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ADATA DashDrive Durable UD320 OTG Review

We are living in a time where the storage space on a smartphone can put to shame a server from 10 years ago… and it is not so hard to understand why when we have 13, 21 or 40MP shooters on smartphones, full HD capabilities can be found in entry-level smartphones and the top dogs are shooting 4K. I still remember the times before the multimedia revolution, when an HDD had a couple of GB and portable storage was being born, with “huge” capacities like 64MB for an USB stick or a CF card.

Fast forward to the present and any smartphone above mainstream has at least 16GB of storage, not to speak about the 32GB or 64GB versions of the high-end monsters. And for those who still don’t have enough space, micro SD cards can accommodate up to 128GB of materials and USB sticks can even go as high as 1TB. And as the need for more and more space rose, manufacturers quickly saw the opportunity to make more money by selling something not that expensive for a quite healthy price tag. The price difference between the 16GB version of a phone and the 32/64GB version of the same phone can go from 50 USD to as high as 100 USD, or even more.

And that is not the main problem, because you can easily insert an affordable 32GB micro SD card in most phones. But when you have manufacturers trying to make you pay more than you should on storage space, on one side, and service giants like Google or Microsoft trying to lure you into the cloud on the other side, the not so pretty result is that more and more phones don’t come with a micro SD card slot anymore. So you either have to pay extra bucks when you purchase the phone so you have the 32GB or 64Gb version, or you have to use a cloud service.

And while I am in no way against the “cloud revolution”, there are situations when you will not want or you will not be able to use such services. Maybe you don’t trust the big brother with your sensitive data, maybe you don’t have an internet connection where you are going, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that when you don’t have enough space on your phone anymore and you cannot use a memory card and you don’t want or can’t use a cloud service, you need an alternative.

Enter the scene good guy USB association, who has been working on the USB On The Go (OTG) standard starting as far as 2001… What is USB OTG? Well, we are talking about a standard that allows a device to work as master or slave depending on the situation. For instance a smartphone is in most cases a slave device – you connect it to your desktop or notebook and it can charge or transfer files. However, thanks to the OTG protocol, a smartphone can also be a master device for a memory stick, an external hard drive, a mouse, a keyboard… and even another smartphone (charge only).

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, it actually is, but that does not mean that there are no trouble in paradise. OTG support has been introduced in Android since Honeycomb (3.1) and all devices that come with Android 4.1 or higher support OTG. That does not mean that this option is active on all devices, since some manufacturers choose to block it. Fortunately, USB OTG support has become an interesting box to tick in a marketing brochure, so more and more manufacturers are making sure their devices are USB OTG certified. Taking that into consideration, it was just a matter of time for the memory manufacturers to seize the opportunity and offer devices that take advantage of this type of connection. And that is exactly the type of product we are discussing today, namely ADATA UD320 OTG.

Intro


ADATA DashDrive Durable UD320 OTG is an all in one solution, comprised of an USB OTG adapter and an USB stick. The product is delivered in the standard ADATA package and there is nothing else in the box except for the product itself. I would have appreciate it if there were some clear instructions on the box regarding what you need to do in order for OTG to work, but the information on the package is mainly specifications and company data.

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As you would expect, ADATA UD320 OTG is rather small and stylish, and the 3 parts (cap, OTG adapter, USB stick) go together perfectly. The “DashDrive Durable” part of the name is not there just for marketing purpose. Being manufactured through a special chip-on-board (COB) process, the product is water and shock resistant and is covered by ADATA’s lifetime warranty.

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 ADATA UD320 OTG
Capacity16GB / 32GB
ColorBlack
Size40 x 15 x 8mm
Weight8g
Interface USB 2.0
System requirementsAndroid 4.1 or higher
Price16 USD / 25 USD

ADATA UD320 OTG comes in one color version (black) and two storage capacity versions (16GB and 32GB). The product weights in just 8g and it uses the USB 2.0 interface. The best part about this type of solution can be easily seen by taking a look at the price tag – 16 USD for 16GB or 25 USD for 32GB… not quite what the phone manufacturers are asking for a bump in storage space, right?

But there is also another good part about ADATA UD320 OTG – yes, it comes as an all in one solution but that does not mean that you cannot use the adapter with other devices (for instance a bigger memory stick that you already own or a mouse, keyboard, etc). Just make sure that your device does not need more then 500 mA to function properly.

Specs


As I said, not all Android smartphones support OTG devices, even if the guys from ADATA claim that their device is compatible with any Android 4.q or higher device. In order to see if your device can work as an OTG host you can use one of the apps from Play Store specially made for this purpose (USB OTG Checker, etc).

