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Serial ATA Overview
What does SATA mean today?

Written by: Ed Lau [04.11.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

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When the 8MB buffer is fully utilized, the SATA drive once again takes off from the PATA; it is up to 17MB/s faster in read mode, and around 8MB/s faster while writing.

So as you can see, serial ATA isn't quite the revolution many people expected - yet.  While many people expected huge performance boosts, that simply isn't the case.  However, serial ATA does provide a speed-up of anywhere from 5-25% in most cases with much less power consumption (signaling voltage on SATA is 0.25v compared to 5v for PATA) and thinner, more flexible and attractive cables.

Be sure to consider that first generation SATA is meant not as a performance upgrade but as a transition phase so that consumers and manufacturers can adapt to the changing standard.  In the coming years when serial ATA has a firm foothold on the industry, expect speed to increase exponentally.  Serial ATA II, as it is tentitively named, will scorch pipelines at a blazing 300MBps in 2004 and Serial ATA III will make it obsolete with it's ridiculous 600MBps bandwidth.

I see great potential in serial ATA but for the time being, one should think long and hard before making a purchase.  Serial ATA drives are more expensive than their parallel counterparts at anywhere from 30-50 dollars more.  You may also need to purchase an add-on card to accomodate the new cables if your motherboard does not support serial ATA.  The drives are still just beginning to make an appearance in stores.

So if you think the performance increase is enough to justify the price difference, then by all means, serial ATA is the way to go, especially if you have a motherboard that supports it.  If you're running a hard drive with a 2MB cache, you should consider either making the jump to serial ATA now or, if it's considerably cheaper, perhaps purchasing a second matching drive and running RAID 0 for a little boost in speed and space.

However, if you're running a nice "special edition" drive with a 8MB cache and plenty of space and your motherboard doesn't support SATA 150 then stick with it for awhile until SATA II products start hitting the market in about a year or so.

So how do the Barracudas stack up against Maxtor, Western Digital and  Stick around to find out in our upcoming hard drive roundup!  ;)

  • thin, flexible cables
  • noticible increase in speed
  • lower power consumption
  • the best is yet to come

  • more expensive and availability is sketchy
  • requires an add-on card if your motherboard does not support serial ATA
  • the best is yet to come