is lost. Support for video files seems especially good, playing MP4 files as well as MKV files off my Plex library. Large video files start streaming within a few seconds although there was a lot of stuttering with some 4K files from my Panasonic G85 – but they did play. Also RAW files aren’t recognised but I’ll discuss shortly how you can deal with files not supported in the app.
At the bottom of the screen you can switch between remote storage on the FileHub and local storage on the iPad in this case. You can even browse the Photos library on iOS and there’s a Documents folder that is accessible in the Apple Files app in the RAV FileHub folder under On My iPad. You can create folders within this Documents folder too.
The most useful feature to me is being able to copy large files across to my iPad, even if it’s just temporarily. Perhaps a large video file to work in LumaFusion, or some RAW photos to work on in Lightroom or Affinity Photo. For smaller files like RAW files you can use the Share extension on iOS at least, to open them in another app. For example, long press on a RAW file to select it, tap Share and choose in my case “Copy to Lightroom”. Or you could choose to save to Files and choose where you want to save the file to open later.
For larger files I prefer to explicitly download files I want to work on. Long press on a file and select other files as need be. This works on folders too. Or you can just tap on Multiselect. Then tap “Copy to” and choose where you want to paste them on the Internal Storage. In this case I’ll create a Lumafusion folder to copy this video file to. Tap on New Folder, create the folder and then “Paste” the file into the folder. Keep the FileHub near your device for large files to get the best speed. You can then open LumaFusion, say, browse iCloud Drive under Sources, and locate the downloaded file under the RAV FileHub folder.
Using the FileHub for wireless storage can be a lifesaver for file formats that Apple doesn’t recognise like some video formats from Sony cameras for instance. If these can’t be imported via the Apple SD card reader, the FileHub is one option for getting them across to your iPad or iPhone.
I imagine most people would buy the FileHub for wireless storage as I’ve just described. And also for the One-Touch backup. But it is also a travel router and a portable power bank. And there are a couple of other features worth mentioning.
As a power bank it’s nothing special as I alluded to earlier. The battery capacity of 6700mAh is useful but you can get much smaller power banks with similar capacity. It only has one output and it’s slightly limited at 1A, so not much good for devices with large batteries like tablets that generally require at least 2A. Still it powers the unit and it’s useful to have.
One handy feature is as a portable wireless access point. For example in a hotel room where perhaps you only have an Ethernet connection, you can just plug the Ethernet cable into the FileHub. There shouldn’t be any further setup as long as you connecting to a fairly standard network. The Internet LED on the FileHub should light up. You can then get wireless Internet access via the FileHub – and others can connect wirelessly too. And you can still access files off the attached storage using the app as before.
You can also use the Filehub as a wireless bridge. This is a useful mode for general use too, since it means you still get Internet access whilst connected to the FileHub. In this mode it connects wirelessly to your existing wireless network. It then broadcasts its own wireless signal. So you can connect to it as before, but you also have Internet access off your normal WiFi network.
You need to be in 2.4GHz or dual WiFi mode, otherwise this won’t work. Connect to the FileHub as normal. In the RAV FileHub app, tap on settings – the cog in the top right. Then WiFi_Disk Settings | Internet Settings. The FileHub will scan surrounding networks. Tap on your WiFi network and enter the password. You’ll get a couple of messages but just click through them. You should notice the Internet LED now lit. And you can access the Internet as well as browse your files.
Theoretically you should be able to extend your WiFi range using this method, but I didn’t find the range particularly good. I even tried using 2.4GHz which should have a longer range but I didn’t find a huge difference. Even in a ideal environment, this will still reduce your wireless speeds.
The final mode of the FileHub is as a router, connecting it to an ADSL or cable modem. I’m not able to test this out, but imagine it’d be ok for very occasional use.
There are a couple of other features worth mentioning. You can setup your FileHub as a DLNA media server so that devices like Smart TVs or apps on your tablet that support DLNA can stream media from your FileHub.
You need to configure this via a web browser. Whilst connected to the FileHub, enter 10.10.10.254. You can still do this on your tablet or phone. Tap “Log In” using the default “admin” username and empty password. Tap on Settings | Services | DLNA Service. You can call it what you like. Select the attached storage you want to use, then select the directory with your media on it. Then click Save.
You’ll notice even the FileHub app’s home screen now works as it should with the various media types now being populated. Or even better, download the free VLC player, tap on local network, and tap on the DLNA server. I also tried it with Roku – choose the Roku media player and you’ll see the FileHub DLNA server listed. Remember that if you’re not directly connecting to the FileHub, you’ll need to make sure the FileHub is connected to your home network as I described earlier if you want to connect via your Smart TV or Roku.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s a good idea to make the device secure by at least adding a password for the admin account and changing the WiFi password. From the FileHub app’s Home screen, tap Settings | System Settings | User settings. Tap back twice and set a password for both the 2.4GHz network under Wi-Fi Settings and the 5GHz network under Wi-Fi_Disk Settings (5G). You can also turn the Guest user off. You’ll then need to cycle the WiFi mode or turn the unit off and on. And then go into settings on your phone or tablet and choose “Forget this network” for any FileHub connections you’ve made.
