Toshiba Canvio – Flex and Gaming external storage (review)
The Toshiba Canvio USB external portable hard disk range includes the Flex and Gaming models with 1-4TB capacities.
Toshiba is not a brand that first comes to mind when considering external storage, but it is one of the better notebook hard disk makers. Toshiba is now part of the new consolidated Dynabook (formerly Toshiba Client Solutions) owned by Sharp. The heritage is still there – the world’s first laptop in 1985 and well-known sub-brands like Portege, Tecra, and Satellite.
Now when it comes to external storage, there is a maxim. You can have high-capacity at low cost (HDD) or low-capacity at high-cost (SSD) – not both. Toshiba Canvio is about maximum bang-for-buck with Toshiba quality thrown in. I mean, where can 4TB for under $150 (4 cents per GB) with Toshiba quality and warranty?
Toshiba Canvio Flex is for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Chrome – any USB equipped device. Toshiba Canvio Gaming used the same internal hard drives (Toshiba MQ04 Series) but can be formatted for PlayStation or Xbox and has an always-on feature.
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 interface
The enclosures have a micro-B, USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 interface capable of 5Gbps (625MBps), and the drives are SATA 3/6 capable of 6Gbps (750Mbps). But the facts are that USB is half-duplex, meaning that you will achieve <50% of the theoretical interface speed. The drives have a cache to maximise throughput, but the USB interface is the bottleneck – common to any external drive.
Toshiba MQ04 Series hard disks
The 1 and 2TB 5400rpm drives are single-platter, single/dual-sided, and the 4TB is a dual-platter, dual-sided. They use SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) overwriting part of the previously written track analogous to the overlapping shingling of a roof. To make this process more efficient, the drive has a DRAM buffer (128MiB/134MB on the 1/2TB versions) to maximise the interface data transfer speed. It also has a separate Media Cache that sorts the data (command queueing). The result is that a Toshiba SMR can be up to 100% faster for media serving applications than a standard hard disk. The drives also have shock sensors to protect the platters.
Being SATA 3 over USB means you don’t need drivers. You can use it with Android OTG (usually limited to 1 or 2TB but can be 4TB if it has a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 interface) or iOS (iPhone or iPad) 13 or later (4TB)
Toshiba Canvio Flex and Gaming specifications
|Capacity (approx.)||1, 2, 4TB||same|
|Size||80 x 111 x 13.5 x 149g (1 and 2TB) 80 x 111 x 19.5 x 210g (4TB)||Same|
|Interface||USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps)
Backwards compatible at slower speeds
5V/.9A for bus power
|Cables||USB-C to micro-B
USB-A to micro-B
|Drive||Toshiba MQ04 series||Same with always-on enabled*|
|Format||exFat||PlayStation or Xbox. Not cross-compatible with each other.|
|OS||Windows, Android, Linux, macOS, iOS||Same|
|Warranty||Three years||Two Years*|
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps)
Microsoft Surface Go USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 (4Mbps)
HP Spectre Thunderbolt 3
OPPO Find X3 Pro (USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 – 64MB file test)
Sequential read/write 115/123MBps and random read/write .52/.44MBps
Unable to test due to a lack of Lighting to micro-B connector
Flex is for backup. It may save your life if you get hit by ransomware. It is particularly good for sequential read/write of smaller files – typical of documents, music, and images. Once its cache fills, the random/read-write speeds drop off, so it is not for large files – use a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps), USB-4 (20Gbps) or Thunderbolt 3/4 (40Gbps) SSD for that.
Gaming is essentially the same disk, but with always-on enabled, there is no spin-up or down delay, so it is always available. Older PS4/XB1 games will install and run. Native PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S games cannot run from external drives. Gamers will use this mainly for storage, with typically 25 games per TB.
Premium Toshiba quality at competitive prices. Remember, external hard disks are mainly for storage – backup and restore.
Both the Toshiba Canvio Flex and Canvio Gaming meet the parameters for external USB hard disks. We add a few points for Toshiba quality and the SMR drive.
Toshiba Canvio by Dynabook – Flex and Gaming external storage
Toshiba focuses on maximum bang-for-buck with its new Toshiba Canvio Flex and Gaming external storage
Good company pedigree and warranty
Low cost storage <4 cents per GB
Micro-B is so yesterday (need for backwards compatibility)