Which external drive interface is the right choice for you?
USB, FireWire, eSATA, or Gigabit Ethernet? Each interface has
its strengths, which are explained in detail below. The right
choice depends on compatibility with your computer and how you
want to use your device. First, look at the connections on your
USB 2.0 is the industry standard peripheral connection for most
Windows-based computers. This connection transfers data at a
maximum rate of 480 Mb/s. Sustained data transfer rates, usually
from 10 to 30 MB/s, vary depending on many factors including the
type of device, data being transferred, and computer system
speed. If your USB port is an earlier version, USB 1.0 or 1.1,
you can use a USB 2.0 hard drive, but transfer rates default to
the slowest version. If you donít know the version of your
computerís USB ports, refer to your computer documentation or
contact the manufacturer.
SuperSpeed USB brings significant performance
enhancements to the ubiquitous USB standard, while remaining
compatible with the billions of USB enabled devices
currently deployed in the market. SuperSpeed USB will
deliver 10x the data transfer rate of Hi-Speed USB, as well
as improved power efficiency.
SuperSpeed USB is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Devices
interoperate with USB 2.0 platforms. Hosts support USB 2.0
FireWire, also called IEEE 1394, is a high-performance
connection standard for personal computers and consumer
electronics. This interface uses a peer-to-peer architecture in
which peripherals negotiate bus conflicts to determine which
device can best control a data transfer. FireWire has two
FireWire 400, also
called IEEE 1394a, transfers large amounts of data between
computers and peripheral devices at rates up to 400 Mb/s.
With higher bandwidth, longer distances, and a
higher-powered bus, this interface is suitable for hard
drives, digital video, professional audio, high-end digital
still cameras, and home entertainment devices.
FireWire 800, also
called IEEE 1394b, provides the highspeed connection and
bandwidth required for multiple-stream, uncompressed digital
video and noise-free, high-resolution digital audio. It
offers maximum flexibility with long-distance cabling and
configuration options not available with USB.
SATA is very effective for external storage applications, and
the external SATA (eSATA) cable and connector application
provides a physically secure and fast connection for external
hard drives. With up to 3 Gb/s data transfers, this interface is
suitable for hard drives, home networking, digital video, and
home entertainment devices such as set-top boxes and personal
video recorders. eSATA and internal SATA cables and connectors
cannot be used interchangeably. This is an important feature
since eSATA cables and connectors are designed for 5000
insertion and removal cycles while internal SATA cables and
connectors are designed for only 50 insertion and removal
cycles. To achieve eSATA connectivity with an external SATA
drive, a SATA PCI card must be installed on the host computer.
Ethernet is a standard method of connecting computers to a local
area network (LAN) using coaxial cable. As an external hard
drive interface, it is most often used for network attached
storage (NAS) applications in which files can be shared across a
Gigabit Ethernet, with its data
transfer rate of 1000 Mb/s, is the latest and fastest Ethernet
standard that evolved from the earlier Fast Ethernet (100 Mb/s)
and Ethernet (10 Mb/s) standards. Benefits of Gigabit Ethernet
include increased bandwidth, quality of service (QoS) features
that promote smooth transmission of audio and video, and
compatibility with existing Ethernet and Fast Ethernet networks.