A new gadget from Toshiba turns wired external hard drives from single-user backup devices into wireless media streaming boxes the whole family can use simultaneously.
External hard drives, unlike a lot of consumer electronic devices, don't get replaced on a regular basis. Chances are most consumers won't buy a new one until the existing one is absolutely full and there's no more space for backing up or for adding to the music and film library.
That also means that while everything else in the home from the TV and games console to the smartphone, tablet and computers, are all wi-fi enabled, using the external hard drive requires running cables and plugging them into USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt ports. And of course, because it's wired, it can only be accessed by one device at a time.
Enter Toshiba's Canvio adaptor. It's a little pricy -- the company has set a recommended retail price of $79.99 -- but it's simple to use and is a lot cheaper than coughing up for a brand new external hard drive.
The adaptor connects to the hard drive's USB port at one end and into a power socket at the other and that's it. The hard drive is now wireless and can be accessed by any other device that's also wi-fi enabled. In fact it can support up to eight different devices and, as well as being compatible with Macs and Windows PCs, has dedicated iOS and Android apps for smartphone and tablet use.
Being wireless means that it can be set up in potentially any room in the house and can now be used as a media streaming hub rather than just a back-up and synching tool. This will free up valuable space on tablets in particular, as they can wirelessly access music and films, saving their onboard storage for apps instead.