At first glance, the Air Bank looks inconspicuously like an external 2.5” drive, similar to Corsair's Voyager Air and Seagate's Wireless Plus. That is indeed part of the story; you can buy PQI's Air Bank in two versions: with a 500 GB or 1 TB disk drive built-in. PQI sent us the 500 GB model, which isn't widely available online. However, the 1 TB model goes for around $190 on Amazon.
Connect the drive to your PC the old-fashioned way, through a USB 3.0 cable, and you'll enjoy transfer rates similar to what Corsair and Seagate offer. But the Air Bank is, as its name implies, more than just an external USB 3.0-attached drive. It can also be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot, or as portable storage space for smartphones and tablets. That functionality is enabled through an 802.11b/g/n controller and 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet port. You can use the latter to connect the Air Bank to a switch or router. In hotspot mode, PQI supports up to five simultaneous users.
If you're accessing the Air Bank through a mobile device, you'll want PQI's free app for iOS, Android, and Kindle. On a PC, you can use the Web-based front-end to access your data, though not through the SMB protocol; the Air Bank does not function as a network-attached storage device. This prevented us from benchmarking it with CrystalDiskMark. When we used other metrics to measure download performance, we came up with about 4 MB/s. That's good enough for video streaming, but not enough to service several folks at the same time.
Our hands-on time with PQI's Air Bank+ software wasn't particularly compelling either. Aside from a rushed-looking UI, it seemed unnecessarily complicated to use. Take music streaming, for example. All audio files are shown in one list. Meta data support is absent, and the sorting is automatically alphabetical. Try finding a song if you have more than a few albums stored. In comparison, Corsair's Voyager Air shows the directory structure, avoiding the same issue. But we like the Seagate Wireless Plus' GUI best. It lets you sort music by album title, artist, or genre, similar to iTunes.