USB 2.0, FireWire, Or eSATA: Which Interface Should You Use?


Nibiru2012

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From Tom's Hardware:

2:00 AM - 01/22/2010 by Patrick Schmid and Achim Roos

Table of contents


Several years ago, users had to replace their PC’s hard drive or install an additional one to increase storage capacity. However, today there are many options with which to expand storage space by adding external devices, including 2.5” portable drives with 640GB (and soon 1TB of capacity) and 3.5” products that offer up to 2TB on a single hard drive. Meanwhile, enthusiasts might opt for a RAID-based storage box with several hard drives. However, since performance depends on the interface, we decided to look at two popular drive options to help you choose the interface that works best for your application: high-capacity USB 2.0 and a combo product that also offers FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and eSATA.

Zoom

2.5” vs. 3.5”
The image above also shows a 2.5” portable drive. Everything we’ll discuss applies to 2.5” portable drives, as well as to 3.5” external hard drives. Using USB 2.0, both form factors deliver similar performance, while 2.5” models might not require an additional power supply. However, there are only few 2.5” eSATA drives, and you can expect 2.5” drives to deliver less throughput than their 3.5” brothers.

USB Against the Rest

USB 2.0 has been available for many years and it’s not an exaggeration to say that this interface is available on each and every computer--whether we’re talking about desktop PCs, notebooks, or servers in the Windows world or on Apple systems. And although USB 2.0 is reliable, highly compatible, and easy-to-use, it does have a disadvantage that forced the industry to move on: USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mb/s, which translates into 30-35 MB/s maximum bandwidth for typical storage applications. This is certainly more than enough for most device types and for casual storage use, but as soon as you want or need to move many gigabytes of data on a regular basis, you’ll want more throughput.

FireWire (or IEEE 1394) has been around for many years as well. The initial standard, FireWire 400, or 1394a, provides 400 Mb/s throughput and isochronous transfer, which is necessary for real-time transmission of data--something you would want for digital video, for example. FireWire 800, or 1394b, doubled the throughput to 800 Mb/s, but neither of the two FireWire specifications really became mainstream. Although FireWire is popular and widespread, it is not even remotely as prolific as USB.

Finally, we have eSATA, which stands for external Serial ATA (SATA). This is a modification of the SATA standard that most computers use to attach hard drives and optical drives, adjusted to support longer cables for external devices through modified electrical specifications. In addition, connectors are physically different to avoid mixing them up. The cable length of up to 2m is sufficient for storage applications, but both FireWire and USB still support longer cables that are 4.5m and 5m in length. However, eSATA is as fast as internal SATA, which translates into a maximum of 300 MB/s for 3 Gb/s SATA connections.

Future FireWire standards, such as 1394d, could reach 6.4 Gb/s, but these will probably not be very mainstream. USB 3.0 (also known as SuperSpeed USB) is specified at 4.8 Gb/s and has the potential of reaching effective throughput of up to 400 MB/s. The standard is in the process of deployment, but it will take at least one more chipset generation in one or more years until we can assume that most systems will actually be equipped with USB 3.0. eSATA at 6 Gb/s also has the potential to offer additional bandwidth, but we believe that USB 3.0 will dominate.

Combo Drives

There are hundreds of portable and external hard drives that utilize the USB 2.0 interface. Most of them deliver similar performance, so there is not much risk associated with opting for one product over another. However, if you go for a high-capacity product, it can take several hours for a storage device to read or write hundreds of gigabytes of data.

Drives that combine USB 2.0 with additional interfaces seem to offer a good compromise--FireWire 800 enables additional throughput and eSATA promises to deliver native hard drive performance without any bottleneck for modern storage products. Today we're comparing a 2TB USB 2.0 and a 1TB quad-interface combo drive, analyzing the performance differences.

The read the rest of the review; click on the links in the Table of Contents above.

SOURCE
 

catilley1092

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Isn't there a way to accomplish this through a bluetooth or wireless setting, now that we're in 2010? We can control almost everything that connects to our computers in this way, given that the equipment on both ends are fairly new (3 years old or less). If not, then it's time for the consumers to demand it. Look at Windows 7, for example. Many of the end users had their say, and it worked. When consumers starts applying pressure, results happen.
 

clifford_cooley

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Wireless is still too slow. Sure you can get the job done. Most people don't like waiting and I'm one of them.
 

catilley1092

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I didn't realize that wireless was that slow, or I wouldn't have brought it up. My PC connection is through a wireless modem. I do know that there are different speeds, I have Road Runner "lite" version, and it's fast. No audio/video breakup, fast download speeds. I downloaded one of those Digital River backups for this PC with it to see how fast it is. It took one hour and twenty some minutes to do it. I thought 2.3GB in that time is fast. There were two tiers above mine, but I got the special, phone, TV and internet all in one.
 

