Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Do you mean 
Serial Port
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎09-18-2010
Location: USA
Message 1 of 6 (2,805 Views)

Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

I have a new X201s (5143-28U). 


Recently, I forgot my previous bad experiences with Western Digital drives and made an impulsive "on-sale" purchase:  a WD Passport Essential SE 750 GB USB 2.0 drive.  The first few backups took less than 1 hour.  Then they started taking nearly 8 hours (for about the same number of GB).  Suffice it to say that the drive is loaded with sector errors.  The retailer is willing to let me trade it up to a better product.  (By the way, the Lenovo Toolbox was the quickest way to find the problems, the WD SmartWare disk scan was the most useless, and the WD Data Lifeguard confirmed the Lenovo finding, but took hours to do it.) 


I found several postings around the interweb that seem to favor an ExpressCard eSATA solution for fast external drive access (I even found a real-world test that showed the Ultrabay solution might be slower than an ExpressCard eSATA).


Any advice, warnings, and any real-world experiences would be appreciated:  1) Ultrabay, 2) ExpressCard eSATA, 3) USB 3.0, 4) other?


From what I've read, I think I have to be sure I'm getting an ExpressCard 2.0 implementation, but it seems that there are some cards that work better with certain computers and certain hard drives.  I'm eager to hear what has worked for others.  What about the various SATA implementations (3 or 6 Gbps)?  ExpressCard 2.0 appears to be limited to 5 Gbps... so might it be worth getting the 6 Gbps eSATA cards?


From what I've read here, the Lenovo BIOS doesn't support booting from an eSATA ExpressCard, and it isn't possible to see an eSATA ExpressCard drive from the Rescue and Recovery environment that boots before Windows.  But if I get a dual-interface drive (eSATA and USB 2.0), I'll be able to do an emergency recovery, if disaster strikes, and still have my backups go quickly.




Posts: 5,690
Registered: ‎11-23-2007
Location: US
Message 2 of 6 (2,751 Views)

Re: Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

considering that no current external HDD can exceed 150 MBps (1.5 Gbps) sequential transfer speed, there's little reason to worry about 5 Gbps / 6 Gbps.   current eSATA implementations (3 Gbps) would be more than enough for fast transfers.


i have a ThinkPad 500GB Secure HDD and use it both with eSATAp on my ThinkStation and USB on my ThinkPad.   the best transfers i can get out of it in benchmarks is 68 MBps.   real-world transfers in windows are usually quite less.   i would say that eSATA will double your transfer speeds over USB 2.0 but go no faster.   you'll have to ask yourself if it's worth the investment and hassle to double your transfer speeds.


ultrabay is going to be the same speed as eSATA -- a max of 300 MBps limited by the HDD itself (~75 MBps real-world for most drives).


hope that helps a bit.

ThinkStation P700 · C20      ThinkPad P40 · 600

Serial Port
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎09-18-2010
Location: USA
Message 3 of 6 (2,740 Views)

Re: Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

[ Edited ]

It does help, many thanks.  Thanks especially for the reminder about drive technology (150 MBps).

(Not to offend, but I'm leaving the post open to get some more perspectives.)

Are you sure about the speed of Ultrabay drives in the X200 dock?  I can't find definitive info on the X200 Ultrabase (I mistakenly called it Ultrabay), 43R8781.  What I found indicates that its disks are "SATA" (SATA-150 has a theoretical max of 150 MB/s).  The Ultrabase support may be limited to SATA, or they may only offer SATA-150 drives, I can't tell from the sales info (and can't find detailed specs on the base).  

* I understand your point about current mechanical drive tech, but I thought I'd seen some real-world tests that showed eSATA and SATA-II connected drives were faster than SATA (perhaps because of burst and multitasking enhancements?); and other tests specific to ThinkPads that showed eSATA drives with faster throughput than Ultrabay drives (perhaps because of the choice of Ultrabay drives).

Most of the real-world tests I can find are four years old, and they are done on older docks, cards, and drives.  Hopefully, more people can chime in with more recent data.

I'm also curious if you thought about eSATA (or even eSATAp) via ExpressCard on your X301, and if so, why you stuck with USB.  I'm leaning away from the Ultrabase because it limits the use of the drive to just my ThinkPad.  And yes, I'm eager to escape the bonds of USB and the many lousy USB drives I've encountered.

Thanks again.

Microsoft MVP Contributor
Posts: 21,009
Registered: ‎12-19-2008
Location: Australia, Melbourne
Message 4 of 6 (2,721 Views)

Re: Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

there is no expresscard slot on X300 or X301.

Jin Li

May this year, be the year of 'DO'!

I am a volunteer, and not a paid staff of Lenovo or Microsoft
Serial Port
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎09-18-2010
Location: USA
Message 5 of 6 (2,711 Views)

Re: Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

That's a **bleep** good reason Smiley Happy Smiley Happy
Serial Port
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎09-18-2010
Location: USA
Message 6 of 6 (2,625 Views)

Re: Seeking advice: X201s external storage (eSATA ExpressCard, Ultrabay, ??)

[ Edited ]

In case someone stumbles on this thread, I'm providing a follow-up status.  I decided on the set-up below, and it's working out well (see further down for early results).  I'm providing specifics about the hardware so someone reading this knows what the market was like in September 2010; I have no relationship with any of these companies (except as a consumer).


- StarTech 2-port eSATA ExpressCard 54mm, ECESATA254

- StarTech dual bay RAID enclosure with USB and eSATA, S352U2RER

- Two Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB internal 3.5" SATA II hard drives (for the RAID enclosure)


I ended up with two products from StarTech by chance.  They were both available online and both had the least disturbing negative reviews (although most negatives came from user reviews, so I had to take them with huge grains of salt).  In retrospect, pairing the StarTech eSATA products is probably a good way to reduce the chance of incompatibilities (and to get better tech support if I have trouble).


In my original posting, I implied that I was avoiding Western Digital, but it was pretty clear from various reviews that the WD internal drives were a better choice than the other ones available from the retailer that is letting me trade up.


The results so far are encouraging (only a week, but many hours of testing):


Hitachi 320 GB inside my ThinkPad

89.08 MB/s (linear read)

RoadKil’s DskSpeed benchmark

USB to this setup

19.77 MB/s

5 1GB files copied

eSATA to this setup

60.89 MB/s

A 73.5 GB backup using Acronis

eSATA to this setup

75.85 MB/s

10 1GB files copied

eSATA to this setup

102.40 MB/s

1 1GB file copied

eSATA to this setup

103.96 MB/s (linear read)

RoadKil’s DskSpeed benchmark


Although some users found some ExpressCards loose (because of the stiff eSATA cables), I found the ThinkPad's ExpressCard slot held the card quite well.  This eSATA card sticks out a bit (I think they all do), but it doesn't interfere with my hands on the keyboard.


The only card-related glitch is that the card has to be removed and reinserted twice in order to trigger the device refresh after using the "remove device" option in the notification area.  This can also be done in the device manager, but it requires Admin access.  I seem to recall this issue, but it's been years since I used PCMCIA cards.


In summary, I'm seeing speeds that are about three times faster than USB, even in real world situations (the 19.77 MB/s test above is roughly the same as the backups I've done via USB).  I have not yet encountered any reliability issues (bad data transfers, eSATA disconnects, etc).


I'll report again if there are any new developments.


Top kudoed Authors