When trying out a new external portable hard drive, which hardly seems like a complicated piece of technology, reading the user manual is not the first thing I'd expect to do.
But I had to flip through the manual of the Canvio AeroCast 1TB hard drive, which transfers files wirelessly to and from mobile devices that do not have a full-sized USB port. Up to six devices can connect to the hard drive at the same time, though this is two fewer than competing drives from Seagate and WD.
To connect your mobile device to the Canvio AeroCast, you need to log in to its wireless network. The network is protected by a password, which was why I had to check the Quick Start guide to find the default password, which turned out to be a rather weak one: 12345678.
Like its competitors, the Canvio AeroCast can act as a bridge between your home router and mobile device, so that your device can continue to access the Internet while connected wirelessly to the hard drive. This mode, called the Bridge mode, is especially handy if you are using a Wi-Fi-only tablet.
There is also the Station mode, in which the hard drive and your mobile device connect separately to the router. Switch to this mode (via the companion Toshiba Wireless HDD app) to use Toshiba's Chromecast streaming feature.
Unlike its rivals, the Canvio AeroCast can stream videos and photos to the Google Chromecast. This streaming dongle is typically connected to a display such as a TV, so you can view the movies and photos stored in the Canvio AeroCast on a big screen. I tried it and it worked like a charm. There was no stutter during video streaming, and I could skip through movies without having to wait for more than a couple of seconds each time.
That said, bear in mind that this cool feature requires a Chromecast. Other wireless hard drives sidestep this by supporting the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) streaming protocol, which lets these devices stream content to smart TVs and other DLNA-compatible devices. But the Canvio AeroCast does not support DLNA.
Toshiba could also improve the usability of its Wireless HDD app (iOS and Android). While the app has a useful single button to back up the contents of your mobile device to the hard drive, I could not upload multiple files to the drive at the same time.
Toshiba says its hard drive can last up to five hours on battery, which is comparable to other drives.
This is the only wirelesshard drive to support the Google Chromecast, but its companion app needs a better interface.
PRICE: $229 (1TB)
INTERFACE: USB 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), SD card slot
This article was first published on JAN 20, 2016.
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