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Author Topic: esata vs. USB...fight!  (Read 3504 times)
superboyac
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« on: July 22, 2012, 06:44:47 PM »

Now that USB 3.0 has arrived, I need to rekindle this battle of mine.  I want this discussion to be about the actual merits of each protocol, not the technical specs.  meaning, I don't care if usb 3.0 is technically capable of transferring 12 megabits per second, that's not what I'm after here.  I'm looking for people's actual experiences with these devices, in a practical way.  I think most of us are familiar with the technical merits of each device, that's not very interesting.  I mean, just to summarize: esata is not very common, but is the same technology used on hard drives.  usb is extremely common, usb 3.0 is backwards compatible, it's still new, not all motherboards support it, blah blah...

Now, I've been fortunate enough to get one of those new Sony Vaio Z laptops which does have a legit usb 3.0 connection.  The same USB 3.0 port also has a very clever customized by Sony Light Peak built into it, that is used with it's special docking system.  It's probably the only light peak/USB connector currently available on a commercial product right now.  I also got that really great HD enclosure by Dat Optics, that has esata and usb 3.0 connectors on it.  So I'm all set up to run all sorts of experiements.

eSATA:
I am personally a big fan of esata.  Why?  Reliability.  Unlike USB, normal use of esata gets really top notch speeds.  i don't know the numbers exactly, but it's faster than any other connection I've ever used.  And it's not flaky.  It works if other things are attached to the computer.  I like the physical connector also compared to usb.  It seems to be far more reliable than USB.  By reliable, I mean it's always going fast and during long transfers it doesn't dip down and up in speed.

USB 3.0:
I've now used usb 3.0 on the laptop and also with the HD enclosure.  Very flaky.  USB has always been a flaky experience for me, ever since the beginning.  I don't know why...perhaps drivers, hardware compatibilities, whatever.  No version of USB was even close to as fast as the speeds that they advertise on the boxes and specs.  We're now at usb 3.0, and it's actual experienced output could now possibly be as fast as what usb 2.0 promised in the specs?  So silly.  And again, I don't care what the reason is, that's what it is.  I'm just trying to cut through all the usb BS specs.

Also, can we talk about mega-BYTES, and not mega-bits?  megabits is some BS the hardware manufacturers picked up on long ago to inflate the numbers they get to plaster on all their boxes and ads.  Nobody thinks in terms of bits unless they are a modem engineer.  It's bytes folks.  But then they wouldn't be able to confuse people.

Anyway, so at one point I was getting 70-90 MBps on the laptop's usb 3.0 connection.  But when I used it on the light peak dock's usb 3.0 port, it went down to usb 2 speeds, like 30MBps.  So last week I spent 3 hours on the phone with Sony trying all sorts of stuff (I got elevated to level 5!  that's like calling in the general!).  We're going to continue next week, it's still not solved.  But as usual, the usb connection is as flaky as ever.

It's fine for non-essential activities, like transferring things to a thumbdrive, or using an external drive here and there, or the other peripheral devices.  It's a remarkable innovation for that stuff.  But for sustained file transfer operations and long term reliability and usage, I don't like it.  I use esata for that or anything else for that matter: IDE, pcie, sas, etc.  For some reason, all those are more reliable than usb.

That's it, rant over.  That's how I feel about esata and usb.  If anyone wants me to try out some stuff regarding usb 3.0, esata, or light peak, I'd be more than happy.
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MilesAhead
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2012, 07:19:44 PM »

I've talked to people with eSata docking stations, but I haven't gotten much in the way of numbers such as sequential read and write.  Can you post eSata Crystal Diskmark numbers along with the percentage free space of your drive and its max sustained transfer rate?

Usually when I run into people complaining about slow USB 3.0 they have chips on the motherboard. Not a PCI express card.

As example I have a couple of WD caviar black Sata III drives. The specs say max sustained transfer rate is 126 MB/s.  But Crystal Diskmark, for some bizarre reason, likes to call one million bytes a MB. Therefore the numbers are slightly inflated, where on a freshly formatted drive of this type it will show sequential reads and writes over 130 MB/s.  Since the factory spec is 126 I'm assuming the inflated number is due to the one million bytes = 1 MB quirk of CDM.  But still, I don't see my SIIG PCI express card slowing anything down. I'd be curious what eSata numbers are out there for this same drive in a docking station.

