We’ve been waiting several years for eSATA (external SATA, that is) to show up. This month we’re happy to see the first eSATA drive actually arrive to market. If you’re looking for an external backup drive that’s much faster than a standard USB or FireWire drive, Christmas has come early.
Now, astute readers will probably say “Maximum PC, don’t pull my leg. You reviewed an external SATA drive back in June 2004.” OK, you got us on that one, but that CMS Velocity drive wasn’t a true external SATA drive (it didn’t adhere to the official eSATA specification).
The Seagate eSATA drive, however, is the real deal. It uses an actual external SATA cable, which is thick and shielded to protect against interference. The 5-foot-long cable plugs into the included Promise eSATA controller, which runs at SATA 3G speeds and rides the PCI bus. The big news with this drive is that rather than riding the pokey USB or FireWire bus (as other external drives do), it runs on SATA, and the difference shows in the benchmarks. On average, the eSATA drive runs almost twice as fast as a comparable USB drive, in both read and write speed, which is incredible. Its access times are much slower than the same model internal drive, however, hovering in the mid-20 millisecond range.
There’s only one problem: We had trouble with the included backup software. It’s BounceBack Express from CMS, which we’ve found plenty capable in the past. But the UI has been revamped to give it a fresh look, and the new version crashed repeatedly on our test system. Seagate’s eSATA drive is the fastest backup drive available, and you can even stack several drives on top of each other and run them in RAID array if you have an eSATA RAID controller. It’s hurt only by the fact that a single drive’s 500GB capacity is middling, and the software is buggy.