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Toshiba Canvio Flex review: The perfect low-cost drive for backup and storage

Our Rating :
£86.75 from
Price when reviewed : £68
inc VAT

A comparatively speedy and cheap portable hard disk with everything you need included


  • High capacity, low price
  • Decent speeds for an HDD
  • USB Type-A and Type-C cables included


  • Slow for random read/write speeds

Portable SSDs keep falling in price, but mechanical drives still win the day when you need a lot of storage at a manageable cost. You can buy a 4TB portable HDD for less than an SSD with half the capacity.

The Toshiba Canvio Flex is one of today’s most competitively priced external HDDs, available in 1TB, 2TB and 4TB sizes at prices between £68 and £100. It’s not the toughest drive, the fastest drive or the drive with the most features, but if you need a portable disk for archiving or backup – or to store any games that you’re not currently playing – it will do just fine. I put the Canvio Flex through its paces to see how it matches up with the best portable HDDs.

Toshiba Canvio Flex review: What do you get for the money?

The Canvio Flex is a 2.5in hard drive in a simple plastic shell. The lid is plastic with a silver metallic finish (rather than actually being made of metal), but the casing feels robust and Toshiba claims that the drive is shock-resistant.

As with most external hard drives, the USB interface uses a Micro B socket rather than the more modern Type-C, but the Canvio Flex does helpfully provide a Micro B to USB Type-C cable in the box, in addition to the usual Micro B to Type-A cable. Whichever you use, the USB connection is limited to 5Gbits/sec, but no HDD is going to go faster than that anyway.

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Toshiba Canvio Flex review: How does it perform?

The Canvio Flex is one of the fastest portable HDDs I’ve tested (though still a whole lot slower than any portable SSD). CrystalDiskMark recorded sequential read and write speeds of 148MB/sec and 154MB/sec respectively over a Type-A connection; switching to Type-C had no significant benefit, giving me 151MB/sec and 160MB/sec respectively.

Those speeds put it ahead of other value favourites like the Seagate One Touch or the sleek and stylish LaCie Mobile Drive. It’s not a huge gap, but this drive can shave some seconds off the time you spend waiting for a backup or transferring files.

Like all mechanical hard disks, the Canvio Flex struggles with the kind of random read/write operations you need to run applications from the drive. We’re talking around 520 to 580KB/sec, rather than the 150 to 250 MB/sec you might expect from an external SSD. Then again, in this day and age you’d be crazy to try to run applications directly from an HDD – with the possible exception of running legacy Xbox One or PS4 games on an Xbox Series or PS5 console. If that’s what you want to do, you’ll still get slightly better performance from the Canvio than competing external HDDs.

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Toshiba Canvio Flex review: Are there any useful extras?

Having both cables in the box is a definite plus point; otherwise there’s not much. The Canvio Flex comes without any disk management or backup tools, so you’ll need to use those built into Windows and MacOS or third-party utilities instead.

Toshiba Canvio Flex review: Should you buy it?

If you don’t need the speed of an SSD, the Canvio Flex gives you much more storage space for less money. The drive seems reliable – I’ve been using one for well over a year without any issues – and should handle the odd knock, while performance is above average for a basic external HDD. With both USB Type-A and Type-C cables included, you’re getting plenty of value from a very cheap external drive.

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