A few weeks ago, the folks at RavPower asked if I’d like to do a livestream review on their Facebook group for the newest version of their FileHub travel router/battery pack/micro-NAS device.
You can find the video of that 25 minute session here on Facebook. Skip to 4 minutes in, and excuse the terrible laptop audio artifacts.
Note: the promo code for the FileHub expired, although they do post occasional promos and giveaways on their Facebook group. You can still purchase through this link and possibly get an Amazon native coupon for a few bucks off.
I also talked about their newest “PD Pioneer” 20100mAh Power Delivery charging bank on another live stream on May 8th, There’s a very generous promo code for that battery as well, through June 8th, which should be stackable with the native Amazon coupon.
See part one: “Introduction and Overview” for an explanation of the concept of a travel router and what you might look for in one. Watch for part three coming soon.
Disclosure: RavPower provided the review unit at no cost to me, and will provide a commission for any sales through my promo code. They also shared some use cases to focus on, but did not preview or edit the livestream or this post.
WHAT’S WITH THIS RAVPOWER FILEHUB YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT?
So first of all, here it is on Amazon. It’s $59.99 as I write this, with a $3 coupon on Amazon (and I’ve seen $4 coupons in the past month). Through May 11, 2019, you can use coupon code 8TYFTXPV to save a bit over $12, bringing your cost down to around $47.
The FileHub WD009 is (I believe) Ravpower’s third generation travel router. I’ve used the first generation (WD02, no longer available on Amazon) and they have a WD03 “FileHub Plus” model that’s available internationally with 802.11n wireless connectivity.
If you can’t acquire the WD009 (sorry to the Aussies in particular), the WD03 is a good deal at $43. It is single-band like the WD008 “FileHub Nano“, so no option for 5GHz band, and I’d expect it to be a little bit slower (and with no one-touch backup option–we’ll discuss this later). It does have the same 6700mAh battery built in.
The Nano is 300mbit 802.11n in a smaller form factor, but it does not have a battery, so you need to plug it into a Micro-USB power source to use it. See below for some battery pack suggestions to power it on the go.
Looking at the WD009 FileHub, we see five indicators on the front: Internet, Wireless, 5G (which is 5GHz, not 5G Cellular), SD Card, and Battery. Just around the corner from the row of LEDs is the power button. Press once to enable charging, hold down for about three seconds to turn on the router.
On the opposite side of the FileHub, there’s a WiFi setting button, an SD card slot, and a one-touch backup button.
On the top is a rubber cover protecting the three remaining ports: Ethernet, Micro-USB for charging the battery, and USB-A for connecting a storage device or a mobile device to charge.
The battery pack is 6700mAh with 1A output at 5V, good for emergency charging or for simply operating the FileHub itself. It does charge at 2A so if you plug it in overnight or even over lunch you should be good to go all day.
HOW WOULD I USE THE FILEHUB?
The basic use case is as a travel router. Charge the device fully using the included USB-to-MIcroUSB cable (or any MicroUSB cable you have) and your own 2A charger. You can charge with a lower power source like a 1A USB adapter, a battery pack, or a computer USB port, but it may charge more slowly.
While you’re doing this, download the RAV FileHub app from your app store. There is another Ravpower Filehub app (“FileHub Plus”) but RavPower recommends using the one I named earlier. You can do basic management over the web interface, but the app will be more useful.
Then turn the FileHub on, connect your mobile device to the FileHub’s SSID (probably RAV-FileHub-2G-xxxx), using the default password in the documentation.
You may (and should) change the default credentials in the Settings (gear icon) menu. Go to “WiFi_Disk Settings” for the options you’re likely to use.
LAN Settings will let you adjust your internal network range and netmask. You can choose your Internet uplink (Wi-Fi) from the “Internet Settings” menu. Wi-Fi Settings and WiFi_Disk Settings(5G) will let you set each band’s SSID, visibility, authentication mode, and password/key, as well as testing transfer speeds from your phone to the FileHub on each band.
System Settings is where you would set administrative access to the FileHub and view disk settings for it.
If you are using an Ethernet uplink, you don’t need to choose the network; it will come up automatically with DHCP. If a portal login is needed, you can do that from any client connected to the FileHub.
At this point, assuming you’ve successfully connected an uplink over WiFi or Ethernet, your client device(s) will be able to access the Internet.
WHAT MORE CAN I DO WITH THIS FILEHUB?
One of the cool functions of the FileHub is serving as a micro-NAS (Network Attached Storage). With its USB and SD card slots, you can easily connect up to 3.25 terabytes of storage and access it bidirectionally from any client connected to its access point.
The SD slot is fairly obvious, supporting SDXC up to 256GB according to the specs (it might take larger cards, but larger SD cards are still rather pricy and rare). You can use this to share files from digital cameras, drones, GoPros, driver cams, etc. If your device uses a MicroSD card, just use the adapter that probably came with it. Some other esoteric formats also have SD adapters, and should work.
In addition to offering up to 5 watts of charging power, the USB slot supports USB storage in the form of a flash drive, an external SSD, or even an external HDD. The specs say they support up to 3TB. One thing to take into consideration is that larger hard drives may take more power, and if the drive cannot be powered with 5 watts, it may not work.
