If you're looking forward to USB 3.0-based external storage devices for a speed boost in your system, you might want to hold your horses: tests on early models show that eSATA has the edge for now.

As reported over on CrunchGear, tests using the first generation of USB 3.0 external storage devices show some impressive speed gains over USB 2.0 based devices - almost trebling the peak read speed, for example. While that's good news for external storage users, the comparison didn't end there - showing that a comparable eSATA device was a third again as fast, beating the USB 3.0 version by almost 33MB/s.

The figures offered by CrunchGear were obtained using the HD Tune Pro benchmark on a range of storage devices - a 5,400 Seagate internal SATA baseline, a PS110 connected via both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, and a FreeAgent Extreme connected via FireWire 400, USB 2.0, and eSATA. While the tests show the speed gains possible through USB 3.0, eSATA is clearly the performance king when it comes to external storage devices.

That could be set to change in the near future: the current generation of USB 3.0-connected storage devices are early models, and as controller manufacturers settle in to the new standard performance is likely to improve. USB 3.0 offers advantages over eSATA aside from speed, too: with integrated provision for power, USB 3.0 requires only a single cable to both power and communicate with an external device - unlike eSATA, which requires separate data and power provision.

For now, however, if you're interested in getting the fastest external storage possible, the message is clear - your rig is going to need eSATA.

Are you a big external storage user, and if so what connectivity method do you use? Do you think that USB 3.0 will improve enough to challenge eSATA? Share your thoughts over in the forums.