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eSATA is a External Serial ATA interface. Serial ATA is a commonly used interface for internal Hard Drives, and eSATA is an extension of that specification to be used with external devices.
If you’re using a USB or Firewire external drive, what you’re really using is a ATA or Serial ATA hard drive, and an external enclosure. The enclosure has a controller in it which translates the ATA or SATA protocol to USB or Firewire.
This translation causes some delay and there is also some overhead involved in the translations.
eSATA is already in the format that the drive is transmitting. No translation necessary means no lag.
Why Would I want to use eSATA?
Reason #1 – The transfer rate is fast. I mean really fast. Currently there is a 1.5 Gbps and a 3 Gbps Standard. This blows FireWire (IEEE 1394) and USB 2.0 out of the water.
Reason #2 - Less Lag. Since the data is already in a native format, there is no translation involved. This means data gets to the interface faster.
Reason #3 – It isn’t terribly expensive. Maybe this isn’t a reason to use it, but it isn’t much of a road block either. If your motherboard has SATA connectors laying around, you can extend them with a $3 bracket. SATA expansion cards can be found right now for under $30.
Should I replace all of my External Drives?
Sure, and I can give you an address to ship them to. Seriously though, I wouldn’t replace what you already have if it works. When you decide to buy a new drive, eSATA is worth some thought.
There are currently many drives shipping with USB and eSATA interfaces. So even if you don’t currently have eSATA capability, I would take a good long look at the drives with both interfaces, since they would allow you to upgrade later.
Serial ATA – Serial ATA International Organization