Toshiba’s 320GB portable drive is so plain it doesn’t even have a real name. It’s just the Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as Western Digital’s My Passport Elite, the Toshiba 320’s primary competition in terms of size, speed, and software (see our review of the Elite here).
Toshiba’s middle-of-the-road drive would benefit from additional backup and synchronization features.
The USB-only Toshiba 320 posted the slowest real-world read speeds of any drive we’ve tested. However, these lapses represent only a four percent difference in real-world performance when compared to the fastest non-proprietary drive we’ve tested, Western Digital’s My Passport Elite. Four percent is four percent, but it’s not enough to make a significant difference.
Fortunately, the Toshiba 320’s poor read speeds were ameliorated by quick write speeds—the second-fastest we’ve seen from our write benchmark. It’s a great accomplishment considering that the write-speed victor, Buffalo’s DriveStation Combo 4 (reviewed September 2008), uses a proprietary TurboUSB utility to squeak even more speed out of its connection.
Portable USB storage devices tend to post similar read and write speeds in our benchmark tests, so we use the drives’ included software as a way to further distinguish between them. We dinged the My Passport Elite for offering too many redundant software options, including no less than three backup and synchronization programs. Toshiba’s drive solves this issue by including only two programs.
NTI Shadow 3 is a simple application for backing up your files. It comes with both synchronization and scheduled-backup options. That’s it. The other piece of software, NTI Ripper, attempts to fill a void that iTunes already filled long ago. Turning CD tracks into digital audio files lost its complexity five years ago—and that’s being generous.
As a drive, the Toshiba 320 is competitive. As a backup solution, it ignores some of the more exciting possibilities in the storage space, such as file encryption. Somewhere between the software-bloated My Passport Elite and stripped down Toshiba 320 lies the perfect backup/storage device. We’ll keep searching for it.
Toshiba 320GB Portable Drive
Fast write speeds; easy-to-use backup software.
Slow read speeds; lacks an encryption program.
WD My Passport Elite
DriveStation Combo 4 (TurboUSB)
HDTach Burst (MB/s)
HDTach Random Acess (ms)
HDTach Avg. Read (MB/s)
HDTach Avg. Write (MB/s)
PCMark 05 Overall
Best scores are bolded. HD Tach version 188.8.131.52 used.