Whether you’re a photographer, a writer, or garden-variety computer nerd, a wireless file hub can streamline your file transfer process. But for $60, the RAVPower FileHub aims to do so much more. Is it too good to be true?
I wish I could give you a definite answer. The RAVPower FileHub is, at a fundamental level, a portable device for wireless data transfer. It has two ports for an SD card and a hard drive, and it’s built for on the go data transfer with your phone. It does this by outputting a unique Wi-Fi signal (you can choose between a 2.4 G band and a fast 5 G band), which your phone connects to for data transmission via the RAV FileHub app.
But the FileHub also doubles as a casting device, a Wi-Fi bridge (it has an ethernet port), and a portable 6700 mAh battery. For a $60 device, this is a lot of features. If they all worked perfectly, then I’d recommend the FileHub to anyone, but that isn’t the case.
While I enjoy the FileHub’s wireless file transfer capabilities, I think its “jack of all trades” approach leads to a lot of frustrating shortcomings.
The FileHub Is Well-Built, Its Instruction Manual Isn’t
The FIleHub looks great and has fantastic build quality. Its buttons are clicky, it has a nice (not flimsy) rubber cover for its USB and Ethernet ports, and even its SD card slot feels oddly secure.
Really, the FileHub is a brick—and I mean that in the best way possible. But the FileHub’s ease of use? Its 46-page instruction manual? That’s a different story.
The FileHub does a lot of different things, and yes, it has a learning curve. But the issue is, even if you follow the instruction manual, the FileHub finds a way to confuse you. I’ll mention some of its quirks throughout this review, but I’m going to start with something that’s frustrated me from day one.
The FileHub’s power button is ridiculous. I’ve never had so much trouble turning on a device. While the instruction manual clearly states, “Power Button: Press to turn on/off the FileHub,” you have to hold the button for around five seconds—no more, no less. I manage to screw this up every time I use the FileHub.
This sounds like a minor problem (it could even seem like a personal problem). The thing is, I’ve run into a bunch of similarly bizarre issues while using the FileHub. These problems make the device difficult to use, and they’re rarely addressed in the 46-page instruction manual. I didn’t want to read every single page, but I had to because I kept getting confused.
The FileHub App Is Just Okay
There are technically two FileHub apps: RAV FileHub (iOS, Android) and FileHub Plus (iOS, Android). The RAV FileHub app is featured in the FileHub’s instruction manual, so we’re going to focus on it for this review (they’re nearly identical, anyway).
The RAV FileHub app is pleasant to use, albeit, a bit clunky. It has a minimal design that’s easy to navigate, and while it’s great for file transfers, it’s bloated with a lot of underdeveloped extra features.
Rather than writing out seven paragraphs about the RAV FileHub app’s features, we’re going to keep things clean and concise with a list:
- File Organization: FileHub separates all files (from your phone, SD card, or hard drive) into categories called Photos, Videos, Music, or Contacts. You can view these categories as a list or thumbnails, and you can organize them by name or date. I love how it organizes files—it’s one of the app’s best features.
- Three Methods of File Transfer: You can transfer files to (or from) the FileHub via the Photos, Videos, Music, or Contacts categories, from the bare-bones file explorer, or through the dedicated Photo Backup option (which is extremely disorganized).
- Transfer Speed and Options: The highest transfer speed that I’ve reached on the 5G connection is 9 Mbps (it’s advertised to reach speeds of 12-18 Mbps). This averages out to about 1 GB of data every 80 seconds, which isn’t terrible. Luckily, you can multitask during file transfer.
- Viewing and Streaming: You can view and stream remote files from the app, but the viewing options are lackluster (although, not necessarily bad). It’s worth mentioning the app’s video interface supports subtitle encoding and alternate audio tracks (for you anime fans).
- Casting and DLNA: The RAV FileHub app supports casting via DLNA, which means it works with Chromecast and Roku. This feature is very difficult to use, but I’ll get back to that later.
- In-App Camera: If you want to send new photos directly to the FileHub (and skip local phone storage along the way), you can use the handy, in-app camera. Well, that is, if you’re using an iPhone. The Android app doesn’t have the in-app camera feature. This discrepancy isn’t mentioned in the manual, and it makes me wonder if the Android app is missing any other features.
- Settings: The in-app settings are pretty robust, with security options (hide SSID), IP settings, wireless channel options, and speed tests. Most users won’t need to tinker with these, but it’s nice they’re available.
Clearly, the FileHub app does a lot of stuff, but few of these options are objectively great. I’d say the RAV FileHub app (like the FileHub itself) is a jack of all trades, but only a master of basic file transfers.
You can also access the FileHub through your phone or computer’s browser. You do this by connecting to the FileHub’s Wi-Fi signal and typing the IP address 10.10.10.254 in the address bar (like when you configure a router’s settings). This is a great option, as it allows you to open videos or work-related files on your computer.
