February 26, 2013

USB 3.0 vs eSATA


Theres been a lot of talk about how fast and useful USB 3.0 is and compared to the old USB 2.0 (more so the USB 1.1) standards, its absolutely blazing. The thing is I don’t have a USB 3.0 port on my laptop. Its not old – its an i7 3.0Ghz DC HT and it quite a machine, but it ships with an eSATA port instead of a USB 3.0 and 4 USB 2.0 ports. As you can imagine, eSATA kind of went the way of the mini disc, so its not on a lot of devices. In any case, because of a need to transfer large volumes of data between my esata drive and another external (USB 2.0) drive (about 2.5TBs) and not wanting to wait between 8 to 12 hours (which I had already done serveral times in the past), I went out and got a expresscard 3/4 slot USB 3.0 interface. Didn’t cost much, just S$39 as a combo pack of the expresscard and a USB 3.0 3.5″ HDD enclosure from SLS. No fuss installation, and I started my 2.5TB copy and it took under 3 hours – compared to what it used to take, that was about only a third of the time.

I had read all the reviews and other tests, most significantly this video from NCIX on Youtube. The result was that eSATA was significantly faster (approximately 2x) for small file transfers, while USB 3.0 was just only slightly faster than eSATA for large files so for an overall speed boost, eSATA was the better choice. This tallied with quite a few other review comparisons between the two, but of course the tech in me wanted to get my hands dirty on testing it myself so I started off doing more transfer tests for the USB 3.0 vs eSATA comparison.

While most reviews tested small and big files seperately, I copied a generic large file and in oneĀ  instance a mix of large and small files between internal SATA, eSATA, USB 3.0 and GB network drives and the results are in the pics. The drives in the devices were 7200rpm (speed drops by more than 30% with a 5400rpm drive). The emphasis was on the large files because if the other reviews were right, the speeds shouldn’t have varied that much with large files. Lo and behold, transfers from the USB 3.0 to the internal SATA were twice as long as the eSATA to internal SATA.

So, choices, choices. USB 3.0 or eSATA? The logical choice is USB 3.0 (if you’re even remotely considering eSATA, something is seriously wrong with you). Why you ask? Because of its wide spread use in many devices. Throw a stone in a PC shop and you’ll probably hit something that has a USB 3.0 interface (and you’ll probably damage the item to, so don’t seriously throw stones in a PC shop). You probably will be hard pressed to find more than an item or two with an eSATA interface.

But seriously whatever you choose, eSATA or USB 3.0, its far, far better than miserable speeds USB 2.0 has to offer. So if your machine doesn’t have more than one USB 3.0 or eSATA slot or only has one of one but not the other, go buy an expansion card (PCIe, expresscard 3/4 or PCMCIA) for it – it’ll be worth it, trust me.

Comments (0)

Comments are closed.