Nibiru2012

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This was a review about external hard drives and the interfaces used to connect them.

Personally I use an eSATA for one drive and two USB 2.0 connections for the other two drives. I will upgrade one of the USB to an eSATA soon and leave my portable 2.5" drive as a USB 2.0 for when I have to go to someone's house to repair their computer.

My eSATA connection has a burst of about 130MBps and a sustained of 85MBps.
 
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If performance matters to you that much; SATA or SSD's.

Suck it up and turn the PC off to swap. If it really matters to you that much.
The rest have an extremely short servicible life span because the plugs are very flexible, which leads to corruption, physical damage and data loss.

The caddies holding external hard drives also provide more stress to the device because they are not as secure as internal hard drives - again increasing your chances of failure by over 5 times that of an internal drive.

Never, ever
rely on anything excepting USB thumb drives if you want safe external storage. In 10 years i have seen more than 1 external drive a year fail. All brands. All models. All sizes. I still have a working quantam fireball 10gb IDE ATA 100 internal that i use in a SQUID server =/
 
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Nibiru2012

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If performance matters to you that much; SATA or SSD's.
I do use SATA internal drives and plan on getting an SSD sometime this year for my main C drive.

Suck it up and turn the PC off to swap. If it really matters to you that much.
The rest have an extremely short servicible life span because the plugs are very flexible, which leads to corruption, physical damage and data loss.
That's disingenuous of you, I have two external hard drives that I have had for over 6 years with NO ISSUES at all. Either with the drives, connections or whatever.

The caddies holding external hard drives also provide more stress to the device because they are not as secure as internal hard drives - again increasing your chances of failure by over 5 times that of an internal drive.
Another disingenuous statement, my external hard drive enclosures have extremely secure mounts in them, even my eSATA enclosure. The mounts are just as secure as the internal mounts are.

Never, ever rely on anything excepting USB thumb drives if you want safe external storage. In 10 years i have seen more than 1 external drive a year fail. All brands. All models. All sizes.
Based on various reviews and expert opinions, external hard drive storage is extremely safe and secure. USB thumb drives can get corrupted too, sometimes more easily than hard drives.
 
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I do use SATA internal drives and plan on getting an SSD sometime this year for my main C drive.
I'm not talking purely about them being internal. I am saying that you should be using SATA internals or SSD's for storage and pull it out when it gets full. If you want it purely for speed and don't really care about the portability of it.



That's disingenuous of you, I have two external hard drives that I have had for over 6 years with NO ISSUES at all. Either with the drives, connections or whatever.
If you don't move them, then obviously they will have no issues. It's actually disengenuous of YOU to think that everyone choses these hardware options for speed. Most choose them for portability and actually move them. That is what ruins them, the constant moving.


Another disingenuous statement, my external hard drive enclosures have extremely secure mounts in them, even my eSATA enclosure. The mounts are just as secure as the internal mounts are.
Actually beleiving that statement makes you delusional. 2.5" and 3.5" caddies vibrate more than an internal with 4 screws or anchor points PLUS the caddy itself moves if it doesn't have rubber feet. Add in the occasional mishap that results in it being dropped or falling off the desk and it's completely, absolutely true to say that they're less secure. READ: I did not say anything about the mounts. I said the caddies THEMSELVES as a WHOLE were a less secure solution.

Based on various reviews and expert opinions, external hard drive storage is extremely safe and secure. USB thumb drives can get corrupted too, sometimes more easily than hard drives.
Reveiws by who? Toms' Hardware? You DO know that they've been caught repeatedly lying out-right over the course of their history, right? As have most other major sites....

Web "experts" and reviews are nothing solid to rely on. Ever.

My Final Word on the matter; Spend a decent amount on a USB thumb drive and STOP it before removing it.
 

Nibiru2012

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All I did was post a review. You're the one who came on flaming and such.

I'm outta here!
 
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I can almost smell the disdain in that last post of yours.
I didn't mean to cause offence or anything, quite the contrary. Facts are facts, they're what i go by and all i was trying to express.

Sorry if it came accross as flaming or derogatory.
 

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