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With all the technology surrounding smaller, faster, and more powerful mobile devices these days, one aspect of mobile technology that continues to expand is the need for storage. Many smartphone users lament at the fact that their storage options are limited to the onboard storage of the phones. Many more seek out mobile devices that include an SD or microSD card slot so that storage can be expanded. Still more have turned to external portable storage units to expand their needs.
Why the sudden need for more storage? Social media is the biggest offender. Some end-users pack their phones with endless photos (come on, admit it—you have a few selfies on your smartphone), while other budding photographers, enjoying the increasingly complex camera options of new high-end phones, soon find their libraries filled with photos.
Streaming services are great for some, but others want their music permanently available to them, so they don’t have to cycle through in-app advertisements or slowdowns when the connection isn’t ideal. Music libraries average out at about 1MB per minute for a 128Kbps bit rate. For a standard 3+ minute song, that’s about 5MB per song. Add 150 songs, and say goodbye to internal storage.
And then there are movies. Streaming a movie will suck up a sizable chunk of your data plan, but storing movies—even those that are compressed—eats up the precious space on your smartphone or tablet quickly. Additional SD devices will help, but what if you want to access more files and share them with those around you?
Toshiba introduces the Canvio AeroMobile Wireless SSD, which will help to alleviate much of the glut around stored files. The Canvio AeroMobile is a combination of two technologies: state-of-the-art solid-state drive technology, and integrated Wi-Fi.
As a solid-state drive, the 128GB capacity drive does what solid-state drives do best: They produce less heat than traditional spindle drives, they use Flash technology to access data faster, and because they have no moving parts, they’re quieter, as well. When transferring data to the drive using the included transfer cable, we moved 50GB of data in about six minutes, far quicker than the same amount of data being transferred to our 7200 rpm spindle drive, which took about 32 minutes. We also transferred a variety of files—movie, music and documents—and the transfer times were impressive across the boards. The movies took a little longer than the music, but still surpassed what we experienced with the hard drive.
There’s also a built-in SD card slot for even more expansion. We added a 64GB SD card, bringing the total capacity to 192GB, which is far more than you’ll ever see on your phone or tablet. The files on the SD card can be accessed through the same menu with which you access your wireless SSD—more on that in a minute. We did not test 128GB or 256GB SD cards, mainly because of the cost. The cost of a 256GB SD card is almost twice the cost of the Aeromobile. And honestly, if you need that much storage, you should probably just buy an Ultrabook.
The unit contains its own wireless functionality and rechargeable battery, making it productive and portable at the same time. The wireless protocol is 802.11 b/g/n, so you can enjoy real-world speeds (although wireless N speeds are advertised at 300 Mbps; in real-life applications you’ll probably top out at 100 Mbps). The wireless LAN interface in the unit is paired with a rechargeable battery that provides up to 8 hours of continuous video streaming (again, that time is dependent on the conditions, file types, and other factors surrounding the video stream).
To fill the drive, you simply attach the USB 3.0 data transfer cable to your host computer and load it with your data. Be aware that wireless functions do not work with the drive connected to the computer. If connected to a computer, the device is in DAS (Direct Attached Storage) mode and the LED will glow white. For Wi-fi mode, the drive must be disconnected and turned on. The KDE will be blue. Once everything is on, you can disconnect the unit and download a free Toshiba access app on your iOS or Android device. When the app is installed, you simply search for the Toshiba Wireless SSD, use the Wi-Fi signal as your access point, enter your password, and immediately enjoy your pictures, movies, music, or documents. You have the option of accessing the SSD directly, the SD card, but you cannot transfer files between these locations.
The wireless SSD can be accessed and shared by up to eight users at once, and not everyone has to be on a mobile device. You can also access files from a Mac or Windows-based PC or laptop, and you don’t need the app for that. You simply check your network and connect. An Internet pass-through feature even lets you access the Web while still connected to the AeroMobile.
"Unlike other portable drives, this unit is not bus-powered, meaning you don’t need a USB port to run this device."
But the most impressive feature (as if those weren’t enough) is the true portability of this drive. Unlike other portable drives, this unit is not bus-powered, meaning you don’t need a USB port to run this device. Once charged, this compact solid-state drive, which weighs a mere 4.2 ounces and is about the size and thickness of a mobile phone, can easily be placed in a pocket or handbag, out of sight, but definitely not out of mind. The unit is housed in a brushed-aluminum case, which is not only stylish but also matches any techie decor—you’ll never be embarrassed if this slips out of your bag or briefcase. Most people will assume it’s a phone.
One button on the front powers the unit on, and there are three indicator lights—one for charge, one for Wi-Fi/SSD activity, and one for the SD Card. These blinking lights add to the drive’s high-tech look, and are so ubiquitous you soon forget they’re there.
As for our hands-on testing, it really came down to speed and ruggedness. The speed we mentioned was impressive—even with other solid state drives, I expected 50 GB/s of data transfer to take much longer. I even opened up the options by transferring from a freshly formatted hard disk to the solid-state drive, using Windows 7 (anyone used to the ease with which Windows XP transferred large amounts of data is surely shocked by Windows 7’s restrictions, even with third-party transfer software). No matter what I did, the transfer speeds were still in the 100 MB/s range for files that were larger than 5GB. For lots of small files, because the file-allocation tables are being accessed more often, the speed dropped slightly, but not significantly, remaining in the 80-100 MB/s range. Getting the stated 380 MB/s USB 3.0 speed from this (or any) device depends on too many factors to list here. In a real-world application, you’ll likely never see it.
As for the ruggedness of the drive, we “accidentally” dropped this drive a number of times, from the kitchen counter to the hardwood floor, from the dresser to the carpeted floor, and even from our shoulder bags to the concrete platform of the train station (that one was a genuine accident). We saw no fluctuation in the speed, no corruption in the data. We suggest, however, that you take the same care with this wireless drive as you do with your smartphone. Both will last a lot longer.
One caveat: we did notice that the drive heated up a bit when under a heavy load (especially with multiple users accessing it). This should only be a concern if the drive is sitting on your lap. The eight-hour battery time will ensure that the drive doesn’t burn out when used as a stand-alone device, but should you keep this connected at all times to a computer, watch the heat levels. And remember, if the drive is hard-wired to a computer, Wi-fi access is disabled.
Working across a broad range of devices (Windows 7 through 8.1, Mac OS X 10.7, and 10.8, iOS versions 5.1 through 7 and Android from version 2.3 through 4.2) the AeroMobile from Toshiba is the perfect way to free up your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and share your data with those in your network. With solid-state speed and reliability, and wireless flexibility, this drive will soon be a must-have for everyone with a mobile device.
|Toshiba Canvio AeroMobile Wireles SSD|
|Drive Type||Solid-State Drive|
SD Card slot
|Battery Life||8 hours (video streaming)|
|System Requirements (PC)||PC or Mac: Windows 8.1, Windows 8 and
Windows 7; Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8 with
included NTFS driver for Mac. Available Wireless LAN interface
|System Requirements (Mobile)||Smart phone or tablet: iOS version 5.1 to 7;
Android version 2.3 to 4.2. Available Wireless LAN interface
|Dimensions||2.5 in. x 4.8 in. x 0.49 in.|