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Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB review: An underwhelming addition to the external storage market

James Archer
22 May 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
133
inc VAT

It has some nice extra features, but the Canvio Premium is barely faster than much cheaper alternatives

Pros 
USB Type-C connectivity
Has automatic backup and password-protection software
Cons 
Cheaper options out there
Doesn't hit Toshiba's claimed transfer rate
Technology hasn't advanced enough
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Between falling SSD prices and Thunderbolt 3 catching on as an enabler of ultra-fast external drives, it’s understandable that the Canvio Premium 4TB has been met with mumbles rather than cheers.

External hard disks aren’t dead – they’re still much cheaper than SSDs, especially if you directly compare capacities – but this is ultimately the largest version of a drive that’s been around since 2016. 

Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB review: Price and competition

While the new 4TB model is more expensive than the existing 3TB, 2TB and 1TB versions, it has the lowest cost per gigabyte of all four: a paltry 3.3p. The 3TB model isn’t far behind at 3.7p per gigabyte, but the 2TB model leaps up to 4.5p and the 1TB model is 7p. With that in mind, however, it’s also expensive for a 4TB hard disk; most WD and Seagate alternatives sit within the £80 to £100 bracket.

At least this also carries over all the design qualities of its smaller predecessors, which still stand up today. Measuring 78 x 109 x 18mm, it’s a few millimetres thicker than older Canvio Premiums but still small enough to comfortably fit in a pocket – something that’s not always a given with large-capacity external hard disks, which need to include multiple platters stacked on top of one another. It also weighs just 225g, and maintains the smart aluminium top and sides, with reflective edges that set it apart from cheaper Toshiba stablemates such as the Canvio Basics and Canvio Ready series.

READ NEXT: Best external hard drives

Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB review: Features

It connects via a USB 3 cable, which again sounds downright geriatric by 2019 standards, but since this is mechanical storage we’re dealing with, USB 3.1 speeds wouldn’t help anyway. It’s not all old hat, either.

Included in the box is a USB 3 to USB Type-C adaptor, which allows the Canvio Premium to work with recent ultraportable laptops that ditch full-size USB ports in pursuit of slimness. Of course, it won’t magically upgrade the hard disk to Type-C transfer speeds, but it’s an appreciably practical bonus.

It's not the only one, either: you also get a suede carrying case and the option to use Toshiba’s automatic backup and password-protection software, which cheekily doesn’t work with the cheaper Canvio Basics drives.

Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB review: Performance

So far, the Canvio Premium lives up to its name, but performance unfortunately doesn’t carry this on. Toshiba claims a maximum transfer rate of 5Gbit/s, which is 625MB/s, but we couldn’t reach such speeds in CrystalDiskMark’s standard sequential test, a benchmark that typically shows storage drives at their very best. We recorded a write speed of 153MB/s, which is still pretty good, but read speeds only came out at 138MB/s.

Furthermore, the 4K sequential test utterly hammered the Canvio Premium, with read and write speeds dropping to just 0.6MB/s and 7.6MB/s respectively. In fairness, these aren’t too unusual for a USB 3-based hard disk – Toshiba’s own Canvio Connect II only managed a 0.5MB/s read speed and a 1.4MB/s write speed – but they do show the weakness of the format compared to even a basic solid-state drive. 

The WD My Passport SSD, for instance, was more than 30 times faster in both tests. Our own file transfer tests continued the theme: the Canvio Premium performed well enough for a mechanical hard disk, but not to the extent that it stands out. Take its results in the huge file test: an average read speed of 126MB/s and a write speed of 125MB/s are a step down from its fastest sequential speeds, as is always the case, but they’re hardly pushing the limits of the hardware.

The only surprise was that switching to the large file test, which should be tougher, didn’t produce a clear fall in speeds – in fact, the average write speed rose slightly, to 126MB/s. The average read speed in this test, coincidentally, also turned out to be 126MB/s. Finally, the small file test produced a 109MB/s average read speed and a 118MB/s average write speed. This was one instance where the Canvio Premium did significantly outperform a rival, as the iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 only reached a write speed of 55MB/s, although that drive’s built-in encryption was likely slowing it down.

READ NEXT: You can now buy a 1TB microSD on Amazon

Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB review: Verdict

The inconvenient truth with launching hard disks such as this – even if they’re just a larger version of an older line – is that the core technology simply hasn’t advanced in the past few years, at least not to the extent that SSD storage has. Paying more for a “Premium” external HDD, therefore, only makes sense if it offers functionality beyond straightforward transfer speeds, as this is unlikely to vary much between products.

To the Canvio Premium’s credit, it does make an effort with its USB Type-C connectivity and bonus software compatibility. Still, if a faster SSD is really out of the question, we’d rather save £50 and have the 4TB mechanical version of the WD My Passport, which also has automatic backup and password-protection features.

 

Toshiba Canvio Premium 4TB specifications
Capacity4TB
Cost per GB3.3p
InterfaceUSB3
Claimed read625MB/s
Claimed write625MB/s

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