Mobile Backup Choices: RavPower FileHub vs. Verbatim MediaShare Wireless

You may recall my quest for the perfect mobile backup strategy for photographs taken while on a long walk. 

First there was the Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2, a nice, compact, lightweight means of transferring image files from my SD cards to flash drives. Unfortunately, the backups have proven to be unreliable with the MobileLite often stalling or freezing mid-transfer. 

That led to the MediaShare Wireless by Verbatim (about CDN $32), also compact and lightweight and successful in backing up my camera cards to flash drives. My review was quite glowing. But I became frustrated with the software. First, it took far too long for Verbatim to upgrade the software to iOS 11. And once it did, I could not get the app to upload photos from my SD card to my iPad. That led to a two month long email debacle with Verbatim support that, in the end, provided no answer.                                                  

That frustration led me to the FileHub RP-WD03 by RavPower (about CDN $50). It’s very similar to the Verbatim unit. It has a slot for USB flash drives or hard drives and another for an SD card. It connects by wifi with an iPad, iPhone or Android device and a dedicated app. Verbatim has its MediaShare app and RavPower has the FileHub Plus app.

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Verbatim MediaShare (left), RavPower FileHub (top)

Here’s the curious thing. Both apps are very obviously from the same developer. There are some small but important differences, which I will delve into shortly. Otherwise, they look and function identically, aside from the graphics on their home screens and slightly different icons. In fact, working with the FileHub Plus app helped me solve my Verbatim software woes! Now they both work as advertised! 

So I thought I would do a comparative review of the MediaShare Wireless and the FileHub so you can decide which of these two very similar backup solutions might work for you.

To start, you may want to view my YouTube video overview of the FileHuB and MediaShare Wireless:

 

The FileHub unit

It’s a stubby, thick unit compared to the flat MediaShare Wireless, a little less pocket friendly. But it’s no less compact. It weighs in at 142 grams, very similar to the MediaShare at 110 grams. Both have built in batteries but the FileHub has a large 6,000 mAh one compared to the 3,000 mAh MediaShare battery. Both have their unique arrays of blinking LEDs displaying unit status. The FileHub is slightly better in displaying battery status at 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100% charge. 

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The FileHub with USB flash drive and SD card inserted. Home screen of the FileHub Plus app is in the background.

The FileHub also has an ethernet connector for those places that still have a wired LAN connection. This turns the unit into a wireless router for all those smartphones and tablets you need to connect. I will admit that wifi is near universal these days but I have run into at least two hotels—one in Japan and one in Canada—that only had wired service. So it is a handy feature to have. The MediaShare does not have an ethernet connector.

The MediaShare and FileHub can also act as wifi bridge routers. The FileHub, for example, will ordinarily set up a private wifi network between the FileHub unit and my iPhone or iPad. But it can be set up to also bridge with a local wifi network, such as a hotel’s wifi. That allows the iPad I am using to not only connect to the FileHub but to the local hotel network as well. And any other phones or tablets in my hotel room can also connect to the local network via the FileHub’s locked, password-protected network. If the hotel has wonky wifi reception, the FileHub can be positioned where the reception is strongest—perhaps near a door—to improve the signal strength in the rest of the room. 

The Apps

As mentioned above, the apps for both devices are identical…with a few important functional differences. Here is my backup workflow using the FileHub and an iPad, but the MediaShare workflow is the same:

  1. Turn on the FileHub. On the iPad select the FileHub Plus network in Settings>Wifi. Open the FileHub Plus app (download the free FileHub Plus and MediaShare apps from the App Store).
  2. Insert an SD card (with images) and a USB flash drive in the FileHub unit. Icons for each will appear on the FileHub Plus home screen. 
  3. Hit the Files icon and the USB and SD file folders should appear on a new screen. Navigate to your images on the SD card. 
  4. Note that not all images will be displayed, only the first 100-200 on your card. To open them all, scroll down until you see Pull Up to Load More and do so to load the next 100-200 images. You need to do this over and over again until you get the All Data Loaded message. A full 64GB SD card could take 8 minutes to fully load, a mind-numbing exercise. But it is absolutely essential if you intend to backup everything on your card.
  5. Now hit Select and the Select All. If you didn’t load all of your images as described above, only those first 100-200 images will be backed up.
  6. Hit the Copy To icon at the bottom left corner. At the top of the next screen, hit Internal Storage and select External Storage from the drop down menu. Select your USB drive, create a new folder if you wish, select that folder and then hit Paste in the bottom right corner.
  7. The next screen will display all the image files to be backed up. There are three columns: Transferring…, Transfer Complete, Transfer Failed.

The FileHub Plus app will not tell you how many transfers have been completed or how many failed until the entire process is completed. The MediaShare is considerably better. It indicates the number of image files transferring, the number of transfers completed and number that have failed on an on-going basis. This is extremely helpful feedback while patiently waiting for the transfer to be completed—which may take hours.

The MediaShare app, showing the transfer screen. The FileHub app is near-identical except it does not  show the number of files to be transferred or completed.

