Review: OCZ's speedy eSATA USB flash drive

It beats out the competition on speed, but there's a catch

A number of vendors have released flash drives that combine eSATA and USB connectivity to offer high-speed data transfer and portability in one small device. Kanguru Solutions announced its eFlash eSATA drive in November. Then, in December, Advanced Media Inc.'s Ridata brand and OCZ Technology Inc. unveiled an eSATA-enabled flash drive with up to 32GB capacity.

Computerworld asked OCZ for a Throttle eSATA drive. Overall, we were quite pleased with the performance of the drive, but were surprised by a significant design flaw.

With 3Gbit/sec. throughput, eSATA offers significant speed advantages over USB 2.0, which transfers data at a maximum rate of 480Mbit/sec. But with the recently released USB 3.0 specification, it's likely that eSATA may lose its luster in the next couple of years. USB 3.0 products are expected to emerge in early 2010. For now, however, you'll not find a faster data external data transfer medium for consumer computer products.

The thumb drive comes in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB sizes. I tested OCZ's 16GB Throttle flash drive, which comes in a sleek, black plastic case that measures 3 inches by 1 1/8 inches in size.
OCZ's Throttle eSATA flash drive

The thumb drive comes in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB sizes. I tested OCZ's 16GB Throttle flash drive, which comes in a sleek, black plastic case that measures 3 inches by 1 1/8 inches in size. The drive is about a quarter of an inch thick. Instead of having two caps on either end, one for the eSATA and one for the USB connector, the drive comes only with an eSATA cover. Oddly enough, the drive comes with a mini USB 2.0 (type B) female USB port and includes an extension wire to plug the device into your computer. I consider this a design flaw, since I don't like having to carry additional hardware for a device to be portable. The Kanguru drive, the only other eSATA drive I tested, comes with a standard USB 2.0 connector.

The Throttle's eSATA interface can plug directly into any compatible motherboard or laptop with a powered eSATA port. In my case, I had to use a 34mm ExpressCard adapter for my ThinkPad.

OCZ states in its materials that the Throttle has a 90MB/sec. read rate and up to 30MB/sec. write rate. Those are based on specs, not reality. I tested the Throttle drive using Simpli Software's HD Tach 3.0 and transferring 4GB of data from my hard drive.

The Throttle had a burst read speed of 95.1MB/sec. and an average read speed of 84.1MB/sec. Sequential reads ranged from 75MB/sec. to 91.1MB/sec. Its random access time was 2 milliseconds and CPU utilization was an excellent 5%. That drive beat Kanguru's eFlash drive in the HD Tach tests and was true to the literature.

Then came my 4GB data transfer. I use an overly burdensome folder with 1,653 files -- including 85 photos in JPEG format and a dozen short videos -- in order to cover the various formats most people might need to copy. The transfer from the folder on my laptop to the Throttle took 12 minutes, 56 seconds. In contrast, the Kanguru needed just 10 minutes, 4 seconds to do the same thing.

By comparison, the fastest USB-only flash drive we've tested was the IronKey Secure, which had an average read speed of 29.6MB/sec., a burst speed of 31MB/sec. and a 22% CPU utilization rate.

OCZ's 32GB model retails for $89.99, the 16GB model sells for $54.99 and the 8GB model goes for $25.99. OCZ has Kanguru beat on price, and theoretically, on speed. I like the Throttle's design, but again I don't like that it requires an additional cable for USB connectivity.

The bottom line: If you're looking for an easy way to download those movies, photos or big files quickly and carry them in your shirt pocket, I highly recommend checking this drive out. It's not perfect, but it does offer a valuable combination of speed and price.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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