It’s a Useful-Yet-Niche Local Storage Device
The FileHub is advertised as a device that can do just about anything, but it really works best as a wireless external storage device. This leads us to an interesting question: why would you use a wireless storage hub instead of a USB-C hub?
The benefits of wireless storage are pretty niche, but they exist. Wireless storage devices eliminate the need for a cable, which is great if you’re worried about compatibility. And since the FileHub can connect to five devices at once, it’s ideal for some work situations (especially for groups).
The FileHub also has an “SD to USB” button that automatically transfers the contents of an SD card to an external drive (without deleting the drive’s files). This feature is useful for photographers or videographers who blow through SD cards (although this isn’t a wireless feature).
Oddly enough, the real downfall of wireless external storage is convenience. The process of turning on and connecting to the FileHub takes about two or three minutes, while it takes less than a second to plug in a USB-C hub.
Plus, in my experience, the FileHub can only transfer data at about 9 MBps (about 1 GB every 80 seconds). That’s nearly 1/50 of the speed that you get from a cheap USB-C hub.
This wouldn’t be such a big issue if the FileHub could perform wired data transfers to a phone or PC. For whatever reason, it can’t. If you want to transfer the contents of an SD card to your laptop, you either have to deal with the 10 Mbps wireless transfer speed or plug the SD card directly into your laptop. My laptop doesn’t have an SD card reader, so in my case, I have to carry around a USB dongle when I use the FileHub away from home.
Local DLNA Casting Is Frustrating
One of the FileHub’s biggest selling points is that you can use it for local streaming. It relies on DLNA, which means it’s compatible with devices like Chromecast and Roku. But in my experience, the FileHub isn’t reliable enough for dedicated casting.
Don’t get me wrong, when you get it to start casting, it’s great. There’s the rare bit of lag or buffer, but that’s to be expected. The thing is, it’s really difficult to get everything working.
The first issue is the RAV FileHub app. If you’ve never worked with DLNA, you might be confused when the app sends you into its clunky DLNA interface (there’s no easy Chromecast icon or anything). Most people are probably unfamiliar with DLNA, so the app should guide you through the process.
Also, Chromecast and Roku rely on your local Wi-Fi network, so they won’t always recognize or connect to the FileHub (which emits a unique Wi-Fi signal). I had a lot of trouble getting FileHub to work with my Chromecast. After a bit of fidgeting (running the Chromecast through its setup process two or three times) I got the whole system working. But even then, the Chromecast doesn’t always recognize or play nice with the FileHub. Your experience might be different, but I noticed a lot of similar complaints while researching the FileHub.
You can use FileHub as a casting device, but the experience isn’t great. It’s probably better to skip the DLNA nonsense and plug your laptop or phone into a TV via HDMI. That way, you’re still technically streaming remote files from the FileHub, but you don’t have to deal with any weird connection issues.
In a Pinch, It’s a Good Wi-Fi Bridge
The idea that you can use this device as a Wi-Fi bridge is pretty bizarre. But, in a pinch, it’s a nice feature to have. Connect the FileHub to a Wi-Fi network or Ethernet connection, and it can be used as a router by up to five devices. This is the one FileHub feature I didn’t have any trouble with, and the instruction manual explains how to set up a bridge very well.
Why would you ever want to use the FileHub as a Wi-Fi bridge? Well, you can’t interact with the FileHub without connecting to its Wi-Fi network. Its bridge capabilities eliminate the need to switch between it and your Wi-Fi network if you want to browse between file transfers.
Also, some hotels require you to pay for each device you connect to their Wi-Fi network. With the FileHub, you just pay for the FileHub and use its bridge feature for your other devices. Of course, your internet speed will suffer, but it’s better than paying out the nose for crappy hotel Wi-Fi.
Portable Battery Features Are Always Appreciated
RAVPower somehow managed to pack a lot of features into the FileHub. So, it’s no surprise you can use it as a portable battery.
The FileHub has a 6700 mAh battery. At full capacity, it can charge a modern smartphone two or three times. This battery drains while the FileHub is in regular use, so it’s more of an emergency feature than anything. Either way, it’s well appreciated.
If You Know How You’d Use the FileHub, Buy It
In most situations, a simple USB-C hub with SD card and USB-A inputs will serve you better than the FileHub. Even if the FileHub app was better, connecting and transferring files to a wireless storage device from your phone is a very slow process.
But there are some situations where the RAVPower FileHub outperforms a wired USB-C hub. If you’re a photographer, the FileHub makes it easy to dump SD cards onto external drives. Its five-person sharing feature also makes it a decent portable NAS for group work.
So, if you already know how you’d use the FileHub, it’s a steal at $60. If you aren’t sure how you’d use it, you might consider buying a simple USB-C hub (or a portable battery, casting device, or Wi-Fi bridge) instead.
The RAVPower FileHub: An All-In-One (Yet Oddly Niche) Wireless Storage Hub was orginially posted by Andrew Heinzman