Another thing – if you want OTG to work on your smartphone you must make sure that the USB Debugging option in the Developer menu is ticked off. If your Developer menu is not unlocked, go to the “About” section in the settings, search for “Build number” and tap it 5 times to unlock the Developer menu.

Once you have disabled USB Debugging you can connect the device to your micro SD port. On most phones, under the “Storage” section from Settings you will find a USB section after you connect the device. The phone will either mount the USB stick automatically or you can mount it manually from settings. If that does not work or you simply don’t have such an option in your menu, you can use an app like StickMount to manually mount your USB OTG device for the first time (the app can do it automatically after that). Be careful though, StickMount, like most USB mount applications, requires a rooted device.

Once the stick is mounted you can browse it using your phone’s File Manager. If the standard File Manager does not see the newly added USB memory, you can use a more advance program like ES File Explorer. You should know that in most cases only FAT32 formatted USB sticks can be used with an OTG adapter so you cannot use files bigger then 4GB.


For the testing part I thought that a real life situation would be suitable for most users, so I used an HTC One Max (4.4.2, HTC Sense 6) as a host smartphone and a regular Ivy Bridge notebook for testing the USB stick capabilities.

I tested the USB stick on the notebook first, with a synthetic benchmark (ATTO) but also with two real life copying tests (450MB folder with 163 photographs and a 325MB video recorded with the smartphone). After that, I repeated the real life copying tests using the smartphone.

Testbed

As you can see, the USB stick is a regular USB 2.0 stick and my notebook has a regular USB 2.0 connector so the speeds are nothing to brag about (Read / Write – 15/12 MB/s for small files and 24/16 MB/s for large files)

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However, the speeds are pretty consistent even when I use the smartphone, so you can easily use the stick to copy files or to play music straight from the USB stick. Full HD playback can work depending on the codec used for the file and the bitrate. If the bitrate is lower then 20 MB/s then you shouldn’t have a problem playing videos directly from the USB stick.

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As I mentioned before, you can also use ADATA UD320 OTG for other purposes. You can connect a bigger USB stick you already own (I used another USB stick from ADATA for this, the UD310/32GB), or you can connect a mouse ( I used a Logitech wireless mouse to test this and everything went flawless) or a keyboard.

You can also connect a card reader so you can empty the card from your camera to your phone if it gets full (but not all models are supported) and in the case of an emergency you can charge one phone from the host (the charging process will be slow though, due to the 500 mA limitation).

From my point of view, expanding your phone’s storage is a big plus, especially when you can do it for 16/25 USD. Also, if you have to write an important email and you don’t want to use the touch keyboard, connecting an USB keyboard via OTG and eventually using a Miracast adapter to send the image to a large screen TV can be a very comfortable solution.

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So kids, what did we learn today? Well, first of all we learned that even when we don’t have a micro SD connector on our smartphone and we don’t use cloud storage we can still extend the storage of our smartphone for a very reasonable price. Paying 25 USD for 32GB extra is a bargaining if you ask me, even if there are a few downsides to this solution.

If you plan to buy such a device, you should check first if your smartphone or tablet supports OTG, and you should also know that using an OTG USB solution is not as comfortable as using a micro SD card. You cannot leave the stick inside all the time or use it to listen to music while you jog. However, if you have an OTG enabled smartphone, you can use this type of solution to listen to some music while you barbecue (there are a lot of affordable portable speakers out there especially for this type of activities) or you can watch a movie or two on the plane or train even if you don’t have enough space on your phone.

You can also use such an adapter to connect peripherals like mice or keyboards, gamepads or card readers. And even if we used ADATA UD320 OTG as an example, there are a whole lot of other devices like this out there from most of the memory manufacturers. And if you already own a large USB stick you can simply buy an adapter cable for 5 USD and get on with it.

With supplement documentation added by the USB association for both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards, the future is looking quite bright for this type of products, but I feel that we still have to see most smartphones and tablet manufacturers embrace OTG to assure compatibility on most products. In case you were wondering, OTG support is not only a software issue but also a hardware issue (most MediaTek solutions at the moment are not OTG enabled, for instance) so before we cheer for the possibility of expanding our memory for a really affordable price we should make sure that we have a device capable of such a thing.

However, for the lucky guys who own a smartphone or tablet that can act as an OTG host (most Samsung, HTC and LG devices for instance) such a solution is something to be taken into consideration if you like watching a lot of movies or using a keyboard to write your emails. And with most of the big memory players entering the OTG game, we can be sure that we can find a plethora of devices like ADATA UD320 OTG on the market, with good performance and reasonable prices.

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