by Josh Linden

LaCie eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series Review

The migration from eSATA to Thunderbolt means that manufacturers have an opportunity to provide transitional devices offering the higher performance of Thunderbolt while protecting their customers’ investments in eSATA-connected storage. StorageReview first saw LaCie’s eSATA Hub demonstrated in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now that it is widely available, we’ve had a chance to work with the hub ourselves to see how practical it will be for users who need to maintain eSATA connectivity during the switchover to Thunderbolt.

Many Mac users with eSATA storage are working in industries where high data transfer performance is necessary or provides a competitive advantage, including creative and media professions. Users in these sectors are likely to be early adopters of Thunderbolt technology to provide the fastest current-generation direct-attached storage, meaning that they will require a transitional device like the eSATA hub to continue leveraging eSATA investments in the new Thunderbolt storage ecosystem.

LaCie eSATA Hub Specifications

  • Interface
    • Dual 10Gb/s Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining
    • Dual eSATA 3GB/s ports
  • Protocols
    • Data: PCI Express
    • Video: Dual-Mode DisplayPort
  • Daisy Chain: Up to six Thunderbolt technology compatible devices including LaCie Thunderbolt series products, and other Thunderbolt technology-compatible devices
  • eSATA: Up to two eSATA drives per hub
  • RAID Modes: Software RAID compatible using 2x eSATA drives
  • Cooling: Aluminum enclosure with heat sink design for 60% better cooling
  • Max Bus Speed
    • Thunderbolt: Up to 10Gb/s
    • eSATA: Up to 3Gb/s
  • Security: Kensington chain lock compatible
  • Size: 1.6 x 5.5 x 3.3 in. / 40 x 140 x 85 mm
  • Weight: 505g / 1.11lbs.
  • System Requirements:
    • Computer with Thunderbolt port
    • Mac OS X 10.6 or greater
    • Thunderbolt cable (sold separately)
    • eSATA hard drive(s)

Design

The hub is compact at 1.6 x 5.5 x 3.3 inches, but features a sturdy aluminum housing with one of Neil Poulton’s distinctive ribbed enclosure designs and blue LED. The eSATA Hub is primarily intended for use on a a desk, and sits vertically to save space without feeling too unstable on its base.

Connectivity

The eSATA Hub can connect eSATA hard drives to Thunderbolt-compatible Mac computers without ExpressCard/34 slots and can daisy chain with other Thunderbolt peripherals to cut down on cable clutter. Users can theoretically connect up to 12 eSATA drives (6 Hubs x 2 eSATA drives per Hub) to a Mac while maintaining eSATA 3Gb/s speeds. Whether the eSATA Hub can provide performance approaching these specifications will be a key factor for consumers considering the eSATA Hub to maintain access to legacy high-performance storage.

Performance

To test the performance of the LaCie eSATA Thunderbolt Hub we tested it using an Intel SSD 520 connected over eSATA on our Mac Mini. With the connection speed tested at 3Gb/s per eSATA port, the best case scenario is roughly half the performance of the SSD 520 (but still well above what FireWire 800 can support). Using AJA System Test we measured 216.3MB/s read and 187MB/s write, while BlackMagic showed speeds of 244.7MB/s read and 191.9MB/s write. The native performance of the Intel SSD 520 in a sequential file transfer test is 495MB/s read and 462MB/s write.

Availability

The eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series is available through the LaCie Online Store and LaCie Storage Partners at the suggested retail price of $199.00. Typical for Thunderbolt devices, users must purchase Thunderbolt cables separately from Apple.

LaCie eSATA Hub at Amazon.com

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