• Price When Reviewed: 195

  • Pros: Fast connectivity. Lots of space.

  • Cons: Only single connection type. More expensive than USB/FireWire version.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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The 500GB eSATA External Hard Drive sees Seagate address the idea of external SATA storage. In the past, external drives have incorporated parallel ATA (PATA) hard disks because they were inexpensive and readily available.

PATA is gradually being replaced by serial ATA (SATA) drives with a 1.5Gbps rated transfer rate, which is declining
in favour of SATA with 3Gbps capability. The only problem for SATA is that there is no standardized external SATA (eSATA) connector.

Seagate is one of the first manufacturers to introduce external SATA storage. This 500GB external hard drive is sleek, and attractive – its curvy silver case houses a 7,200rpm drive with a 16MB cache. A 300GB version is also available for £120 plus VAT.

Seagate circumvents the lack of an eSATA standard by equipping the drive with a built-in half-height, half-length PCI SATA II interface card manufactured by Promise Technology. It’s both PC- and Mac-compatible, and the default mounting bracket used by the card fits a standard computer but can be removed and replaced by an included half-height bracket.

Twice as nice

Seagate claims its eSATA external drive is up to five times faster than USB and FireWire alternatives. Our tests didn’t quite make it up to that speed, but it did perform at least twice as quick as Seagate’s own 500GB USB/FireWire combo drive. The USB model backed up 16GB worth of data in 19 minutes via a USB 2.0 connection, and took 30 seconds longer to complete the same task when using a FireWire 1394 connection.

Swapping in the 500GB eSATA drive saw that transfer time drop to just over 15 minutes. That amounts to transfer rates of about 865MB, 843MB, and 1.1GB per minute for the FireWire, USB, and eSATA transfers, respectively.

There’s a price premium to the eSATA version of this drive over Seagate’s USB 2.0/FireWire version, but creatives working with video, animation and other large files will see the benefits.