Anyone who has ever used a computer knows that it contains one of the most significant parts of its operation, the Hard Drive.
This element has the fundamental task of storing both the data and documents you produce with the PC. But it also houses the operating system, without which your equipment could be useful for really little.
This piece of hardware, which has its origins in the second half of the 1950s, basically consists of a controller, a series of magnetic plates, an arm that collects the data stored in the mentioned plates, a motor, and little else. However, its operation is much more complicated than it might seem.
Just considering that there are multiple interfaces, IDE, SATA, SAS, SCSI, FC, and USB, to communicate with the motherboard. It gives us a clue of how complex this device is.
Serial ATA or SATA ports (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) are one of these data transfer interfaces between the motherboard and the different storage devices that we have installed in our PC. The popularity of SATA ports led to the advent of a new interface called eSATA.
In this article, I will explain the working of SATA ports, the main characteristics, and the advantages offered by SATA and eSATA ports.
What is SATA port?
Serial ATA or SATA (an acronym for “Serial Advanced Technology Attachment”) is a serial data transfer interface between the motherboard and some data storage devices, such as HDD hard drives, CD/DVD/Blu-ray readers, rewriters, solid-state drives (SSD), or other storage devices.
Until not many years ago, the standard interface for data communication of hard drives and CD/DVD readers was PATA, also known as IDE. However, this standard had many drawbacks, such as the limited extension of cables that could be used, about 46 cm. It made it very difficult to resolve the issue of the location of disks and readers inside the cabinet.
It also had another problem it did not allow proper airflow. However, the biggest problem was the data transfer rate, about 133 Mb/s.
Serial ATA (SATA ports) hit the market in the early 2000s with many new features and quickly became the standard, mainly due to the data transfer speed it could reach: 150 Mb/s. In the latest version of SATA, this maximum transfer rate has exceeded this limit, reaching up to 600 Mb/s.
- SATA 1: 150MB/s
- SATA 2: 300MB/s
- SATA 3: 600MB/s
However, the transfer speed is not the only advantage of SATA since it also allows lower current consumption and hot plugging. Undoubtedly best feature: SATA ports eliminate the need to configure the disk as “Master” or “Slave,” which allows any user with at least a minimum of preparation to install a hard disk without problems.
It also incorporated another important novelty: a new type of cable, specifically designed to offer less resistance to airflow and be much easier to mount. It has 7 pins, and lengths are up to one meter.
The truth is that one of the main characteristics of SATA ports, which made it a standardized choice by users around the world, is that it allows the transfer limit that the PATA standard could reach in the past to be eliminated.
Bear in mind that the first generation of SATA 1 to see the light offered a transfer speed of 150 MBps, which was later and almost immediately surpassed by the SATA 2 and SATA 3 generations that followed.
It is precisely thanks to the significant transfer speeds SATA ports allow and the notorious increase in the performance of computers. And that is why it was so quickly incorporated by users worldwide.
What is eSATA (External SATA) port?
When I refer to eSATA, you must first know that it is the acronym corresponding to the concept in English External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. So you can immediately deduce that eSATA is a standard based on SATA technology.
The truth is that, as its name indicates eSATA, it is a technology that has been developed to be used in external storage units, for example, in the communication between a computer and an external hard drive. And that is why eSATA has often been considered the direct competitor of the latest versions of the USB standard.
One of the main characteristics of eSATA resides in the great transfer speed it provides in external storage devices. And the truth is that through the eSATA standard, it is possible to expand the speed of SATA ports, particularly when it comes to communication with external storage units.
In general lines, within the main characteristics of eSATA type cables, you can say that they are usually really narrow and can be up to almost 2 meters. In addition, eSATA technology can achieve transfer rates of more than triple those that you can achieve by a standard such as USB when connecting an external hard drive to your computer.
This notable improvement in data transfer speeds that you can achieve thanks to the eSATA standard is fundamentally due to the fact that, unlike USB, eSATA technology does not require data translation between the interface and the computer to carry out the transfer.
Thanks to this feature, the eSATA ports not only significantly improve data transfer speeds on external storage drives. But also save on the use of computer processor resources.
Of course, in many cases, you can come across computers that do not have an eSATA port. However, it is always possible to purchase a peripheral component interconnection card or an external eSATA device, which includes an eSATA interface, in order to be able to have this technology in your PC.
At this point, it is so important to clarify that at the time you decide to purchase an eSATA, you must make sure that it is compatible with the SATA ports standard used by your SATA hard drives.
Note that all hardware compatible with newer SATA ports and eSATA technologies will generally also be backward compatible. But it is important to note that the reverse is not the case.
SATA vs. eSATA
Before starting the review of the differences between SATA ports and eSATA ports, you must remember that, as I mentioned earlier in this article, the first thing you must know is that eSATA is an extended version of SATA ports.
Basically, I have seen that SATA ports consist of a technology that allows the connection to your computer of almost all types of mass storage devices, including hard drives, solid-state drives, optical drives, and others.
In the case of eSATA, it is a technology that is actually a variation of the SATA standard but was created to be used for connecting external storage units.
Another difference between the two technologies lies in the length of the cable. In the case of SATA cables, the length is a maximum of 1 meter long. While in the case of eSATA technology, the length of the cable can be up to 2 meters long.
On the other hand, another difference between the two standards focuses on the speed of data transfer that they can achieve. In the case of the SATA standard, it supports 3.0, 6.0, and 16.0 Gbits/s, while eSATA supports up to 6 Gbit/s.
Another point that I must consider is the physical difference between the port of the SATA cable and that of the eSATA. As you have already seen in the SATA ports of your computer, they have an “L” shape inside. In the case of the eSATA connector, it is flat inside.
Finally, SATA ports allow you to connect different types of internal storage devices to your computer, such as your hard drive.
In the case of eSATA, which, as you saw, is a version of SATA, it gives you the possibility of connecting external storage units to your computer, such as an external hard drive.
Therefore, I can infer that both have different functionalities, and that is where the main difference between the two technologies lies.