eSATA vs. USB ext. hard drive question
January 7, 2009 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I need to purchase another external hard drive to store my ITunes library and other media files. Currently I store my media files on a second internal drive. I cannot decide if it's worth it to purchase a drive that uses a eSATA connection and to install an eSATA card in my 4-year old Dell. Would having an eSATA connection as opposed to USB 2.0 make a difference when it comes to syncing my IPod?
posted by jingo74 to Technology (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
On you can pick up a 1 TB drive that is eSATA and USB 2.0 for 129$ after shipping.

It's not going to matter too much for ipod syncing though because you are still limited to USB 2.0 bus for the transfer to the ipod.

Anyway, it's a pretty good deal to just get a combo drive and you can decide if you want to get an adapater card later.
posted by zephyr_words at 5:48 PM on January 7, 2009

Make a difference as being faster or not working at all? Here is some eSATA vs. USB 2.0 benchmarks. eSATA is certainly faster than USB 2.0 but keep in mind that the faster speeds are only achieved with long sustained reads and writes of single files.

Also your iPod is still syncing over USB so that link in the chain isn't going to go any faster.
posted by mmascolino at 5:49 PM on January 7, 2009

If the drive is going to be more or less permanently connected, eSATA is more desirable. USB is principally designed to be cheap, so there's little onboard logic or chipset support and it relies on the CPU to do most of the work. By contrast SATA is specifically not meant to be CPU bound and has a signficant amount of chipset support. Also, you only have a set amount of bandwidth for all USB devices combined, so connecting both the hard drive and the iPod via is theoretically going to be less efficient. In practice, I dunno, depends on how your machine is set up. But for an external drive that's going to be hooked up to one computer and not carried around, eSATA is just generally a more robust, higher-quality solution. The only real virtue of USB is portability.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2009

1. If you don't have the cash, buy it via USB. It will work fine. The only thing you have to watch out for is that some enclosures spin down the drive (when not in use) and some don't. It's a bit of waste of energy (and drive bearings) to have the drive spinning away all night long if you forget to turn it off.

2. If you do, then splurge on the eSATA, for the reasons specified above. I'm not sure if spindown is automatically supported, or if it's a per-enclosure thing like USB.
posted by defcom1 at 6:15 PM on January 7, 2009

If your scenario the bottleneck will be the USB 2.0 interface on your ipod. The fastest if can do is 480mbps. So getting a 1.5gb/s eSata connection wont really help... BUT Its worth considering that you will have two devices on your USB bus that will be in contention for that bandwidth. USB has a lot of processor overhead too. So having the drive on USB and the ipod on USB will produce a real slowdown. Perhaps it will take twice as long as usual to sync.

eSata is a smart investment because you now have an external disk thats as fast as a internal disk, but if money is that tight then you can stick with USB. Frankly, esata cards are like 12 dollars nowadays. Its really not a huge expense. Lots of drives come with esata and usb for no extra cost.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2009

My advice? Skip eSata and buy 2 usb drives instead. Which is more important to you:

Fastest speed possible!!! EVER!!!!
-- or --
Holy crap! My drive died. Thank god I have a backup of everything.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:43 AM on January 8, 2009

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