The OCZ Throttle eSATA Drive Makes USB Flash Look Old School

I've been using and reviewing USB Flash drives since 2002 and there really isn't too much exciting or new about them in all honesty.  Every article or review you read about Flash drives is that they are now available in larger capacities and lower prices. This is all fine and dandy, but it gets pretty boring to read, let alone write about year after year. When I heard some engineers whispering that eSATA (External Serial ATA) Flash drives would be coming on the market at the end of 2008 about a year ago, I was highly interested and couldn't wait for the drives to come out. 

To give a little history lesson here when USB flash drives, or thumb drives as many refer to them, came out the group of people buying them was limited to enthusiasts with cutting edge systems as back in 2001 and 2002 not many systems had USB ports or the need for these 8MB and 16MB drive. The vast majority of people were still using Windows 98 and to use a USB Flash drive you had to install drivers on the system first and it was a complete pain in the butt to use. When Windows XP came out the need to install drivers vanished and over the years having close to a dozen USB 2.0 ports on a computer is pretty much standard these days. Flash memory prices have also become so cheap that it is now often cheaper to put a presentation on a 1GB USB key and give them away than to print full color pint copies to be handed out. You can officially say that USB Flash drives have matured when my parents who are both in their sixties carry one with them and many schools list USB Flash drives as something required on the first day of elementary school.  Having a USB key on your key chain is now about as cool as having an Apple iPod, it is not. Enthusiasts and gamers are always the early adopters of new technology and today we enthusiasts have eSATA Flash drives!

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Very few desktops and even fewer laptops have eSATA ports, but for those lucky enough to have a system with one you can embrace the OCZ Throttle eSATA drive. The OCZ Throttle eSATA drive is one of the very first eSATA Flash drives available. The OCZ Throttle’s eSATA interface offers an incredible performance speeds of up to 90MB/second read and 30MB/sec write.  Current higher end USB Flash drives offer performance up to 35MB/s (read), 30MB/s (write), so the only real benefit of a eSATA drive would be read performance. The OCZ Throttle eSATA drive is available in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities to ensure all your storage needs are met.

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

The good news about these initial eSATA drives drives is that they are true plug and play, which means no extra drivers or power cables are required if you have a powered eSATA port, which is officially known as Power Over eSATA. Since I'm not aware of a motherboard that features Power Over eSATA that means you have to use the USB adapter to power the eSATA drive. If you don't have an eSATA port you can use the drive in USB mode with the included USB cable. To run in USB mode you just need to leave the cap on the eSATA drive and plug in the USB cable and it will work like a good old fashioned USB 2.0 Flash drive.

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The front and back of the OCZ Throttle retail packaging give you the basic gist of the product in several languages on the back and the technical specifications. The OCZ throttle is 78.0mm x 29.8mm x 10.9mm in size and weighs in at just 18 grams.

A Closer Look At The Throttle

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

The 32GB OCZ Throttle eSATA drive is thicker than the 32GB OCZ ATV USB drive as seen in the picture above, but still looks like a normal USB key. Since the drive needs both USB and eSATA drives don't expect any smaller form factor to come till the USB port is no longer needed. Since the powered eSATA ports are not too common, it is likely that it will be some time before they are and by then USB 3.0 will have come out.  For those that are curious, USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer speed of 60MB/sec and eSATA tops out at 300MB/Sec. The upcoming USB 3.0 standard is coming out during the middle of this year and will feature up to 625MB/Sec transfer speeds.

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

To get a better idea of what the USB 2.0 and eSATA connectors look like I took a picture of each sitting next to each other. You won't be able to mix the two connectors up as the you can't force one into the other. Not all systems will have an eSATA port, so if you are wanting an eSATA drive be sure your system supports it!

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

The motherboard I tested the OCZ Throttle on was the ASUS P6T Deluxe. This Intel X58 Express based motherboard is an enthusiast motherboard for certain as it retails for $309.99 plus shipping and supports all Intel Core i7 processors. Even this top of the line $300+ motherboard doesn't offer Power Over eSATA, so the USB cable must be used to power the OCZ Throttle eSATA drive as shown in the picture above.

