Kingston Workflow Station and Readers
A clever answer to port-challenged PCs and Macs. Delivers up to eight ports with four reader modules installed. Requires smart drive management and someone paying attention to the drives to keep things straight. The power supply includes international adapters.
For those looking to bring in big files in the field, Kingston created the Kingston Workflow Station and modular readers for supporting input from SD cards and USB sticks. Overall, the concept works well, but as an ecosystem, it lacks a couple of features, like an SSD-sized module.
What we like
The $129.99 four-bay Kingston Workflow Station delivers a super hub for reading and writing to mobile storage devices. Mobile is an important distinction. The Workflow Station assumes some larger consolidating device. Most will connect the Workflow Station to a laptop or desktop, with a local HD or external HD as the consolidation point. Those designing an image, video, or audio workflow need to keep in mind their target and ensure the availability of space for content.
When plugged into power and USB-C (or optionally USB-A), the Kingston Workflow Station cranks with USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds. With four modules in place, the Workflow Station will mount up to eight memory sticks or SD cards. Kingston sells separate modules for USB-A/C, SD and microSD. The SD module works with microSD cards in adapters, but that just means one more thing to get lost on a shoot. The individual modules can be used without the station, and without power, via USB-C. They run $34.99 each.
Unlike cloud-based consolidation approaches, the Workflow Station does not require wired or wireless network connections to work. The physically connected device speedily transfers files and reformats in anticipation of the next scene or podcast.
Each stick or card mounts as a separate drive. A blue LED indicates that the drive is mounted. When ejected, the blue light goes out to indicate the drive or card can be safely removed.
Because of the possible configurations, the Workflow Station ships with a pretty large power supply to ensure an array of storage devices will mount on a Mac or PC. International adaptors come in the box, eliminating the need to procure additional power hardware.
What could be improved
The overall design proves clever as an alternative to port-challenged computers and anemic USB-C hubs. But Kingston didn’t go far enough, at least not yet. The company should design a workflow compatible SSD, which would easily fit into the module size, and just as easily draw power from the hub or via USB in standalone mode. That was a big miss.
In the media world, standard USB devices do not make up the entirety of devices used on a shoot. Proprietary formats, like the RED Mini-MAG, will also likely appear during production. It would be ideal if Kingston could support those formats as well. If they don’t, and the proprietary nature of RED means Kingston will not likely support the format, then productions with mixed devices will require a secondary hub. As much as Workflow Station significantly increases the ports available on one or two-port PCs, it may still not do enough when specialty formats are in play.
While the power supply proves necessary to power a hub of this stature, it does mean that the full advantage of the Workflow Station can’t be had in the field unless you bring your own power. As noted, the individual modules will work with only power from the connected PC.
Kingston Workflow Station Lessons Learned
It’s pretty impressive when a large number of devices light up on a PC or Mac. Mounting the devices, however, is just the first step in moving files around. Unfortunately, in their default state, the sticks and cards mount as anonymous USB devices, and as they get moved around, they may be assigned different drive IDs over time. That means confusion in the workflow over where to locate the files one needs.
So the biggest lesson learned during the evaluations is to name your drives, sticks, and cards, so they appear as unique devices when mounted. If workflow initiates at the station, the production coordinator or producer should consider mounting and naming the drive before handing them out to the audio, video, or production teams. If devices come in from a variety of freelance talent, make sure named drives, ideally with the owner’s name as a component, should be highlighted on the project’s instructions. This becomes especially critical when trying to figure out which device to eject.
While it might require some fancy firmware and driver work, an alternative would be for the modules to include a unique name inherited by the mounted drive. Slots on the modules could be numbered. This would result, for instance, in Dan_Module_1_Drive_A.
It is also highly suggested that the workflow include backup before redistributing the devices. A single good copy remains susceptible to the woes of power spikes, dust, and cosmic rays. When copying a file to the production storage device, consider taking a copy to an auxiliary device just in case. Once back online, with files backed up to the cloud, the backup copies can be deleted. This is another good reason for Kingston to consider their own high-capacity module and perhaps software that backs up anything stuck into a module bay by default. Capacity will be an issue, but backup is important to raw content when first created.
As for the lack of an SSD module, the USB-A module does support a standard SSD HD with a USB-A cable. I connected a SanDisk 250GB Extreme 800 drive to a USB-A input, and it quickly mounted. Reading and writing worked well.
Kingston Workflow Station: Bottom Line
Kingston reimagined the storage hub for the demands of the 21st century. The Kingston Workflow Station’s hub design proves a workable solution in most circumstances, but a few features, like a compatible SSD module, would be nice.
There is a reason workflow includes the word work in it. Even though the Kingston Workflow Station does create a better operating environment for those coordinating the collection of audio, video, and image files, it doesn’t eliminate the work of tracking which drives have been backed up, who they belong to, which ones need formatted, etc. They make all of that faster, and it’s easier when looking at mounted drives than a stack of opaque storage devices sitting on a desk, but it still takes work.
Memory cards and memory sticks used during evaluation
Kingston provided the Workflow Station and modules for review.
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