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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Several versions available
Surface paint easily scratches
Manual contains limited info
The U32 Shadow is a functional gaming and general purpose hard drive, but it would be better with a more durable housing and more decisive instruction manuals and specifications.
External hard drives are useful tools for photo, movie, and file storage, but they’re also an excellent way to get extra storage for gaming consoles like Xbox One or PS4. The U32 Shadow USB-C HDD is supposed to be designed for just that purpose—saving your Xbox and PlayStation console titles so you can bring your drive to a friend’s house and play your games on-the-go, while also reserving storage space on your actual console. I tested the 1TB U32 Shadow for a week to see how it performs as both a gaming and general purpose hard drive.
The U32 Shadow is small with a thin profile, clocking in at only 4.9 inches tall, 2.9 inches wide, and less than a half-inch in thickness. The drive is portable, which allows you to take it with you to a buddy’s house for a gaming session, or toss it in your laptop bag when you’re working on-the-go. The USB-C cable plugs into the top of the U32, and it powers the device, so there’s no extra power cable.
It’s matte-black finish blends in with other equipment, like most routers, modems, gaming systems, controllers, and headsets, so you barely notice the drive as it sits beside your PlayStation, Xbox, or computer. The finish is aluminum, so the drive remains somewhat protected from heat dissipation.
If you place the U32 Shadow in a bag with your other belongings, the housing may get a few scratches and dings.
The housing is not, however, shock-proof or waterproof, and the paint on the aluminum surface scratches off pretty easily. I attempted to scratch the surface with keys, coins, and my fingernails. My fingernails left light, yet visible marks in the paint. With metal objects like keys and coins, I was able to make a deep, permanent scratch with a small amount of force. When I performed the same test on other hard drive housings, like the Toshiba Canvio Advance and the Silicon Power Armor A60, the housings were much more scratch-resistant. So, if you place the U32 Shadow in a bag with your other belongings, the housing may get a few scratches and dings. This may not necessarily impact the drive’s performance, but it will affect its aesthetic.
There are a few different versions of the U32 Shadow HDD for sale, one for general purpose, and two versions designed for gaming. One of the gaming versions says it’s for Xbox One X / S (sku: U32-HDD-1000-BK-XBOX); and the other says it’s for PlayStation 4 (sku: U32-HDD-1000-BK-PS4). The internal drives on both of the units are identical, and they each look identical on the exterior.
Since the manual for the U32 Shadow for Xbox One X / S only provides instructions for connecting the drive to Xbox, and it doesn’t really include any specifications about the drive, I contacted customer service to obtain more information about the unit, and to find out the differences between the Xbox and PlayStation versions of the U32 Shadow HDD. The manual for the U32 drive for PlayStation indicates the PlayStation version is formatted with exFAT. I wanted to know if the Xbox drive was formatted differently.
According to Oyen Digital customer service, “the U32 Shadow PS4 version is formatted using the exFAT file format...The U32 Shadow Xbox version is formatted using the Xbox file format...The physical drives are the same. The file formatting is the difference.”
I also encountered some weirdness when trying to determine the drive’s cache. On the manufacturer’s website, it indicated the U32 for Xbox has a cache of 128MB, and it has the Toshiba 1.0TB MQ01ABD100 as its internal HDD (which has a cache of 8MB). To clarify the inconsistency, I once again contacted customer service. Customer service stated the website contained a typo, and that the unit’s internal drive was not the MQ01ABD100, but rather the MQ04ABF100, which has a cache of 128MB. I opened up the drive to verify, and the internal drive was in fact the MQ04ABF100, and it does in fact have a cache of 128MB. The manufacturer has since fixed the typo on the website.
On the bright side, the Xbox version was very easy to connect—it was plug and play. To connect the U32 drive to a PlayStation 4, the drive needed to be reformatted, but that process is quick and easy. Connecting the unit to Windows 10 was a bit more of a pain, as I had to create a partition in disk management to get Windows to recognize the drive.
There are other, better, and more affordable options out there.
The U32 SATA HDD spins at 5,400 RPMs. I didn’t notice the U32 getting overly hot, and it didn’t make much noise at all either.
I tested the read/write speeds using two benchmark tools: CrystalDiskMark and Atto Disk Benchmark. I connected the U32 to a brand new out of the box budget laptop (a Lenovo IdeaPad S145), and I ran each test 10 times. For a 1GB file, CrystalDiskMark measured the read speeds between 106 and 108. The write speeds remained consistent at between 136 and 139. The Atto tests produced slightly better results, with read speeds averaging 138.12 and write speeds averaging 138.31 for a 1GB file (at an I/O size of 1MB).
After I formatted the drive for PlayStation, I had no trouble transferring three games simultaneously: FarCry5, Monster Hunter, and Apex Legends. The 1TB U32 provides plenty of storage space, but there’s also a 2TB option if you want even more storage.
The U32 retails for between $75 and $79 for the 1TB version. This means you’re paying about 7 cents per GB, which is a bit high. If you opt for the 2TB capacity, which you can usually find for around $109, you’ll end up paying a bit less per GB — about 5 cents. The U32 is a decent value, given that it’s relatively fast, portable, and has an aluminum housing. But, there are other, better, and more affordable options out there.
The U32 does, however, come as an SSD as well, with capacities ranging from 250GB to 4TB. The cost is higher, but you also get the benefits of an SSD, like speed, reliability, and increased longevity.
One of the more durable portable external hard drives on the market, Silicon Power’s Armor A60 is military-grade shockproof and water resistant. Of the two HDDs, the Armor A60’s definitely wins in terms of durability. The A60 also comes pre-formatted with NTFS.
The U32 Shadow HDD has its benefits, but there are better HDDs available in the same price range.
It’s attractive and functional, but it doesn’t offer some of the design perks and utility you’ll get with other similarly priced HDDs.