The MediaShare app, showing the transfer screen. The FileHub app is near-identical except it does not show the number of files to be transferred or completed.

The MediaShare also indicates the number of images loaded in Step 4, above. By noting the number of images on the SD card before taking it out of the camera, you can double-check that all the images have been loaded into the MediaShare app before starting the backup process. 

The FileHub does not indicate how many image files are loaded into the FileHub Plus app so there is no sure way to confirm that all images have been loaded and are ready for the backup process. Although my tests have shown that the All Data Loaded notification that pops up in the FileHub Plus app is a reliable indicator that all images will be backed up, I would prefer the reassurance of an actual number.  

The MediaShare app wins when it comes to useful feedback.

Performance

It can take a long time to back up a full SD card. No doubt the slow USB 2 interface of both devices plays a role. Both the FileHub and MediaShare took 4.37 hours to back up 25.7 GB of images to a 64 GB flash drive.  That works out to 0.1 GB/minute. Make sure both the FileHub/MediaShare and iPhone/iPad are plugged into their chargers during the process. It also makes the case for using smaller capacity 32 MB SD cards to keep the backup time to a reasonable 5-6 hours.

It’s also wise to back up to a larger capacity flash drive. For example, use a 64 MB flash drive to back up a 32 MB SD card. It seems that SD cards come close to filling their advertised capacity (say 32 GB) whereas the same-sized flash drive has slightly less space available, meaning a number of images will fail to transfer because the flash drive is full.

Both the FileHub and the MediaShare can do incremental backups from an SD card. It does this by simply overwriting any image files that are already backed up. A dialogue box will open asking if you want to replace an image and there is a checkbox that allows you to apply this as a batch process.

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FileHub app. This dialogue box allows the app to overwrite files already on the USB drive when doing an incremental backup. Note the FileHub transfer screen in the background, which does not show the number of images transferred or to be transferred.

Both devices will back up raw, jpeg and png image files as well as mp4, mov and m4v video files. However, there is no image preview for raw files on iPhones and iPads.

Editing

While on the road, I like to edit photos on my iPad using Lightroom CC (LR). Both the FileHub and the MediaShare can transfer image files from an SD card or flash drive to the Camera Roll on an iPad. Neither will copy raw files, apparently an iOS limitation. However, FileHub Plus will share a raw file to the Camera Roll. Just click the Share button and select Save Image. 

The MediaShare app has no Save Image option in its Share menu, so there is no way to transfer raw images to an iPad.

Clicking on a jpeg file brings up a full-screen preview in both apps. While viewing the preview, FileHub Plus will copy the image to an iPad’s Camera Roll. The MediaShare app does not allow this. Instead images must be selected from the list of images—with tiny thumbnails—and copied to the Camera Roll from there.   

The FileHub has a significant advantage for LR users. Because I capture both raw and jpeg in-camera, I can preview the jpeg in the FileHub Plus app, note the file name, go back to the list view, select the adjacent raw image with the same file name (raw files have no preview images, as mentioned above), hit the Share button and then select Lightroom to directly transfer the image to the All Images folder in the Lightroom CC app, ready for editing. The process is convoluted, to be sure, but it only takes 20-25 seconds from selecting a jpeg preview to downloading its companion raw file into Lightroom.

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FileHub Plus app, iPhone version. File hub allows me to transfer raw files (Olympus uses the .orf suffix) to the iPad’s Camera Roll via Save Image or directly to Lightroom CC. Neither option appears in the MediaShare’s Share menu.

Once again, the MediaShare app does not allow this. LR does nor appear as an option in its Share menu.

A workaround is to use the MediaShare only as a backup device and rely on other methods for transferring images to an iPad for editing. For example, many cameras have an app that will do this. The Olympus OI.Share will quickly transfer jpegs to my iPad’s Camera Roll. Unfortunately it will not transfer raw images. Another option is the Cascable Pro app (CDN $40 in the App Store). Among several very useful camera controls it offers, it will transfer raw images directly from a camera (a wide range are supported, including my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II) to an iPad or iPhone.

Conclusions

For my purposes, the RawPower FileHub is the clear winner. On the hardware side, it has a much larger battery, can connect to a wired LAN network yet weighs just 32 grams more than the Verbatim MediaShare. 

But it is the software where the FileHub shines. Yes, the MediaShare app provides superior feedback by displaying the number of images loaded, in transfer, successfully transferred and failed. Otherwise, the FileHub Plus offers significantly better editing functionality. I like that I can quickly scan full-screen previews and directly download images to my Camera Roll or Lightroom. And the ability to download the occasional difficult image in raw format will be very helpful. 

Admittedly, I have not used raw images in the field. Jpegs are quicker and easier to work with and the image quality is more than adequate for blogging purposes. But there are times—particularly night or interior shots with mixed lighting or high dynamic range subjects—when the flexibility of a raw image would be useful. So I look forward to future walks and the ability to work with raw images to massage those tricky lighting conditions. Using the FileHub, of course.

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