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In case you missed it Terry White recently did a speed test to see if FW800 or USB 3.0 was faster. He used a speed test from Black Magic (available in the Mac App Store for free) and also copied a folder to more accuratly portray a real-world usage. I won’t spoil the ending – go see for yourself (Terry put together a nice video).

Of course, unless you’ve got a spiffy new MacBook Pro with USB 3.0, it doesn’t matter what speed it is. If you have a late model 17″ MBP, you do have FW800 and an ExpressCard slot. There are several ExpressCard eSata adapter cards available, so I picked one up to see if I could do better than FW800 with my current system.

When I purchased my SSD for my MBP, I also bought an enclosure for the internal drive so I could use it as a backup. I picked up an OWC Elite Pro Mini because I wanted to have USB, eSATA, and FW800. I also picked up their  3 Gb/s ExpressCard to eSata adapter. Then I ran the BlackMagic speed tests, using the same drive hooked up as FW800 and eSATA. This is a 7200 RPM drive. First, the FW800 results:

About what Terry saw, maybe a tad faster. Here’s the eSATA result:

I was expecting better – I’m not sure where the bottleneck is. According to the OWC site, I should see “up to” 120 MB/s on writes and 170 MB/s on reads. Maybe it’s the drive? I would have hoped to see a greater spread.

Still, eSata is faster than FW800 in this case. So if you have an ExpressCard slot (the 15″ MBP hasn’t had one since 2008!) and want slightly faster speeds than FW800, you can go with this combo. The eSATA card was only $25, so it wasn’t terribly expensive.

OK, someone is going to ask to see the SSD speeds…


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  • I wonder how Thunderbolt would compare?

    • The problem is that with Thunderbolt (at least when it comes to 2.5″ drives) is that the drive itself becomes the bottleneck. For example, there isn’t a 1TB 2.5″ drive that spins faster than 5400rpms and SSDs at large sizes become very cost prohibitive. So if you want fast and SMALL capacity/7200rpm drives then you’re all set, Thunderbolt is great. Or if you’re talking desktop drives Thunderbolt is great.

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