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

Since I've never used an eSATA Flash drive I fired up Device Manager on Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and discovered that the device was listed as a SCSI disk device.

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

Unplugging the eSATA drive and connecting just the USB cable the device was listed under disk drives as a USB device.

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

A full error scan on HD Tune Pro 3.50 detected no errors and took 6 minutes 24 seconds to complete at roughly 81MB/sec scanning speed. No errors were detected on the 32GB drive that really has just 30.5GB of available space. Now that the drive is known to be error free we can move on to benchmarking the drive.

Sandra 2009 SP2 Benchmark Results

To test the speed on the 32GB OCZ Throttle eSATA drive we ran benchmarks on our Intel Core i7 test system that was running the ASUS P6T Deluxe motherboard. ATV  Both of the drives were then formatted and benchmarked with SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP2. All of the drives were plugged into the same eSATA/USB port and the system was restarted before each set of tests.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmarking

The removable storage benchmark in Sandra 2009 SP2 showed the OCZ Throttle eSATA drive is insanely quick when compared to USB 2.0 flash drives. The OCZ ATV 32GB USB Flash drive was one of the fastest drives we have ever benchmarked, but it looked slow when comparing it to the OCZ Throttle.  With 'Write' speeds that were 4.65MB/Sec and 'Read' speeds of 25.30MB/Sec the old ATV series drive is still fast, but new technology has finally surpassed what we would once consider one of the fasted drives on the market. The new OCZ Throttle eSATA drive had an impressive 'Write' speed of 58.04MB/Sec when used with a eSATA port and 29.63MB/Sec when used with a USB 2.0 port. With a 256kb file size our testing shows that you get double the 'Read' performance by using eSATA over USB on the same device. The 'Write' performance results showed a 65% performance gain by using eSATA over USB, so hands down eSATA is the way to go if you are moving a large number of files.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmarking

The 256MB file test recorded more impressive performance numbers with the OCZ Throttle eSATA drive with a Read performance score of 81.07MB/Sec and a Write performance score of 29.87MB/Sec! The OCZ Throttle eSATA drive has wicked fast read speeds that make nearly all Flash storage devices look slow. The 32GB OCZ Throttle eSATA drive is hands down the fastest thumb drive we have ever used!

I also used the Physical Disks Benchmark in SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP2 to see how the drive does.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Sandra Benchmarking

The read performance test showed that the 32GB OCZ Throttle had an average read score of 83.73MB/Sec with a random access time of 1ms.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Sandra Benchmarking

The write performance test on the 32GB OCZ Throttle was all over the place as you can see in each of the five runs that I did on the Throttle shown in the screen shot taken above. The write speeds averaged from 62.3MB/Sec to 83.6MB/sec and the random access time ranged from 12ms to 214ms. Very strange results and with so much variation between runs I really put no weight with these numbers.

HD Tune Pro 3.50

HD Tune Pro v3.50

HD Tune Pro 3.50 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as: write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmark - HD Tune 3.50

Benchmark Results: The average transfer rate was 80.8MB/Sec with a burst rate of 124MB/Sec.  The access time was just 0.1ms and the CPU usage was 1.4%.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmark - HD Tune 3.50

Benchmark Results: The write test in HT Tune Pro 3.50 showed that the average transfer rate under write conditions was 32.6MB/Sec with a burst rate of 123.7MB/Sec.  The access time was just 0.2ms and the CPU usage was 0.6%. This is more of the write performance that I expected from the OCZ Throttle.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmark - HD Tune 3.50

Benchmark Results: HD Tune Pro 3.50 just came out a few weeks ago and has added a brand new Random Acces test. The random access read test showed great performance and that the OCZ Throttle loves 1MB transfer file sizes as the average speed was 91.176MB/Sec.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmark - HD Tune 3.50

Benchmark Results: The random access write test showed really slow speeds and long access times. This isn't ideal, but since the OCZ Throttle is not being used as a hard drive it doesn't really matter.

