Seagate eSATA Drive: First Look

Seagate eSATA Drive: First Look

Okay, so it's ugly - but it's fast, inexpensive, and easy to install.


For reasons unknown, Apple refused to jump on the external serial-ATA (eSATA) bandwagon when it updated its Mac Pros to their latest generation. (Bad dog, Apple, bad!) Most - if not all - major external drive manufacturers are now shipping eSATA drives, thus allowing normal folks like you and me to enjoy the performance benefits of this fast storage-connection scheme.


The problem is, if you want the benefits of eSATA, you need to equip your Mac Pro with an eSATA PCI Express card. Oh, and you iMac and Mac mini owners? Fugetaboutit - you can't install any PCI cards.


If, however, you're fortunate enough to not yet have upgraded to a Mac Pro, there's some good news: Seagate has come to the rescue with an eSATA drive line that includes a two-port eSATA PCI card that hooks up their drive to your Power Mac G5. If, however, you have a Mac Pro with a PCI Express bus, you're S.O.L. - the PCI card that's included with the company's eSTA Line only works with the previous generation of Power Macs - such as my dual 2.7GHz Power Mac G5.


Hang in there, Mac Pro afficianados - help (from somewhere, one assumes) should be on the way...


But back to the Seagate setup. For a measly $119.95 at my local CompUSA, I picked up a 300GB Seagate eSATA drive complete with an eSATA PCI card. Cheap, eh?


No, that PCI-port bracket isn't enormous - the card's just quite tiny.



Seagate includes a PCI two-port eSATA card from Promise Technology with its eSATA drives. This card is ludiucrously easy to install in your Power Mac G5 - just open 'er up, remove the port cover, and pop the card into the slot. Time required? About 90 seconds.


One cool lagniappe: You'll have an extra eSATA port ready for your next drive.



Seagate includes the requisite cabling for the drive, so all you need to do is hook it up, power it on, and you're ready to go - oh, yeah, first you need to install the drivers for the PCI card. They're on a supplied CD (there's a Mac section) - but don't wait for the installer to auto-launch as Seagate suggests (that didn't work in my experience); just click on the Welcome HTML file, and dig in.


So, how fast is this low-budget screamer? Pretty screaming. I ran a few cursory tests transferring both large and small files in four scenarios: 1) one internal SATA drive to another internal SATA drive, 2) an internal SATA drive to an external FireWire 800 drive, 3) an internal SATA drive to an external FireWire 400 drive, 4) and finally - the proof of the proverbial pudding - an internal SATA drive to the external Seagate eSATA drive over the supplied cable to the supplied PCI card.


The verdict: In transfers of both small and large files, the Seagate eSATA drive connected to the bundled eSATA PCI card handily smoked each and every other configuration - about twice as fast, by the way, as FireWire 400, and consistently faster than FireWire 800.


Damn. I'm liking this 21st century thang




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Silver-Tongued Devil

lagniappe: New Orleans creole for a gift given by a shop owner to a customer as a thank you. Two ports? A pleasant surprise, but not a thank you gift as such.

May I suggest one additional test: rendering video (more than 50GB) to the external drive.


Eric Francis

In 10.4 it worked great. The driver that you have to install is not compatible with 10.5.
I called Seagate tech support and they verified the issue but said they don't know if a new driver would be made.

The PCI card is the problem, the drive might work on another eSata PCI card.

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