This is the drive:
http://www.newegg.com/Pro...aspx?Item=N82E16822136533

This is the card: (edit: now for desktop machines you can get setups that provide 4 ports on the front of the PC.  This card the ports are on the back. No big deal if you have a big desk. If your tower is on the floor it can be a pita.)

http://www.newegg.com/Pro...aspx?Item=N82E16815150161

This is the dock: (edit: I thought I put the corrected link. This is the USB 3.0 dock, not USB 2.0)
http://www.siig.com/it-pr...ive-docking-with-fan.html

Since my HP machines only come with Sata II disk controllers, the drives in the docks outperform the internal system drives.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 10:45:22 PM by MilesAhead » Logged

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x16wda
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 07:24:38 PM »

How did you do your throughput tests?  I just got a laptop with usb 3 ("super speed") ports, and the first full backup to an external usb 3 hard drive was significantly faster than usb 2 speeds (as I would hope), but I haven't done any specific measurements.  (It's kind of moot, it's not like I have an esata port on anything...)  Anyway, did you use a utility, or just queue up a hundred gigs and see how long it took?  FreeFileSync and watch what it said?
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superboyac
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2012, 11:34:24 AM »

Found a thread that talks about some tests performed on usb and esata.  His tests show very clearly how esata is faster and more reliable than usb 2 or 3.
Thread is here:
http://www.sevenforums.co...-slow-transfer-rates.html

Quote
By the way, eSATA is a lot faster than USB3.0 ( which is still very buggy with the NEC chips).
Here is a comparison, all using the same disc but on various ports and using various drivers;

Even a working USB 3.0 interface is not as fast as eSATA. So a bit pointless really. I decided not to bother with any USB 3.0 hardware for myself after quite a lot of testing.
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mouser
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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2012, 01:22:59 PM »

One serious drawback of esata for external docking solutions is that you need one esata port and cable for EACH DRIVE in the dock.
This was a nasty surprise for me, and i've never forgiven esata for this issue.

To me, the external usb docks are great in that they are so portable; speed is not my main concern -- I just want to be able to quickly connect and disconnect and move the dock to different pcs, etc.  USB has seemed like a better match for my needs over esata.
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MilesAhead
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2012, 02:19:40 PM »

@superboyac the thread in your link is from Jan 2011.  The only thing new I've learned since then is check Device Manager to make sure your USB 3.0 hub does not have the option to power off to save energy enabled. Otherwise if the drive in the dock is idle for awhile it may shut the port off. I've already posted my experience on that thread in detail.


« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 02:56:54 PM by MilesAhead » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2012, 02:28:58 PM »

One serious drawback of esata for external docking solutions is that you need one esata port and cable for EACH DRIVE in the dock.
This was a nasty surprise for me, and i've never forgiven esata for this issue.

To me, the external usb docks are great in that they are so portable; speed is not my main concern -- I just want to be able to quickly connect and disconnect and move the dock to different pcs, etc.  USB has seemed like a better match for my needs over esata.

I haven't had eSata to try, but one thing I enjoyed with USB 3.0 card, while I was waiting for my USB 3.0 docks to arrive I plugged an external Seagate 500 GB USB 2.0 (that's a 2 not a 3) drive into the SIIG USB 3.0 card. Doing nothing else on large file transfers I saw an immediate throughput increase of about 15%.  That thing would only copy large files, such as copying a single .avi file, at 24 MB/s max.  Just by plugging it into the SIIG card I got copies of 28 to 30 MB/s copying the same file. So it's not a total waste to buy USB 3.0 card and maybe a dock while waiting for internal HD price gouge dissipation. smiley
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barney
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2012, 02:31:45 PM »

Strikes me that this is another Ford vs. Chevrolet discussion.  No one (1) solution will be ideal for all folk.

It also strikes me that a discussion of just speed is rather pointless.  OK, there is the reliability issue, but the primary concern seems to be speed.  Yeah, I want things done fast.  And I want things done reliably.  But all the systems I currently possess have one (1) [non-shareable] esata port.  Some of 'em don't even have that.  But every one (1) of 'em has multiple USB ports (tablets not included).  So 'twould seem that our concentration should be on maximizing use of available resources, not on which resource is faster. 

As I said, it's a Ford vs. Chevrolet discussion which will never be resolved.
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superboyac
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 02:52:01 PM »

Strikes me that this is another Ford vs. Chevrolet discussion.  No one (1) solution will be ideal for all folk.

It also strikes me that a discussion of just speed is rather pointless.  OK, there is the reliability issue, but the primary concern seems to be speed.  Yeah, I want things done fast.  And I want things done reliably.  But all the systems I currently possess have one (1) [non-shareable] esata port.  Some of 'em don't even have that.  But every one (1) of 'em has multiple USB ports (tablets not included).  So 'twould seem that our concentration should be on maximizing use of available resources, not on which resource is faster. 

As I said, it's a Ford vs. Chevrolet discussion which will never be resolved.
i don't think we should dismiss as easily as that.  Sure, there are differences.  I'm trying to delve into those differences to see what the advantages and disadvantages are for multiple issues.  Yes, in the issue of convenience, USB wins hands down.  In real-life speed tests, esata wins hands down.  We don't have to dismiss that so easily.

I mean, this leads to several questions.  Why didn't esata take off?  My computer has multiple esata ports, and I might be using every single one of them.  Never had a problem with speed or reliability.  USB...I've had several problems.

What is it really about USB that leads to this unreliability?  I've heard it could be poor driver coding or something like that.  Almost like people rush to make the drivers for USB so they can sell all the millions of usb devices, but the drivers might suck.  Or maybe the architecture of it sucks.  perhaps the fact that USB can do so much means that complications are bound to occur.  The kitchen sink argument.