Wireless storage is of course never going to be as quick as connecting a device with a cable and unfortunately there is no way to do that with the FileHub. As a benchmark, I completed a transfer over a USB card reader using the Lightning port on an iPad. I’m quoting transfer speeds in MB/s, if you want to get the equivalent speed in Mbps, just multiply these numbers by 8.
So the basic USB card reader achieved a 18MB/s transfer speed. For good measure I also measured the speed using the Apple USB 3 Lightning adapter attached to a USB 3 speed capable iPad Pro and got 75MB/s!
But wireless speeds using the faster 5GHz 802.11ac WiFi to a compatible device, are still pretty decent.
Downloading a 1GB file to my iPad which has 802.11ac, took 93 seconds. Which works out at around 11MB/s. Copying around 1GB of smaller RAW + JPG files from an SD card unsurprisingly was a little slower at 9MB/s. But that was better than I was expecting.
So the speeds are nowhere near the advertised 433Mbps which equates to 54MB/s, but are still quite usable. Strangely using the far more convenient Filebrowser Business app, I was also able to access the FileHub, but the transfer speeds were far lower. I only got around 3.4MB/s – a third of the speed. This was the same accessing the drive from LumaFusion, transfer speeds was even slower, at around 3MB/s.
Uploading a 1GB file took over twice as long at 210 seconds, that’s 4.9MB/s.
Using an Android Samsung Tab A which is only 5GHz 802.11n capable, the 1GB file took 123 seconds to download, or 8.3MB/s.
I also tested the speeds connecting via the slower 2.4GHz WiFi mode and got a download speed of 7.4MB/s, around 50% slower than with 5GHz.
I also setup a share on a MacBook Pro connected via Gigabit Ethernet to my Sky Q 802.11ac router. With the iPad next to the router I used the FileBrowser app to download the same 1GB file. This surprisingly took longer than with the Filehub: 134 seconds or 7.6MB/s.
The RAV Power FileHub fared well in these tests. The top speed of 11MB/s is really quite useable, even for large files, but still be prepared to go and do something else when you have lots to download. You will need to use the RAV Power FileHub app for the best speeds, but I’m happy that you can use the far more convenient Filebrowser app too if need be.
Finally I measured the speed of SD card backups from a fast Sandisk Extreme 90MB/s card to a 128GB Sandisk iXpand USB 3.0 flash drive. The single 1GB file took 61s at 16.8MB/s. 84 photos, a combination of RAW and JPG files totalling just over 900MB copied in 81s at 11.3MB/s. That’s not particularly quick but RAVPower only spec a maximum speed of 14 to 18MB/s. So for larger files at least that’s within spec and is still a convenient feature.
The FileHub has so many different functions that battery life will entirely depend on how you use it. But battery life is listed as 8.4 hours of play time over 2.4GHz and 6 hours over 5Ghz. In general use you’ll get much more out of it and I found battery life to be very good. At least a good day of fairly intense usage.
The RAVPower FileHub is a very useful accessory. It is reasonably priced at around £55 or $60, although I’d like to see it come down to the price of the cheaper confusingly named FileHub Plus which is £40 or $40. That version is only 2.4Ghz – I do think it’s worth paying the extra for the faster 5Ghz download speeds. And the cheaper model also doesn’t have the button for automatic backups which I quite like although I’d always recommend checking the files have copied ok using the app, before deleting anything!
I wouldn’t buy the device for any of the additional features it has, like doubling as a power bank or travel router. But they are handy, especially the Ethernet port for turning it into a wireless access point.
The app is not the prettiest or most intuitive, but it was quite reliable with only 1 crash in some fairly thorough testing. And once I got used to I found I could get done what I needed quickly and then switch to the Apple Files app or the Filebrowser app.
There are other options like the WD Wireless Pro and the Gnarbox, but they are mostly significantly more expensive and don’t have some of the additional features the FileHub has. But they do come with their own storage, so if you don’t already own a decent sized external drive you’ll have to factor that in. For example if you were going to buy the FileHub and a 1TB USB drive, that would costs around £100 or $100. The 1TB WD Wireless Pro costs £135 or $135, so not a lot more.
Overall I would recommend the FileHub to anyone wanting easy access to wireless storage. There are free ways to do this if you’re on your home or work WiFi, used shared storage on your network, as I showed in my previous video, but this is more convenient, easier to setup and faster in my tests. And it’s a fully portable solution for when you’re out and about. I would like transfers to be faster, especially uploading. And if there was a way of connecting it to you tablet or phone using a cable for faster transfers that would be even better.
RAVPower Filehub: http://geni.us/Qhiv0z [Amazon]