Toshiba Canvio AeroMobile review: An SSD makes this the portable media server to beat
At a Glance
Toshiba’s Canvio AeroMobile portable Wi-Fi media streamer lives up to its name. At least if you associate “Aero” with aerogels and not flying cars. This portable storage device and wireless media server weighs a mere 4.23 ounces.
The idea to marry a portable hard drive to a wireless hot spot isn’t new. Seagate, Samsung, Corsair, and Patriot all have competing products. The feature that sets Toshiba’s offering apart from these is that it uses a blazing-fast SSD where the other products have mechanical drives.
That choice puts a low ceiling on capacity—our eval unit delivered 128GB of storage where its platter-based competitors offer 500GB, 1TB, or more—but the presence of an SSD renders the AeroMobile very lightweight, fast, and much less susceptible to data corruption. It's outfitted with an SD card slot, so you can augment its internal storage, as well as play media you've recorded or stored on SD cards.
The presence of an SSD elevates the AeroMobile's MRSP well above its mechanical competition, but you'll find significant discounts if you shop around. The drive was selling at Amazon for $139 as of this writing, and Toshiba was offering it at its own webstore for $147 through the end of June 2014.
The AeroMobile measures a little under 5.0-inches long, 2.5-inches wide, and a mere half-inch thick. It fits easily in a shirt pocket, where competitors require a jacket pocket or even a backpack. The AeroMobile is styled in bright silver, making it suitable for business meetings, yet easily detectable if lost at a campsite. It's not as easily spotted as fluorescent yellow, and not that you should be watching movies instead of enjoying the natural splendor, but I digress.
Having no moving parts, the AeroMobile is extremely shock-resistant when compared to platter-based streamers.The drive offers only a single Micro-B USB 3.0 port, so it’s not suitable as an auxiliary power source for charging mobile phones and the like. It has an on/off button; three status lights for power, charging, and Wi-Fi connectivity; and a recessed reset button in case something goes wonky with the operating system or media server. This never happened to me during two days of testing.
An excellent media streamer
The AeroMobile is quite the competent streamer. The unit has its own Web portal and streams any formats your browser can handle. Those that it can’t will be downloaded. I personally prefer using Windows Media Player for streaming via a DLNA server, so you can utilize DirectShow filters for MKV and the like. Speaking of which, the AeroMobile easily streamed by 30GB MKV rip of Master and Commander (after the usual pause by WMP at the five-second mark).
Even better, the AeroMobile streamed said movie for an incredible 14 hours—6 hours longer than Toshiba claims as run time. That’s easily the longest run time I’ve seen out of a portable media server, and by a large margin. The AeroMobile also passes through Internet so you can still surf while streaming media from the device.
The AerMobile’s Web portal is clean, friendly, and elements are sized with mobile and touch devices in mind. If you’re connected to the Internet, it will also automatically upgrade the unit’s firmware—given a battery strength of 50 percent or higher. There are facilities for photos, video, and music display and playback, as well as accessing documents you've stored on the drive.
Toshiba's drive also proved to be an excellent performer in its more mundane task as a simple storage device. When direct-attached via USB 3.0, it smoked competitors such as the aforementioned Seagate and Samsung drives, writing our 10GB mix of files and folders at 107MBps and reading it at 140MBps.
With a single large 10GB file, its performance jumped to 126MBps writing and 167MBps reading. Note that those speeds are to and from our test bed's RAM disk; you’ll get lower numbers when copying to and from hard drives and SSDs.
The AeroMobile is pricier than most streaming hard drives, it's somewhat capacity-challenged, and it won’t charge your phone. Its diminutive size and weight, outstanding run time, speed, and cleanly designed Web interface, however, clearly outweigh its negatives. And you can still fit a fair amount of stuff on it as well as toss it in a suitcase without worrying about breaking it.
It’s the first such product I’ve actually wanted to keep.