The eSATA drive looks almost identical to the 400GB USB version that we reviewed before, although the new drive has a power button on the front rather than the one-touch backup button seen on the USB drive. This means that there’s no need for a power switch at the rear – in fact the rear houses only the power socket and the eSATA port. And therein lies my main gripe with this drive, a lack of connectivity options.
Despite the fact that it’s truly great having an external drive that functions as fast as an internal unit, the eSATA drive is somewhat limited when it comes to flexibility. It’s commendable that Seagate has included a controller card in the box, but ultimately that only lets you connect the drive to a single PC, and despite the increasing number of motherboards shipping with eSATA connectors, there are few PCs out there that support the standard yet. And the chances of finding a notebook with an eSATA port are slim to none, which means moving data from your desktop machine to your notebook is definitely off the menu.
Of course the issue of limited eSATA support is in no way Seagate’s fault, and the company should be very proud of the fact that it is pioneering a new standard ahead of much of the competition. But what I would liked to have seen was USB or FireWire support as well as eSATA, thus giving you the best of both worlds. That way you could have the lightning fast performance when connected via eSATA, but still have the option of connecting the drive to pretty much any computer, albeit at a slower data rate.
When it comes to cost, you’re obviously paying a premium over a standard USB/FireWire drive – the eSATA 500GB drive will set you back about £196 compared to about £177 for a 500GB USB/FireWire device. Of course you have to factor the cost of the eSATA controller card into that equation, which means you’re getting something tangible for the extra cash, rather than just extra performance.
Not since I used to build SCSI based PCs have I had an external drive that’s as fast as an internal disk. Seagate should definitely be commended for offering such a device and living at the cutting edge of the storage market. However, I can’t help but think that Seagate has missed a trick by not providing USB and FireWire support on this drive as well as eSATA. If this external disk offered that level of connection flexibility it would be walking away with a Recommended award, but as it stands it’s a good product that so easily could have been even better.