Review: Toshiba 3TB Canvio external hard drive

Introduction and performance

It’s hard to be excited by hard disk drives and storage in general, but the newest addition to Toshiba’s Canvio Basics range did bring a smile to my face – the HDTB330EK3CA is the first 3TB 2.5-inch hard disk drive (internal or external) to appear on the market.

In fact, it is probably the hard disk drive with the highest data density ever (15.5GB per cubic centimetre), a two-thirds improvement compared to the 8TB Seagate Backup Plus I recently reviewed.

The current crop of external, pocket-friendly hard disk drives like WD’s My Passport Wireless, the LaCie Fuel wireless, the Seagate Wireless Plus and Toshiba’s own Canvio topped out at 2TB (WD tells us that a 3TB external hard drive will land soon).

Toshiba 3TB Canvio underside

However, that 50% improvement on capacity comes at a cost. You can grab a 2TB external 2.5-inch hard disk drive for just under £60, and this 3TB drive is currently on pre-order for a whopping £146. That’s a 60% premium per TB between two generations, probably far too much for some to fathom.

To put this in perspective, two 2TB Canvio hard disk drives would cost you less than this 3TB hard drive.

Toshiba 3TB Canvio side

Design and specification

Like its older sibling, this drive sports a simple, sturdy enclosure – that’s almost impossible to pry open, we tried! – with a matte finish and the Toshiba logo plus a single status light on the front facia. You can plug the bundled cable in a mini-USB 3.0 connector that is located on one side.

As for most hard disk drives in this category, there are no power buttons and no bundled software; plug-and-play at its simplest. We’d certainly suggest that you check out our best free backup application list and give some of them a whirl to find out which one suits your needs.

Toshiba 3TB Canvio top

Toshiba is likely to have used the MQ03ABB300, a 2.5-inch drive it launched earlier this year. This is a four-platter model, each with a 750GB capacity, with 16MB cache and a 5400RPM spinning speed.


One thing’s for sure, this drive is no slouch. Perhaps because of the high areal density and the number of platters used, the Toshiba 3TB Canvio performed admirably well, sometimes matching faster spinning drives (like the HGST Touro S) or even desktop drives – and all this without getting exceedingly warm to the touch or vibrating too much.

Toshiba 3TB Canvio angle

When benchmarking, we saw CrystalDiskMark sequential read/write speeds of 143MBps/136MBps, and in PCMark 8 the drive achieved a storage score of 2038.

These scores are a significant improvement on the 2TB version of the Toshiba Canvio or the WD MyPassport 2TB. This drive did, however, lag behind the Touro S on a couple of specific tests but the latter spins at 7200RPM.


We liked

Toshiba didn’t change a lot from the previous model; only the finish (from glossy to matte) and the hard disk drive were swapped. Not surprisingly therefore, the same strong points remain – it is a capacious device despite its diminutive size, one that is surprisingly portable and very fast compared to its predecessor.

We disliked

It could do with a power button, something we noticed last time on the Canvio 2TB. As for the price, it is still far too high for our liking but then again, the Canvio 3TB has no rivals for now, so Toshiba can dictate the supply.

Final verdict

The latest addition to the portable Toshiba Canvio family shows that the Japanese company wants to remain competitive in a market where spinning hard disk drives are gradually being pushed out by solid state drives.

Expect Western Digital to bring a similar 2.5-inch 3TB hard disk drive to the market in the next few months, an introduction that is likely to bring down the price of the Canvio 3TB.

Until then, Toshiba’s latest addition reigns supreme in the land of high capacity, low volume external hard disk drives and if the price premium is acceptable to prospective buyers, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t look at this drive.