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Hitachi announces G-Connect storage, wireless-access device

Wish your iPad or iPod could hold more media? That your hotel room's Internet connection was wireless? That you had a portable Time Machine drive when traveling? Hitachi's upcoming G-Connect Wireless Storage with Internet Access for iPad, announced Wednesday, offers a solution to all these challenges and more in one compact package.

The white, handheld-size G-Connect contains a 500GB 2.5-inch hard drive for storing your files, but the device is much more than a portable hard drive. For starters, the G-Connect includes Wi-Fi hardware for creating a local wireless network and software for providing network access to the drive's contents. Connect your computer to this network, and the G-Connect shows up (thanks to support for Bonjour networking) as both a network drive and a browser-accessible file server with public and private folders; connect an iOS device to the network and, using a free app available on the iOS App Store, you can stream to your iOS device any photos, music, and video stored on the drive. Hitachi claims the G-Connect can stream up to five standard-definition (SD) videos or three high-definition (HD) videos simultaneously.

Software on the G-Connect automatically indexes the contents of the drive; when you connect via a Web browser or iOS app, those contents are automatically categorized as music, video, photos, or documents, making it easier to browse for particular items. The G-Connect also supports iTunes Sharing, showing up as a shared library in iTunes and on the Apple TV for convenient media streaming, and it can also stream to DLNA-certified players.

Unlike similar products that have recently been announced, the G-Connect can also connect, via Ethernet, to a local wired network, acting as a bridge between that network and devices connected wirelessly to the G-Connect. In other words, if you connect a G-Connect to a network via Ethernet, any device connected wirelessly to the G-Connect will be able to access other computers and volumes on that network—and even access the Internet. When traveling, this means the G-Connect can turn the wired Internet connection in your hotel or meeting room into WPA-2-protected wireless Internet access for all your computing devices. (Hitachi says the G-Connect's wireless network has a range of 150 feet. The company's PR material says the devices supports "up to five" wireless devices, but Hitachi told Macworld that the G-Connect actually supports more—the five-computer limit refers to the number of devices that can stream video simultaneously.)

Finally, if you connect the G-Connect directly to your computer via a USB cable, the G-Connect acts as a standard USB hard drive that's compatible with Time Machine for on-the-go backups. When connected via USB to your computer, the G-Connect is powered by that USB connection; otherwise, you power the G-Connect using the included USB AC adapter.

You can configure the G-Connect's WiFi-network settings using any Web browser. The G-Connect's WiFi and indexing software reside on flash memory, so you can reformat the G-Connect's hard drive without losing that software or any settings.

The G-Connect will be available in July for $200.

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