The three benefits of eSATA provided by the StarTech card are speed, speed, and speed.
Backups are important for any computer user, but especially priceless for photographers. The aggregate size of our precious photos can get astronomical very quickly. RAW files can be up to 16MB or even larger. Photoshop edits with their many layers can be hundreds of megabytes each. We easily eat up gigabytes of disk space like they were M&Ms. While the price of storage has gone down, most of us have been stuck with the slowness of DVD burning or transferring files to external drives via USB 2.0.
We previously reviewed the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro 'Quad Interface'
drive and noted that it had the ability to connect not only via USB but Firewire 400, 800, and eSATA. The problem was, our test machine had no eSATA connection. Enter the StarTech 2 Port ExpressCard 54mm eSATA II Controller Adapter Card to the rescue. A lot of information is packed into that rather long name. Breaking it down:
- ExpressCard 54mm – Uses your computers 54mm ExpressCard slot. This is the larger of the two types of ExpressCard slot and it great for added stability.
- eSATA II Controller – Provides an interface between your machine and an eSATA device. SATA is the interface used by most internal hard drives these days. eSATA simply provides an external option.
- 2 Port – You get not one, but two of these ports on the card, which can be used simultaneously, as I’ll discuss below.
The three benefits of eSATA provided by the StarTech card are speed, speed, and speed. It allows for much faster throughput than USB and Firewire and will greatly reduce the time your backups take. I tested two different drives connected through the card and both achieved average write speeds in excess of 800MB/second.
54mm Form Factor, Two Ports, Blazing Speed
The fast speed was a big benefit when I realized that I had nearly 1 terrabyte (1,000,000 megabytes) of photographs stored on a single external drive. Obviously, if this drive failed, I would lose them all. Using the StarTech eSATA II Controller, I was able to copy all of these files from one eSATA drive to another – both connected to the controller simultaneously – in a little under 3 hours. Doing this with USB would have taken days.
The box contains the controller, instruction sheet, and CD with drivers. However with Windows 7 I did not need anything as it just worked when plugged in my laptop. Two lights on the card to indicate traffic through each port are a nice touch.
The StarTech eSATA card juts out about two inches from your machine when seated. This can be annoying (but necessary) depending on where your machines ExpressCard slot is located. Mine Is on the left side of the machine and I use a mouse with my left hand, so I have to adjust for the card – this is not StarTech’s concern, but I mention only to help the reader decide if the card will be too intrusive. Fortunately, with the card’s high speed, you don’t need it attached for too long. Additionally the 54mm form factor prevent the card from wiggling in the slot when in use as some of the 34mm cards are prone to do.
For the speed advantage it brings to external hard drives – a necessity for any serious photographer – photographyvoice.com easily gives the wordy StarTech 2 Port ExpressCard 54mm eSATA II Controller Adapter Card a rating of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED