OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Page: 1
Introduction
 
ThrottleIf there's one company I could pick as putting their neck on the line in the name of new technology, it would be OCZ. Responsible for bringing unique and often groundbreaking products to the enthusiasts market such as the NIA (Neural Impulse Actuator), DIY Notebook and more recently a whole range of affordable Solid State Drives, OCZ are one of few companies that seem to constantly act in the interest of the enthusiast and the name of progression.
 
Today we're going to be taking a look at yet another product that breaks the conventional mold, and although maybe not as groundbreaking as some of the aforementioned devices, certainly caused mixed reactions when it was released at the end of last year. The OCZ Throttle 32GB may look like little more than a rather standard (yet a little bit chubby) USB memory stick, but under the plastic dust cap it  packs a secret punch....it's not USB. Yes that's right, OCZ have done away with the family favorite standard connector that has been supported by every PC and Laptop made in the past 10 years in favor of the fairly recent eSATA standard.
 
So what's so good about eSATA that would make OCZ want to switch from our old friend USB? Speed of course! While USB2.0 is happily chugging away at 480Mbps (60MB/s), eSATA provides a whopping throughput of 3000Mbps (300MB/s), making it far more suitable for high capacity storage devices. Of course, the OCZ Throttle is highly unlikely to put all of that available bandwidth to use, so let's see what OCZ believe it to be capable of by checking out the specifications list taken from their website:
 
eSATA interface (plug directly into any compatible motherboard or laptop with powered eSATA port)
Additional mini USB 2.0 port (type B)
Dimensions: (L)79.1mm x (W)29.9mm x (H)10.3mm
Read: Up to 90MB/sec*
Write: Up to 30MB/sec*
True Plug and Play
Available in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB capacities
Includes mini USB cable for non-powered eSATA ports or USB access
2-year Warranty
 
With read speeds quoted to be around 90MB/s, the Throttle may not be anywhere near saturating the full 300MB/s bandwidth available on the eSATA interface, but at 30MB/s higher than the maximum 60MB/s throughput of the USB2.0 interface it's instantly apparent why the Throttle couldn't be just another USB stick.
 
However, there are certain caveats to using eSATA rather than USB, so let's move on to the next page where we take a look at the Throttle in more detail.


OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
Given OCZ's track record for the packaging of their DDR Memory and USB Flash Drive products, I would have bet money on the Throttle being presented inside a clear plastic vacuum formed packet. However, in a break from the norm it would seem that OCZ have upgraded the packaging to something a little more substantial (and maybe even eco friendly) with a cardboard box just slightly larger than a deck of cards.
 
OCZ Throttle 32GB Box Front OCZ Throttle 32GB Box Back
 
The design on the box is quite minimalistic with White, Blue and Black being the only colours used. At the front of the box is an image of the Throttle along with some basic information and a tagline: "The faster and more sophisticated alternative to USB drives". Moving round to the back of the box, a specifications chart details the size, weight and performance figures of the Throttle along with a short description of the drive in six different languages.
 
OCZ Throttle 32GB Packaging
 
Inside the box you will find the Throttle wrapped up inside a paper sleeve to prevent scratching during transit and a separate Mini-USB to USB cable. This bare essentials approach to Flash Drives is quite common in all honesty, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt OCZ to include some kind of lanyard or keyring for those who intend on carrying the Throttle around with them.
 
OCZ Throttle 32GB Front OCZ Throttle 32Gb Back
 
The Throttle is constructed from highly polished black plastic which does admittedly pick up scratches quite easy. Placing the Throttle side-by-side with one of OCZ's high performance USB based drives (Rally2 Turbo) we can also see quite a difference in size between the two drives, with the Throttle coming in at around twice the width and a few centimetres in length. Of course, what the Throttle looses in its slightly chubby appearance, it more than makes up for in its physical capacity - boasting 8x more storage than the 4GB Rally2 Turbo.
 
OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA
 
Removal of the plastic cap is extremely easy (maybe too much so) and reveals the eSATA connector hidden beneath. To put things into context for those who haven't as yet come into contact with an eSATA device, the plug is almost exactly the same width as a USB connector and only ever so slightly thinner.
 
OCZ Throttle 32GB USB OCZ Throttle 32GB USB
 
One big disadvantage to eSATA aside from the lack of wide-spread uptake so far is the fact that it is unpowered on almost all PC's and Laptops. This means that in order to run any eSATA devices you must have an external power source. Some motherboard manufacturers - most notably MSI have adapted the eSATA standard to deliver power via the ports on their latest boards, but for those with unpowered ports the Throttle can get its power from USB using the provided cable. Additionally the Throttle can run entirely from USB if required.
 
Now let's move on to the testing and find out how the Throttle performs...


OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Page: 3
Test Setup & Results
 
With the OCZ Throttle 32GB being capable of running via either USB or eSATA, several of the benchmarks used in today's testing will be conducted using both of these connection methods. This will give us a clear picture of just how essential the eSATA interface is to the performance of the drive. Additionally, one of the fastest USB based flash drives we've reviewed on OC3D to date; the OCZ Rally2 Turbo 4GB will be used as a comparison drive in all of the benchmarks.
 
Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 905e
Motherboard: MSI 790FX-GD70
Memory: OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Gold Low-Voltage Triple Channel
Hard Drives: 2x OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD (RAID0)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP2 x64
 
It is also worth mentioning that the MSI AM3 based motherboard used in to todays tests actually features fully powered eSATA ports, so using the included USB cable for powering the Throttle in eSATA mode was not required. For further information on this motherboard and other products in the MSI range that feature powered eSATA, please visit their microsite here.
 
 
 
With the first lot of results in it's clear to see just how much the eSATA interface benefits the performance of the Throttle 32GB drive. In the Average, Minimum and Maximum Read results the Throttle pounds the Rally2 Turbo into the ground with results coming in at more than double of its USB based stablemate. The same can also be said for the latency results where the 0.7ms access time of the Rally2 Turbo is trounced by the almost non-existent 0.2ms results of the Throttle. Only when the Throttle is disconnected from eSATA and run purely from the included USB cable does give the Rally2 get a chance to fight back, showing that maybe the Throttle isn't the best choice of Flash Drive if you have no intention of using eSATA.
 
   
OCZ Rally2 Turbo 4GB
OCZ Rally2 Turbo
OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA
OCZ Throttle 32GB
 
Moving on to the file read/write facility in HD Tune, a 64mb file was written to each of the drives a total of 15 times in chunk sizes ranging from 0.5kb to 8192kb. Taking into consideration the scale of the graphs, the Throttle once again shows that when combined with the eSATA interface it can completely walk over USB offerings, producing read results almost 3x higher. Write results are also extremely good with the Throttle beating the Rally 2 by around 10MB/s despite not even reaching the throughput limitations of the USB interface.
 
OCZ Rally2 Turbo 4GB
OCZ Rally2 Turbo 4GB Crystalmark
OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA
OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA CrystalMark
 
CrystalDiskMark somewhat echo's the performance results from the previous benchmarks with the Throttle once again leaving the Rally2 in the pits. Sequential read performance is a massive 56MB/s faster and write performance is almost double. Similar results can also be seen on the 512k read/write results, and finally the 4k results are still very much in favour of the Throttle.
 
 
Finishing up with a benchmark that closely resembles a 'real-world' scenario, a 1GB folder filled with various sized files was copied to each of the drives with the time taken to complete the task being recorded using a stop-watch. Both the Rally2 and the Throttle managed to complete the transfer in just shy of 1 minute when connected via USB, but these results were soon drastically overshadowed by the Throttle connected via eSATA, which managed to complete the transfer in under 10 seconds!! Simply awesome. 
 


OCZ Throttle 32GB eSATA Flash Drive Page: 4
OCZ Throttle 32GBConclusion
 
When you've got a flash drive with the capacity of an articulated lorry and performance of Lamborghini it makes sense to plug it into an interface designed for such devices. This is exactly what OCZ have done with the Throttle, ditching the bandwidth limited USB2.0 interface in favor of the beast that is eSATA. This has resulted in a flash drive that not only outperforms some of the fastest USB drives on the market by a factor of at least two, but can also give many SATA hard disks a run for their money.
 
Of course there are certain down sides to adopting this fairly 'new' technology; the main being that you're probably unlikely to come across any other machine with an eSATA port. For this reason OCZ have provided the Throttle with a USB interface and cable that can still outperform some of the best USB drives on the market, but does come at the cost of having to carry a spare USB lead around with you. It would have been nice if OCZ could have integrated a proper USB connector into the Throttle, but with the device already being a little bit on the pudgy side it's probably best that they didn't.
 
Another unfortunate factor is that a standard eSATA interface doesn't carry power. Once again the trusty USB cable comes into play here, enabling the Throttle to obtain its power from a USB port while still operating at full speed on an eSATA interface. Thankfully manufacturers are starting to see the importance of providing power over eSATA, with MSI leading the pack by releasing a number of Motherboards and Notebooks that can give the Throttle the juice it needs without the additional wires.
 
But could this be too little too late? With USB3.0 on the horizon and bandwidth figures set to make eSATA look like a granny with a zimmer frame, the whole eSATA phenomenon could be short lived...
 
 
The Good
- File transfer speeds faster than a USB drive with a rocket up its bottom.
- Support for unpowered eSATA interfaces via provided USB cable.
- Support for USB when eSATA not available.
- Only a few quid more than an equivalent USB flash drive.
 
The Mediocre
- A bit on the large side in comparison to most USB offerings.
 
The Bad
- Nowt!
 
Innovation Award
 
Thanks to OCZ for sending the Throttle in for review. Discuss this review in our forums