In the past few years, we have seen a proliferation in number of data transfer interface technologies. Users buying new external hard drives and other portable electronic devices face a problem of plenty with USB 3.0, eSATA, FireWire and now Apple's Thunderbolt making an entry into the market. With each offering data transfer speeds in multiples of gigabytes per second (Gbps), the average user may find it highly confusing to make a choice.
Through this Techspirited article, I am going to make the choice a bit simpler, by comparing USB 3.0 with the latest eSATA version. By the time you are through with this article, you'll know which technology would be a superior choice for the future. Let me provide a brief overview of both technologies, before comparing the two.
eSATA (External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) was launched in 2004 as a data transfer interface designed to transfer data between external storage devices and computer hard drives. It is a parallel implementation of the SATA interface used as a computer bus to connect internal hard drives in computers. Both versions of SATA offer the same data transfer speeds. The latest version of this technology, known as eSATA 3G, offers a theoretical maximum data transfer speed of 3Gbps. It offers a maximum 2 meters of shielded cable length. Computers not equipped with eSATA ports can use a PCI card extension to use the interface for data transfer.
All eSATA 3G based external drives can offer a maximum data transfer speed of about 1.5 Gbps, which makes them superior to USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 based devices. (For more, refer to eSATA vs FireWire 800). However, the picture has changed rapidly with the introduction of USB 3.0 and imminent launch of FireWire's next version.
About USB 3.0
SuperSpeed USB or USB 3.0 is the next generation of the Universal Serial Bus technology used as a data transfer interface to connect PC peripherals and data storage devices. It promises data transfer speeds touching a theoretical maximum of 5 Gbps! This a tenfold increase in speed from USB 2.0 which offered a maximum of 480 Mbps. Compatible with the earlier USB versions, this new version also uses less power, while enabling full duplex communication between devices. As the technology is included by motherboard manufacturers, it will soon be available as ubiquitously as USB 2.0 based devices are. Till USB 3.0 ports are made available and external hard drive data transfer speeds increase drastically, USB 3.0's high speed advantage won't be fully realized.
eSATA Vs USB 3.0 - Which is Better?
Right now, USB 3.0 with its full duplex communication, low power usage and promised data transfer speed of 5 Gbps, is certainly a superior choice to eSATA 3G, which has comparatively low speed. The only problem lies with the fact that laptop and desktop manufacturers, as well as motherboard manufacturers like Intel are still catching up with SuperSpeed USB. However, eventually when the hardware capability is available in computer motherboards, USB 3.0 will be the automatic choice for any consumer.
Due to the limitation on external hard drive RPM values, neither USB 3.0 or eSATA offer data transfer speeds anywhere near their theoretical maximum in data transfer right now. Ergo, even though USB will attain higher speeds than eSATA 3G in the course of time, right now it cannot provide much advantage. Also with SATA revision 3.0 offering 6 Gbps of data transfer speed, future eSATA versions may also see an increase in data transfer speeds.
To sum up, considering future trends and the wide scale use of Universal Serial Bus technology in PC peripherals of all types and its inherent superiority in technology, it would be wise to invest in a USB 3.0 device, instead of eSATA. Hope this comparison between USB and eSATA, helped you make up your mind.