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As we get deep into hard-drive week with our roundups of portable drives, hard drives and solid-state drives for gaming, and explanation of NAS servers, we add this to the mix—there are large-capacity external drives out there that don’t really fit into any scenario. They’re good for almost any data storage solutions, and the main reason they’re excluded from most portable drive roundups is a) they’re large and take up desk real estate and b) at these capacities you may want to look into NAS solutions.
So why talk about them at all? Well, they’re fairly new to the market at this size; 6TB is a great deal of storage. We’re only talking about single disk drives, as well. There are other 6TB solutions, but they involve multiple smaller disks set up in RAID configurations. This is one gigantic 6TB chunk of storage, and even though there are 8TB drives out there (like this one from Transcend), this is exactly the kind of mid-size storage solution you need.
Do you need this much space? You might, rabbit, you might. But these don’t offer the functionality of a RAID system, so they are mostly going to be used for raw data storage of multiple types of data. For example…
Scenario 1: You have thousands of RAW format images, and you need somewhere to store them while you work on cataloging and organizing them.
Scenario 2: You’re a designer with multiple projects, and you need a large-volume scratch disk to cache your work. 6TB allows you the freedom to keep the heavy lifting from your main drive.
Scenario 3: You are transferring data from multiple older drives and need a staging area to compile your work.
Scenario 4: You have a lot of stuff.
These drives are somewhat limited, as well; they don’t offer network capability out of the box (although most routers now have a USB 3.0 port to hook up external drives and access them from the network). They also require a power brick—the technology to allow a 6TB drive to use a bus-powered draw is still a ways off—so it’s another cord to deal with. Also, if a single 6TB drive like this fails, you’re out of luck as far as backup goes.
Still, the appeal is that these behemoths are relatively inexpensive, and the cost per gigabyte is attractive. Only a couple of years ago, a 4TB internal drive used to cost almost $400. These 6TB portable externals can be had for a little more than half of that, in some cases. Let’s see what else they offer that sets them apart:
Battle of the Sixes: Tale of the Tape
Toshiba 6TB Canvio Desktop External Hard Drive
WD 6TB My Book Desktop HDD
|Interface||USB 3.0||USB 3.0|
|(Backwards compatible with USB 2.0)||USB 2.0|
|Data Transfer Rate||USB 3.0: Up to 5 Gbps||USB 3.0 up to 5 Gb/s (max.)|
|USB 2.0: Up to 480 Mbps||USB 2.0 up to 480 Mb/s (max.)|
|Speed||5400 rpm||not specified|
|Average Seek Time||10.5 ms||not specified|
|Cache Buffer||32MB||not specified|
|Software Included||NTI Backup Now EZ||WD SmartWare, Acronis True Image for WD|
|System Requirements||Formatted NTFS for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8||Formatted NTFS for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8|
|Requires reformatting for Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard or Lion||Requires reformatting for Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard or Lion|
|Available USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port||Available USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port|
|USB 3.0 port required for high-speed transfers||USB 3.0 port required for high speed tansfers|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||5.08 x 1.65 x 6.57" / 129 x 42 x 167mm||1.9 x 6.7 x 5.5" / 49 x 171 x 139mm|
|Weight||2.29 lb / 1.04 kg||1.96 lb / 0.89 kg|
As you can see, both of these match up evenly. Both have USB 3.0 connectivity (backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports) both have software (I will give a nod to the WD with the Acronis True Image software. I’ve used this software before and it is flawless although, full disclosure, I have never used the NTI Backup Now EZ software). Toshiba also keeps things transparent by listing the average seek time, rotational speed, and cache buffer. As of this writing, WD does not list those specifications, although you can be assured the drive does not go below 5400 rpm. Even the size and weight are fairly similar, with the Toshiba Canvio being the heftier of the two.
Again, the big question, the technological elephant in the room is, what does this mean to you? A 6TB drive is overkill in most cases, but as we gather and hoard more digital data in our lives, it easily becomes relevant. 6TB of raw storage can hold 1,200,000 photos; 1,500,000 .mp3s; and 460 hours of high-definition video. If you have that much of any of those categories, you need a 6TB drive and some personal time to deal with it. Where will you put your thousands of selfies, Kim Kardashian? On a 6TB drive. Where will you store all those family vacation photos, videos, or home-recorded original songs? A 6TB drive. It has its place. Find out yours.