Maxell SSD External eSATA/USB Drive review

Price when reviewed

With flash drives reaching ever greater capacities, transfer rates are beginning to become more of an issue. Copying your media collection over USB can take an age, so we’ve been waiting impatiently for someone out there to take the obvious next step and develop a flash drive that uses an eSATA connection.

Maxell has obliged, although sensibly it hasn’t done away completely with the USB interface. This SSD External eSATA/USB Drive has an eSATA connector at the business end, but also a mini-USB port to ensure backwards compatibility. It looks good in its sleek, silver finish and is well built with a sturdy cap that won’t fall off if the drive takes some commuter punishment.

But it’s the speed boost that matters most, and in this respect the Maxell delivers. We ran our usual file copy tests, comparing the results to our recent external hard disks Labs and found the Maxell’s read results were identical to the eSATA drives in that group. A single 50MB file took 0.7secs, with 100MB of small files taking 2.7secs; both double the speed of performing the same tests over the stick’s USB connection, which took 1.6secs and 4.8secs respectively.

Writing files was a little less impressive. A single 50MB file took 1.2secs, faster than the 1.9secs of the USB connector but significantly slower than the 0.1secs of the best eSATA external hard disks. Multiple smaller files took 3.1secs to write – again, much quicker than the 12secs over USB, but slower than the 1.2secs of the fastest eSATA hard disk.

The rest of the results bore out the same trend, so what you’re getting with the Maxell is a compromise: a huge boost in transfer speed over the snail-like USB, but not quite the performance of a proper external hard disk. Of course, the major payoff is its tiny size and with a price of £113 for 64GB you’re barely paying a premium over similar USB-only flash drives.

The one caveat is compatibility. For the moment this flash drive will only work with the increasingly popular USB/eSATA combo ports found on higher-end laptops. Your basic PC eSATA connector simply won’t recognise it, unless you send it to Maxell for a firmware update. Newer models supposedly have this update installed, but our sample didn’t. Worth bearing in mind if you intend to use this drive with a basic PC eSATA port.

That hiccup aside, the Maxell is a delightful device for those after speedier-than-USB transfers and backups. At £1.76 per gigabyte it certainly can’t compete with a proper external hard disk for capacity or value, but for those regularly on the move it’s a great leap forward for flash drives.

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