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Toshiba Canvio Connect review: Good bundled software, for a price

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The compact Toshiba Canvio Connect offers a lot more than just its internal storage space. The drive includes backup software for Windows, NTFS drivers that enable Macs to read and write to the Windows file system, and Pogoplug PC, software that turns the drive's host computer into a personal cloud storage server.

The new Canvio Connect drive from Toshiba.
7.8

Toshiba Canvio Connect

The Good

The compact <b>Toshiba Canvio Connect Portable HDD</b> offers decent performance and a generous set of bundled software, including Pogoplug PC, which turns a host computer into personal cloud server.

The Bad

The drive is not compatible with some USB 2.0 ports and its current pricing is noticeably higher than that of its peers.

The Bottom Line

If you're eager to try out Pogoplug PC, the Toshiba Canvio Connect is a good buy, especially if your computer supports USB 3.0. Otherwise, keep looking for better deals.

Though it's not the fastest drive, the Canvio Connect performed decently in my testing, both with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 -- with the exception that the drive didn't work with some USB 2.0 ports I tried it out with.

If you don't already have a Pogoplug subscription and want to use the service, the Toshiba Canvio Connect is an exciting portable drive to buy, especially if your computer supports USB 3.0. Otherwise, at the suggested prices of $99, $110, $130, $170, and $190 for 500GB, 750GB, 1TB, 1.5TB, and 2TB capacities, respectively, the drive is significantly more expensive than its peers; you should probably wait for its price to come down. For alternatives, check out this list of excellent portable drives.

The Canvio Connect is very compact.
The Canvio Connect fits in your hand. Dong Ngo/CNET

Design and setup
The Canvio Connect is very compact, about the same size as the WD My Passport Edge, with a shiny plastic chassis that's red on the top and bottom and black on the sides. The drive is also very light -- just 5.3 ounces -- and feels very sturdy in the hand. On one side, it has a Micro-USB 3.0 port, which works with the included standard USB 3.0 cable. This is the only cable you'll need to use the drive since it's bus-powered, meaning it's powered by the USB port to which it's connected.

In my trial, the drive worked with all USB 3.0 ports with no problems. With USB 2.0 ports, however, it was hit-and-miss. A few of the ports I tried it with didn't seem to provide enough juice to power the drive, especially those on the front of a desktop PC. Most, if not all, other portable hard drives I've reviewed had no problems with these front ports.

The Canvio Connect comes with Pogoplug PC, software that turns any host computer into a personal cloud server.
The Canvio Connect comes with Pogoplug PC, software that turns any host computer into a personal cloud server. Dong Ngo/CNET

The Canvio Connect comes preformatted in NTFS, so if you're using it with a Windows computer, all you have to do is plug it in. On a Mac, you'll need to install Tuxera NTFS for Mac, included on the drive itself, before you can write to the drive. After that, you can also use the drive to back up your Mac using Time Machine.

For Windows, the Canvio Connect includes NTI Backup Now EZ, an easy-to-use automated backup program that worked very well in my testing.

The "Connect" part of the drive's name derives from the fact that it comes with Pogoplug PC, software that costs $30 if you buy it yourself. Pogoplug PC turns the drive's host computer into a personal cloud server -- as long as the machine is running and connected to the Internet. Now you can access your data, stored on the Canvio itself or on your computer's internal drive, remotely via mobile app. To learn more about how Pogoplug's system works, check out our review of the Pogoplus Series 4 adapter.

NTI Backup Now EZ is indeed easy to use.
TNTI Backup Now EZ is indeed easy to use. Dong Ngo/CNET

In addition to providing a bridge between your computers and the world, Pogoplug offers online storage space, and with the Canvio Connect, you get 10GB for free -- double Pogoplug's normal allotment of free storage. Unfortunately, you can't add this amount to an existing Pogoplug account. This means that this offer, as well as the Canvio Connect itself, isn't as appealing to existing Pogoplug users. For them, it's just another portable drive. In fact, you can use it as one without installing any of the bundled software.

Performance
I tested the Canvio Connect with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and its performance was very good.

When used with USB 3.0, it scored 97MBps for writing, which is the second-fastest score on the portable drives chart. In reading, it also scored 97MBps, but for this test, that score is near the bottom of the chart. Nonetheless, these are very fast speeds.

With USB 2.0, the drive offered about the average, registering 27MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

Other than the power-drawing issues with certain USB 2.0 ports as mentioned above, the Canvio Connect worked very well during the testing period and remained very cool, even during heavy loads.

External hard-drive USB 3.0 performance (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Toshiba Canvio Connect
97.4 
97.1 
Seagate Backup Plus
110.1 
90.9 
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
112.19 
90.8 
Toshiba Canvio Desk
103.74 
88.9 
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
104.9 
87.7 
LaCie FastKey
115.5 
87.1 
G-Drive Slim
100.3 
86.7 
WD My Passport Edge
97.68 
82.6 
Seagate GoFlex Slim
101.9 
82.4 
HP Portable Hard Drive
83.65 
69.4 

External hard-drive USB 2.0 performance (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
LaCie FastKey
36.6 
28.8 
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
33.13 
28.8 
Seagate Backup Plus
33 
28.74 
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
36.5 
28.7 
Seagate GoFlex Slim
37.3 
27.7 
Toshiba Canvio Connect
32.95 
26.8 
LaCie Rugged Key
35.22 
26.6 
Toshiba Canvio Desk
32.71 
25.8 
G-Drive Slim
32.74 
25.6 
WD My Passport Edge
32.69 
25.1 

Conclusion
The Toshiba Canvio Connect is either a good deal or just another portable hard drive, depending on how much value its bundled software holds for you. And if your computer still uses USB 2.0 exclusively, you might want to check out other options, because there's a small chance the drive won't work with your computer at all.

The new Canvio Connect drive from Toshiba.
7.8

Toshiba Canvio Connect

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 7Support 8