Looking for an eSata/USB kit external enclosure kit for 3.5" SATA HDs.
Key features sought:
eSata for faster xfer rates than current rig which is USB
"best" possible USB support for widest compatability + fastest USB xfers
broadest compatibility with various drives I might choose to put in it (I am unfamiliar with all the SATA variant combinations and don't really want to study them at this point; just want it to work! I mainly use drives like WD5000AAKS and ST31500(/1000)341AS)
ease of assembly/disassembly as I will be swapping the drive out often
adequate power: don't really care if it is powered over the cable or via external adapter, but it needs to A) work reliably!, B) not unduly tax the system it is connected to (will be used with a variety of systems)
total expenditure $50 or lower, though I could justify spending more for anything that is clearly "best of breed"
will travel a lot, so small form factor + lightweight + strong construction is desired
support for IDE drives would be a major plus but doesn't look like I'll find one which has this + meets my other criteria (esp. price point)
Nice but not essential:
cooling fan - Speak up, though, if you think it's essential. In general, I don't.
I have looked at various products on newegg/amazon but I put more value in personal endorsements from satisfied, experienced users.
Newegg: The Rosewill brand offerings such as in this link look decent but I am a bit turned off by the apparent 1.5TB max. size limit. Amazon has a much wider selection but their search is wonky (or maybe its their data...) Here's a decent starting point I guess. Here's another one that looked cool, but why doesn't it show up in search? Who knows?!
Having trouble understanding why devices that look similar "on paper" can vary in price anywhere from ~$20 to $100+... Or how w/r to two devices that are both ~$100, one comes with the HD, and one doesn't! (Not specific questions, just seeking some general guidance if you want to weigh in on these subjects. Can component/mfg costs / markup really vary that much?)
Not particularly attached to any of these offerings... If you have another suggestion, please share. Even just brand recommendations (or anti-recommendations) would be helpful.
eSATA plus USB is a good combo, and I agree that having Firewire additionally would be nice but not essential. On that last point, realize that there are two Firewire systems common now. Firewire 400 (more properly, IEEE 1394a) is what most systems use. The faster Firewire 800 (aka IEEE 1394b) appears often in Mac systems but is much less common. I do not know whether it is backwards-compatible with the slower more common one.
On the USB side, definitely look for the new USB3 version if you can. It IS backwards-compatible with USB2 so you'd have future speed even if you don't use it now.
eSATA is all the same, no versions to be concerned about.
So far we've talked about the interface between the external case and the computer. The other interface is the internal one between case and HDD unit. Basically there are only four and of them and only one is your interest. Cases can be bought to contain either an IDE 3½", a SATA II 3½", or a smaller drive size from a portable computer in either IDE or SATA connections. You are right to consider only SATA II 3½" units.
All SATA II (more properly, 3.0 Gb/s) 3½" HDD's will fit in a case for that design - does not matter whose. I would not worry about getting the newest SATA 6.0 Gb/s drive design. They cost more, are backwards compatible with previous SATA, and probably will never offer any advantage over SATA II for actual hard drives. The mechanics of moving heads and disks simply cannot even reach the communication speed limits of SATA II, never mind a faster system.
I expect you will find that a case for a 3½" HDD cannot be found with no power supply. Those drives simply draw too much power to be fed solely from a USB port. There are a few units that make it work by using TWO USB connectors to draw enough power. But I certainly would go with a case that has its own power supply. This may be a "wall wart" or in-line box, or it might even be a supply completely within the case with just a plain 110 VAC power cord. Mine is a wall wart.
On cooling, many current hard drives use relatively low power and run relatively cool, so a fan in the case is not necessary. For example, the WD Green drives are particularly designed for low power consumption. Personally, I decided not to have a case with fan - no fan is less expensive and the fan cannot wear out if there is none. I have a Seagate 500 GB unit - not originally marketed as a low-power-consumption unit - but it runs just fine in an AZIO aluminum metal case with no fan.
I would give more thought, though, to having a fan if the system has its power supply built into the case itself. As I said, mine is separate.