While there is potential to use this drive as the system drive for a computer (using it as the installation drive for freeNAS springs to mind) or using it as a ReadyBoost drive for Windows Vista, we feel it's not really the kind of drive you should be using for such applications - there are plenty of small, low price, dedicated SSDs that are more suitable. Therefore we won't be looking at performance under such conditions.
Instead, the key issue is how this thing holds up when it comes to file transfers. To test this we plugged the drive into our test bed using the eSATA connector and transferred video files (totalling 3.26GB) from the system hard drive (a Western Digital Raptor X) to the Throttle and timed how long it took. We then reversed the process and read the files from the Throttle and wrote them to the hard drive. We then repeated both tests three times (deleting the files and rebooting the PC between each run) to ensure each time was consistent. After this, we used the Throttle's USB 2.0 connection and repeated all six tests.
The speed difference is clear, with the Throttle over 250 per cent faster when reading over eSATA rather than USB. Likewise, it is over 80 per cent faster when writing over eSATA. These really are compelling figures that alone would be enough to convince us to fork out the extra cash for this drive.
Still, we wanted to be doubly sure its performance held up under more than one test with one data type, so we repeated the testing methodology but replaced the nine video files with 3,595 mixed files (including images, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Powerpoint presentations) spanning 506 folders and totalling 3.11GB.
What's immediately obvious is how much longer it takes to copy across many small files rather than a few large ones. This is something we'd expect to see, but we didn't imagine the difference would be quite so dramatic. On top of this, the write test over USB absolutely skyrocketed, taking a whopping 5mins 56secs compared to just 2mins 44seconds over eSATA.
So performance is not only as good as we'd hoped; it's actually better. The only other consideration, then, is the price and here OCZ is pretty competitive. While you can get 32GB USB flash drives for as little £50, most seem to be around £60, so we feel its excellent transfer speeds justify the £20 or so premium. Furthermore, if you don't need quite so much as 32GB, the 8GB and 16GB models are available for just £27 and £45, respectively, so you certainly shouldn't need to break the bank to get a high-speed portable storage device.
The OCZ Throttle may not be the most rugged or desirable-looking USB flash drive and nor is it the cheapest, but its addition of an eSATA port means that data transfer is much faster than most competing drives, so for that reason we recommend it.