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Toshiba Canvio Desk review: A storage workhorse for desktop users

The Canvio Desk is good for desktop users who need a backup drive or more storage.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
5 min read

Toshiba Canvio Desk is the latest addition to Toshiba's external hard drive family and for now is the company's single-volume solution that offers the most storage space: up to 3TB.


Toshiba Canvio Desk

The Good

The <b>Toshiba Canvio Desk</b> offers fast USB 3.0 performance, a practical design, and is relatively affordable.

The Bad

The Toshiba Canvio Desk caps at only 3TB (and not 4TB). Its power adapter is a bit bulky.

The Bottom Line

The Toshiba Canvio Desk is a frills-free, solid performer for desktop users looking for a backup drive or to expand their storage space.

Supporting USB 3.0, the new Canvio Desk offered excellent performance in my testing and proved to be pleasant to use thanks to its versatile design and solid performance. On top of that, the new drive also comes with a complete backup solution that covers all bases, including online backup, files and folder backup, and complete system backup.

With a street price of around $150 for 3TB (the 2TB and 1TB cost accordingly less), the Toshiba Canvio Desk is one of the best backup solutions for your Windows desktop computer at home. If you're looking for a drive that offers up to 4TB of storage space, also check out the Seagate GoFlex Desk.

Drive type 3.5-inch-based external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Dimensions 5.1 x 1.6 x 6.6 inches
Weight 2.2
Available capacities 1TB, 2TB, 3TB
Capacity/Interface of test unit 3TB, USB 3.0
OSes supported Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.4.6 or higher
Software included NTI Backup Now EZ
Warranty Three years

Design and features
The Toshiba Canvio Desk looks like a typical external hard drive for desktop computers -- squarish and black. Nonetheless, the drive has a twist to its design, making it quite different from others: it can be used either in the horizontal or vertical position. The Canvio Desk comes with little rubber feet on both its bottom and one of its sides, which makes the placement options more obvious. The extra rubber feet also keep it more grounded when used vertically and help absorb the drive's vibrations, keeping users from noticing it as they might notice some others.

The Canvio Desk's included NTI Backup Now EZ offers a complete and easy-to-use backup solution for home users.
The Canvio Desk's included NTI Backup Now EZ offers a complete and easy-to-use backup solution for home users. Dong Ngo/CNET

The drive's chassis is made of thick, rugged plastic with lots of openings for ventilation. On the back side, the Canvio Desk comes with just one Micro-USB 3.0 port and one power port. The drive also includes a standard Micro-USB 3.0 cable that you can use with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. Like all desktop external hard drives, the Canvio Desk needs to be plugged in a power source to operate; its included power adapter could be thinner, in my opinion. It's in no way overly bulky, but I've seen smaller ones.

Out of the box, the Canvio Desk is preformatted in NTFS; all you need to do is plug it in the power outlet and connect it to a Windows computer's USB port to use it. The drive, obviously, offers its best performance when connected to a USB 3.0 port.

The moment you open the drive using Windows Explorer, you'll find that it contains the installer for the NTI Backup Now EZ software, which in my trials took just a few seconds to install.

The NTI Backup Now EZ software offers a complete backup solution with a very easy-to-use interface. You can use it to back up selected folders and files to the NTI Cloud Backup service (a separate backup plan is required) or to the Canvio Desk drive. You can also make a backup of the entire system in case you need to restore it to a new hard drive. This options is only available for Windows computers. For the system-restore purpose, the Canvio Desk can also be set to work as a bootable drive.

For each of the options above, users can also further customize, including options to password-protect the backups or using scheduling to automate the backup jobs. I tried all of the backup options with our test machines and they worked as intended. Note, however, that the software currently doesn't support Windows 8; hopefully there will be an update by the time Windows 8 is launched later this month. You can also use other backup software with the Canvio Desk if you don't like NTI Backup Now E.

The NTI Backup Now EZ only works with Windows, but the Canvio Desk itself also works with Macs, including the support for Time Machine. All you need to do is format it in the HFS+ file system.

I tested the Toshiba Canvio Desk with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and the drive performed well.

When used with USB 3.0, the drive scored 89MBps for writing and 104MBps for reading -- among the top four of USB 3.0-based external drives I've reviewed. When used with USB 2.0, the drive also did decently, with 26MBps, 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively.

The drive passed my tests without any hiccups and remained cool during the entire testing process. I noticed that it was also very quiet.

USB 3.0 external hard-drive performance (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
IoSafe Solo G3
Seagate Backup Plus
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
Toshiba Canvio Desk
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
Clickfree C6
LaCie FastKey
G-Drive Slim
WD My Passport Edge
Seagate GoFlex Slim
HP Portable Hard Drive
LaCie RuggedKey

USB 2.0 external hard-drive performance (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
LaCie FastKey
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
Seagate Backup Plus
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
Clickfree C6
Seagate GoFlex Slim
LaCie Rugged Key
Toshiba Canvio Desk
G-Drive Slim
WD My Passport Edge

The Toshiba Canvio Desk is a solid external hard drive for anybody who needs a backup drive for their Windows desktop.


Toshiba Canvio Desk

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 8Support 7