ATTO and HD Tach 3.0.4.0

ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.34

ATTO is one of the oldest hard drive benchmarks that is still used today. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that you can easily interpret. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes with the total length being 256mb.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmarking

Benchmark Results: Once again, the OCZ Throttle eSATA drive showed impressive benchmark numbers in the Overlapped I/O benchmark with write speeds hitting 52MB/Sec Write and 87MB/Sec Read.

HD Tach v3.0.4.0

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays.  HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Benchmark - HD Tach 3.50

Benchmark Results: HD Tach showed the average read speed was 84.3MB/Sec, write speed of 50.3MB/Sec and a burst rate of 1,709.2MB/Sec.  Obviously, the burst speed is incorrect, but the average read speed is in line with what we saw on the other three benchmarks.  This drive is super fast when run in eSATA mode! The random access time was found to be 0.2ms and the CPU usage was 1% on this benchmark.

Real World File Transfer

The last test that I did on the 32GB OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash drive was to compare it to the 32GB OCZ ATV USB 2.0 Flash drive doing some file transfer tests on Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. For this I loaded up both drives with the some movies and pictures and just did drag and drop tests to and from the desktop.

File Tansfer Test on Windows Vista 64-bit

Benchmark Results: Moving files from the Flash drives to the desktop showed that the Throttle was transferring the files at 81.0 MB/Sec and the ATV was transferring the same files at 29.8 MB/Sec. There is no denying that moving files from an eSATA drive to the desktop is significantly faster than using a USB 2.0 drive.

File Transfer Test on Windows Vista 64-bit

Benchmark Results: Writing files from the desktop to the ATV and Throttle Flash drives showed that the ATV leveled off around 8.60MB/Sec, but the Throttle started off really fast and slowed down to the write speeds showed in many of the benchmarks. Ranging from 114MB/Sec to 30.7MB/Sec is a bit strange, but those are impressive write speeds that blew away the 8.6MB/sec seen on the ATV drive.

Basically, the OCZ Throttle was able to transfer over 30GB of files in roughly 15 minutes while the OCZ ATV took close to an hour to do the same task with the same exact files.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

OCZ Throttle eSATA Flash Drive - 32GB

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash drive is really fast in the synthetic benchmarks and even the real world testing as you saw on the previous pages. If you are looking for something faster than a USB 2.0 Flash drive for file transfers the eSATA interface it certainly an option that you should look into if the systems you work with have eSATA available on them. When moving roughly 30GB of files like we did in the real world testing the OCZ Throttle saved over a half an hour of time and to those that work on deadlines or are in a hurry that is very important. Looking past the speed of the drive you have to keep in mind that the USB 3.0 interface is quickly coming and that looks it will be much faster than eSATA with file transfer speeds reaching 625MB/Sec! That is more than tiwce the speed of eSATA (300MB/Sec) and all USB 3.0 ports will have have power running to them, so there won't be a need for a cable to get power. Intel has said that USB 3.0 based discrete controller cards are expected in 2009 with platforms coming out a little later. Since both Intel and AMD are working on motherbaords that support USB 3.0, we can only assume that USB 3.0 based flash drives will come out around the same time. Since that is more than half a year away those that need impressive file transfer speeds now need to look no futher than the OCZ Throttle and the eSATA interface.

The OCZ 32GB Throttle eSATA that I reviewed here today starts at $92.99 plus shipping on PriceGrabber, which makes it about 70% more expensive than the OCZ ATV 32GB USB 2.0 Flash drive as it runs $54.99 after rebate.  Is the extra $38 for faster read speeds worth it?  That is up to you to decide. When it comes to the warranty, the OCZ Throttle comes with a 2-year warranty should anything go wrong with the drive.

Legit Bottom Line: The OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash drive is the fastest 'thumb drive' ever tested at Legit Reviews, but the question is if the eSATA interface will catch on before USB 3.0 arrives.