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Which is fast, faster, fastest? I would appreciate a slowest to fastest list including USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and eSata.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 46 down vote accepted


In bits per second, that is:

  • USB 1.1 = 12 Mbit/s
  • Firefire 400 = 400 Mbit/s
  • USB 2.0 = 480 Mbit/s
  • FireWire 800 = 800 Mbit/s
  • USB 3.0 = 5 Gbit/s
  • USB 3.1 = 10 Gbit/s
  • eSATA = Up to 6 Gbit/s (750 MB/s) right now as it depend on the internal SATA chip.
  • Thunderbolt = 10 Gbit/s × 2 (2 channels)
  • Thunderbolt 2 = 20 Gbit/s

In Bytes per second, that is:

  • USB 1.1 = 1.5 MB/s
  • Firefire 400 = 50 MB/s
  • USB 2.0 = 60 MB/s
  • FireWire 800 = 100 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 = 625 MB/s
  • USB 3.1 = 1.21 GB/s
  • eSATA = 750 MB/s
  • Thunderbolt = 1.25 GB/s × 2 (2 channels)
  • Thunderbolt 2 = 2.5 GB/s

For the speed/throughput/bandwidth of more devices have look at this article on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_device_bit_rates#Peripheral

There you go.

You should note that these speed are theorical speed, in fact, you will never experience these speed in everyday life.

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+1: Additionally it should be noted that these are theoretical maximums, and you will never actually achieve these speeds for a sustained amount of time. –  Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 May 7 '10 at 19:42
The only note I would add is if(USB 2 vs FW400) you are using external hard drives and transferring a lot of data , you will see better performance from firewire 400 vs usb 2.0 due to the design of the interfaces. –  Troggy May 7 '10 at 20:01
@techie007 - we used to refer to things like raw bit rate as the "guaranteed not to exceed speed." –  mpez0 May 8 '10 at 2:25
@Troggy - so for video editing... ? ... FireWire 400 is better? –  Moshe May 9 '10 at 1:11
@mpez0 - +1, great line. –  Moshe May 9 '10 at 1:11

Wikipedia gives a quite comprehensive comparison: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Comparison_with_other_buses

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Intel Thunderbolt, as per the Wikipedia Sata link just above, is 10GB/s

Also, none of these answers so far give any practical/useful information. Theoretical maximum and real-world speeds can vary wildly, and only some significant actual testing will give meaningful answers.

So far, I haven't found many such tests. There's one at Crunchgear.com:


But even this leaves some question, as perhaps their specific USB 3.0 implementation is not optimal. (we need more variety to be sure, and even then, your system (or any given system) may not produce comparable benchmarks)

Another seems to suggest USB 3.0 "Turbo" (whatever that is?) has a bit over eSATA, at sansdigital.com:


But I have to question that, suggesting ~200 MB/s hard drive read/write speeds - unless hard drives have dramatically improved recently, I don't believe those speeds are physically possible, and suspect those speeds are just cached.

It's probably relatively safe to go with eSATA or USB 3.0 and get speeds that are close to optimal... as long as there's nothing choking your chain, so to speak. (poorly designed or cheap component, etc., causing a bottleneck) We really need more real world comparisons with various different hardware components.

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protected by studiohack Aug 31 '11 at 6:10

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