USB vs eSATA vs Thunderbolt vs Ethernet

Being able to transfer data day in and day out is a very routine process for all of us. We need to make sure that we have the right devices for data transfer to take place. Earlier when the computer technology was not much developed, we had to face a lot of issues in regards to data transfer. Many a times data transfer would take a lot of time before it could be properly transferred and many a times, there was some sort of loss and unwanted modification to the data. To ensure that there would be lesser problems, data transfer methods were improved for the better. As a result of which there were a variety of data transfer methods that came into existence. Today there is a variety of devices and data transfer technology that is being. It is also dependent on the person looking to transfer the data.

USB 2.0

The USB, in its starting period had low speeds of transfer. After USB 1.1, there was USB 2.0. USB 2.0 can transfer data at the rate of 480 Mbps. The cables and the connectors are all compatible for USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 but they tend to transfer at the lower average if not used in accordance with their versions.

USB 3.0

It is the latest version of the USB. It has also been nicknamed as Super Speed USB. The data transfer rate that is possible with the USB 3.0 is 5Gbps (5120 Mbps). There has been a latest release to it as well which is known as 3.1, it has a speed of 10 Gbps. If you want your USB 3.0 to transfer data at the theoretical rates as claimed, then use USB 3.0 connectors and cables so that the device can function properly, otherwise, if lower version’s cables and connectors are used then the speed would be at lower levels.

eSATA

The external storage that allowed movement of data from the computer to peripheral devices used SATA format. The conversion of data from the computer to the devices was slowed down due to the translation that happened between the transfers. eSATA has multiple ports and it allows fast transfer of data from the computer to other peripheral devices enabling a quick transfer. The data transfer speed of eSATA is 3 Gbps.

Firewire

Firewire is another connection type that allows data to be transferred. It is most commonly used to transfer digital files like pictures, and videos. The Firewire port is most commonly found in printers, scanners. The biggest advantage that can be enjoyed with Firewire is its ability to connect around 63 device at once through a daisy chain. The peripherals can then function at their own speeds, as the Firewire connection bus can alternate between varying speeds, hence no device’s speed is affected. The speed at which data transfer can happen at a speed of 800Mbps. Fire wire are expensive then USB and also they are not so commonly supported.

Thunderbolt

It is the newest technology that is being used for data transfer. The Thunderbolt cable allows the utilization of USB ports, Firewire port , Ethernet port through a single cable. It also allows multiple devices to be used through a single port. The Thunderbolt cable is not yet very common, and is being used by ultra thin laptops and other high end devices. It has a data transfer speed of 40 Gbps.

Ethernet

Ethernet cables are used to connect devices and form networks. They are very durable and carry signals effectively and efficiently. The speed of the data transfer is 100 Mbps and around 1000Mbps for the Gigabit Ethernet.

USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0 vs. eSATA vs. Thunderbolt vs. Firewire vs. Ethernet

Below is the comparision table that can help you decide what you want. The criteria and the features are all summarized below:

USB 2.0

USB 3.0

eSATA

Thunderbolt

Firewire

Ethernet

Speed 480Mbps 5Gbps
(USB 3.1 speed is 10 Gbps)
Varies between 3Gbps-6Gbps 20 Gbps

(Thunderbolt 3 speed is 40 Gbps)

Varies between 3 Gbps- 6 Gbps 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps
Compatibility All devices All devices The eSATA port is fairly common, but can be connected through port extensions. Requires a cable adapter to connect. Found mostly in audio/video devices. It is less common as it requires a specific port. The port exists in laptops and computer devices.
Availability All laptops and computers. All laptops and computers. Present in a few Toshiba laptops. Limited to Apple manufactured devices. Present in Camcorders, printers, scanners and video cameras. All laptops and computers.
Price Reasonable Reasonable Higher than USB Expensive. Reasonable Reasonable

VERDICT

In terms of speed the winner would be Thunderbolt. In descending order:

  1. Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
  2. USB 3.1 (10 Gbps), then USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)
  3. eSATA (6 Gbps)
  4. Firewire (6 Gbps)
  5. Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps)
  6. USB 2.0 (480 Mbps)
  7. Ethernet (up to 1 Gbps)

If in terms of price, the priciest being the top of the list:

  1. Thunderbolt
  2. eSATA
  3. Firewire
  4. Ethernet
  5. USB 3.0
  6. USB 2.0