I was a huge fan of esata when it came out.  I was really hoping there would be a transition from usb to esata.  Never happened.  I don't understand why.  Then USB 3.0 came out, and there's a whole lot of talking about it.  But the few USB 3 devices that are out there that I've had experience with have all had serious issues.  And still, esata is not taking off.  How come people, now that usb 3 is here and we've seen it, are not asking "Why are we waiting for USB 3 instead of just using esata which is better, has been around and is mature?"  I don't know.  Probably has to do with money and marketing, blah blah.

I also have hopes for thunderbolt/light peak.  But looks like we might have to wait a year (minimum) before we can get our hands on any of that stuff.
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superboyac
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 03:45:15 PM »

One serious drawback of esata for external docking solutions is that you need one esata port and cable for EACH DRIVE in the dock.
This was a nasty surprise for me, and i've never forgiven esata for this issue.

To me, the external usb docks are great in that they are so portable; speed is not my main concern -- I just want to be able to quickly connect and disconnect and move the dock to different pcs, etc.  USB has seemed like a better match for my needs over esata.
That's true, i was annoyed by that also.  It's presented an interesting challenge in my DIY project of building a server box with  10-20 drives in it.  I was initially going to just use esata, but now I realize i have to use sas or expanders or something like that.
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barney
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2012, 03:47:18 PM »

i don't think we should dismiss as easily as that.  Sure, there are differences.  I'm trying to delve into those differences to see what the advantages and disadvantages are for multiple issues.  Yes, in the issue of convenience, USB wins hands down.  In real-life speed tests, esata wins hands down.  We don't have to dismiss that so easily.
OK, wasn't dismissing it, per se, merely pointing out that differing requirements and attitudes make any real comparison moot.  You've had USB issues - I haven't.  You have multiple esata ports - I don't.  For me, the convenience of USB far outweighs the speed of esata.  For you, the speed of esata outweighs the convenience of USB.

I recall a similar discussion regarding USB vs. FireWire when they first came out.  FireWire was faster, more reliable. USB won. 
Same thing with VHS vs. BetaMax - VHS won, although BetaMax provided the better experience. 
Similar contests have occurred regarding programming languages,with no clear resolution and no consensus.

The winner in this contest will be determined not by our preferences, but by what manufacturers decide to provide, and their decision will be based upon cost and convenience, not upon performance.  It will only marginally be influenced by public preferences - mostly because that public tends to be singularly quiet about such things.
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superboyac
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2012, 04:05:51 PM »

@superboyac the thread in your link is from Jan 2011.  The only thing new I've learned since then is check Device Manager to make sure your USB 3.0 hub does not have the option to power off to save energy enabled. Otherwise if the drive in the dock is idle for awhile it may shut the port off. I've already posted my experience on that thread in detail.
Dang Miles!  Always one step ahead!  Thanks...
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2012, 04:12:48 PM »

The advantage of eSATA is that with an expansion box you can attach loads of drives whereas USB ports support only one drive (or the box contains a hub to attach more).

Just ordered one of these: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B006CS1VN4 with two Seagate 3Tb drives.

I am putting the drives into my box after using that to clone them! (Hopefully)

Personally I have had no luck with eSata - I have had three mobos with eSata support and external devices apparently with eSata support and have yet to find a combination that works convincingly and consistently.

Almost the exact opposite of the experience described in the opening message - I have rarely had any issues with USB (only slow speeds with USB 2) - hopefully USB 3 will help to solve that - it has pretty much killed firewire, even Apple don't use it any more.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2012, 04:15:48 PM »

@superboyac the thread in your link is from Jan 2011.  The only thing new I've learned since then is check Device Manager to make sure your USB 3.0 hub does not have the option to power off to save energy enabled. Otherwise if the drive in the dock is idle for awhile it may shut the port off. I've already posted my experience on that thread in detail.
Dang Miles!  Always one step ahead!  Thanks...

Don't forget to disable the selective suspend option in Windows Vista/7 power settings too!
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MilesAhead
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2012, 04:33:35 PM »

Don't forget to disable the selective suspend option in Windows Vista/7 power settings too!

Also I should probably mention that the first USB 3.0 docks I tried were Sharkoon. They worked well enough but it drove me crazy they seemed to have a spin-down time-out that could not be disabled. Perhaps this has been changed in the interim, but when I got them a year or so ago I had to write a stupid "keep alive" app that wrote and deleted a tiny file every 5 minutes.  Although many may just use docks for storage in my case I've found the WD drives in docks to be faster than my system HD(since I have off the shelf HP stuff the system HD is only Sata II.) Muxing video using the drives in the docks is much faster. Also reduces thrashing. It's really annoying if the dock spins down your drive.
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« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2012, 03:22:02 AM »

I've had multiple motherboards with eSATA, I've had external eSATA enclosures - some that worked with th eSATA ports and some that didn't.

It was a crap-shoot whether the enclosure I bought would deign to work with the eSATA port on the motherboard.

USB3, for me, has proven to be both fast and reliable - the only time I now use the eSATA port is to plug a bare drive into it, (eSATA->SATA cable), that always works because it's not relying on some interface chip in the enclosure.
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