That being said, I tried a Sandisk Ultra flash drive, a 250GB Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD, and two portable hard drives: a Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive (2TB) and a WD MyPassport Ultra (2TB). They all worked, although the MyPassport Ultra took longer to be recognized, because of size and higher power draw. If you’re putting a lot through the WiFi, the MyPassport Ultra probably would not work.
If you have a choice, I’d go with an external SSD of some sort; if you don’t need a lot of capacity, a low profile USB flash drive like the Sandisk Ultra Fit would be good too, and would be less likely to be snapped off if you drop the router. Not that I’ve done that more than a few times with various devices.
The FileHub does support DLNA for media streaming, but I have not tested that functionality yet.
WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT ONE-TOUCH BACKUP?
Now why would you want a SD card and a USB drive? That’s where one-touch backup comes in, with that button on the side of the router. With an SD card and a USB drive installed, you can press that button for a few seconds and the FileHub will automatically copy the entire SD card into a datestamped folder on the USB drive (whether flash or SSD or HDD).
You can then access all the files through the RavPower app, and can erase/format your SD card in your device and start over at the device level. The FileHub will not wipe the SD card, so you could leave files on it if you choose.
BUT THIS FILEHUB CAN’T DO EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE
The FileHub is a great device, but it is not everything for everyone, although it’s a very good mix of features, price, and performance.
If you only want the battery pack functionality, don’t buy the FileHub. You’d do better buying a standalone battery pack, like Ravpower’s 16750mAh iSmart pack at about $35, the 10000mAh iSmart pack at about $20, and the 45W 20100mAh PD Pioneer USB C power pack at about $55. There are excellent options from the other brands I’ve talked about before (like ZMI, Anker, and Aukey), but I figured I’d share some of the RavPower options here since we’re talking about their gear.
On the livestream in April, one watcher asked if the FileHub could be used as an ethernet bridge (gaming bridge), connecting a wired device to a WiFi network. RavPower support confirmed to me that this is not supported on the FileHub. So if you want to connect a wired gaming console, an ancient laptop, a server, or another Ethernet-only device to hotel WiFi, you’ll want a different device (stay tuned for a future blog post about one prospect for this).
Another use case is cellular hotspot functionality. You can get a USB modem from most cell carriers and connect it to compatible devices to share the cellular connection across multiple wifi devices. Combined with WiFi calling, this can offer a great option for people traveling outside their home cell carrier’s service region. Alas, this functionality is not offered on the FileHub either.
The last non-use case I would point out, at the risk of absurd obviousness, is that you probably don’t want to use this device as a primary home router. You’re limited to about 433mbit wireless (I saw about 100mbit myself in a residential area with lots of APs), and if you’re uplinking to an Ethernet connection (like a cablemodem or DSL modem), you have no option for additional Ethernet connections like a printer or a home NAS.
These are all niche use cases that disqualify the RavPower FileHub devices. But for 95% or more of the people who can use a travel router, I expect the FileHub will meet their needs. If you need Ethernet bridging or cellular hotspot functionality, watch this blog for an upcoming review of another product that is advertised to support both use cases.
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
I found the RavPower FileHub to be a very usable and convenient device at a reasonable price (even better with my discount code of course). The supported features will meet most people’s needs while traveling. RavPower has been around for many years–I bought my first product of theirs in 2014–and their support has been responsive in the rare instance that I needed it.
I’m comfortable recommending it to friends and colleagues, and I had actually given a number of the WD02 devices to coworkers as gifts, even before connecting with the company for these reviews.
This is the second part in a three part series on travel hubs. Check out the first part that gave a high level overview of the technology, and keep an eye out for the third part covering another vendor’s travel hub that provides cellular hotspot and Ethernet bridging functionality.
Remember to jump on the promo code if you do choose to buy the FileHub WD009. Use this link to Amazon. It’s $59.99 as I write this, with a $3 coupon on Amazon (and I’ve seen $4 coupons in the past month). Through May 11, 2019, you can use coupon code 8TYFTXPV to save a bit over $12, bringing your cost down to around $47. When the discount expires, I’ll remove references to it then; you can probably still get $3-4 off with the Amazon coupons.
And as an aside, don’t be too confused if you see more than one name for RavPower, or if your item is shown on Amazon as “sold by HooToo and fulfilled by Amazon” or the like. The manufacturing company is Shenzhen NearbyExpress Technology Development Co Ltd (as seen on the mobile app and the back of the device), and their worldwide operations are under the umbrella Sunvalley Brands (that’s the name the Amazon shipments come from too).
They actually have several product brands at the moment. These brands include Taotronics (focused on headsets), Ravpower (power devices including travel routers and chargers), Anjou (personal products like oil diffusers), VAVA (audio devices like speakers), HooToo (routers, port adapters, and more), USpicy (health and beauty products), and Sable (health products like braces and pillows).
I’ve seen some crossover between Ravpower and HooToo on their website (downloads on the Ravpower site come from HooToo, for example) so they seem closely integrated despite the different brand names.