eSATA vs SATA? Which is Better?

by Paul | Last Updated: August 6, 2021

Ports, connectors, drives, cables are all part of the desktop and laptop build. Even with all the wireless technology, there is yet to be one without a port, either for charging the computing system (laptops) or charging other devices. There is also hardware that is connected like a storage device, this article will review a method for said connection.

eSATA vs SATA

External Serial Advanced Technology Advancement is an external interface for SATA technology. It competes with firewire, USB 2.0 to provide fast data transfer speed for external storage devices. They are narrow and can be up to 2 metres in length. It expands the speed of SATA to accommodate external storage, this speed when compared to firewire or USB 2.0 results in triple the speed. It does not have to translate data between the interface and the computer hence the increased speed.

It serves as a connection for different hardware required to link an external storage device to a computer. It an extension that is value for controllers and devices. This connection is properly maximized when both devices (external storage and PC) support SATA.

eSATA vs SATA Comparison

eSATA

Created in 2004, it is an external connector for SATA hard drives to connect to the PC. eSATA which is different from SATAe (this will be discussed later) is an external non powered connection. It is not L shaped like the SATA connection, but it is electrically compatible with said connection. The plug is designed to allow storage devices that are not built for the computer’s internal use to be connected to the computer.

The cable is shielded and is 2 metres in length. It reduces interference as it is thicker than the standard SATA cablemaking it more reliable regardless of the length. Although this design is good its disadvantage is that it is not as flexible as the regular SATA cable

A specific standard to ensure compatibility across all PCs was released in 2004 (it was standardized), the style of connection has pretty much been obsolete since 2017. It is not non existent as very few computers still have it, but it is basically “out of style”. So, what replaced it?

eSTATAp

The eSATAp replaced the eSATA, it is also referred to as power over eSATA. There is a hybrid design that uses either USB or SATA connection. What ever cable you decide to use, once plugged in the computer will automatically detect and decide which interface controller will be used.

SATA

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) cable released in the early 2000s, is an upgrade of the PATA. It uses a 7 pins data connector and 15 pins data connector. The cable length is 1 meter, SATA brought value to consumers as it has a feature called hot swapping. Which is the ability to quickly switch between different storage devices without turning off your computer (yes, there was a time like that).

Even though that was a major selling point, it sometimes did not work as for hot swapping to work efficiently, it requires the motherboard, BIOS, and operating system to support it. The data connector is L shaped which is great for preventing a wrong connection (i.e., there is no wrong way to place it).

The main issue with the hot swapping feature is that an unstable voltage can damage the device that is plugged in. The duplicate offset pins connect first which are designed to prevent a voltage damage, so it waits for the voltage to stabilise.

Versions of SATA

SATA, released in 2000, has a speed data of 150mb/s. With double the speed at 300mb/s, SATA II was released in 2004. In 2008, SATA III was released in 2008 with a speed of 600mb/s. The current version is the SATAe (SATA express), which was released in 2013 with a speed of 2000mb/s. SATAe unlike its predecessors, connects directly to PCIe which doubles its speed.

How SATA operates

It is controlled by Advanced Host Controller Interface which was designed for the spinning disk. This design is why it functions better with a hard disk drive and does not give optimal performance with solid state drives

New Technology

Although it is not new (so, relatively new), the Non Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) should be the connection you opt for right now as it uses Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe). It does not just use it; it gives it a tremendous boost making it more than double the speed of the eSATAp.

Drive type

Connection is one thing; the type of drive is another. While all the connectors above differ in speed, there are also different disk that have varying speed, the two major ones are hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD).

The HDD is designed to spin anytime it reads/writes data, this fragments the disk. This design makes it hot; it consumes power draining the battery of the computing system (laptop). It is also prone to data loss as accidental drops, shocks, and magnetic field affect it and sometimes damages it.

The HDD is not all bad as it served users well for many years and still does as it still has a major advantage over the SSD: (i) a better storage capacity to price ratio.

Given the previous paragraph, it is no surprise that is will be filled with praises. The SSD uses a flash memory system which means no moving parts and the disk cannot fragment. It consumes less power which is good news for the user’s battery (for only laptops), runs efficiently and noiselessly.

Its design has better data security as it is not easily affected by drops, shocks, and so on. The two reasons it has not taken over the HDD: it is difficult to find an 8TB SSD on the market and when you do, the price is ridiculous when compared to an HDD.

We have established that eSATA is basically out of style and eSATAp is the replacement. It can be used for both drives but remember it cannot be maximized using the SSD. As technology evolves, users must adapt to enjoy it and PC connectors are no different.

Related Question

Which computing systems have the eSATA connector? 

Old ones, any computing system designed after 2017 will not have them or rather should not as some systems might make an exception but it is rare.