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SATA 6 GB/s vs. 3 GB/s

Serial ATA connectivity is seeing an increased usage in consumer PC hardware as of late, including CD drives, Blu-ray drives, CD drives, hard drives and removable devices. Pioneered and oversaw by the Serial ATA International Organization, SATA-IO, SATA architecture offers a computer bus interface that is both stable and fast. The technology used in SATA has seen numerous revisions throughout its lifespan, but the current version, SATA 6, might not be that big of an improvement.

SATA 3 GB/s

SATA 3 technology was introduced through the second revision of SATA technology. The revision effectively doubled the transfer speeds of SATA drives from 1.5 GB/s to 3 GB/s, and most consumer drives available today are able to accommodate such speeds. SATA data cables on the market today are rated for compatibility with SATA 3, though a different SATA cable is required to take advantage of the increased speeds offered by SATA 6.

SATA 6 GB/s

While SATA-IO introduced their initial draft for SATA 6 technology in 2008, it would be nearly a full year before the update was available to the masses. Presented through SATA Revision 3.0, SATA 6 doubles the speed of SATA devices from 3 GB/s to 6 GB/s. However, many of the drives available today are not even capable of handling transfer rates that high.

An increased transfer rate is not the only improvement offered through SATA 6. The updated technology provides isochronous Native Command Queuing, which improves the speed and performance of streaming digital content and applications. A built-in NCQ Management routine allows for self-regulation and performance optimization, while improved power management options lowers the overall power consumption of SATA devices. Finally, the SATA connector itself has been streamlined in order to fit 1.8-inch drives.

Two minor revisions, SATA Revision 3.1 and 3.2, have also been implemented. These updates introduce numerous changes, including mSATA; an architecture specifically for SSDs within mobile devices. SATA Express, introduced through Revision 3.2, transmits software protocols through the PCI Express interface in order to allow for transfer speeds as high as 16 GB/s.

I/O Performance

The I/O performance of SATA devices is nearly identical between SATA 3 and SATA 6. While stringent benchmarking will reveal a slight increase in performance with SATA 6, this alone is not enough to warrant the upgrade. A transfer speed of 3GB/s is still fast enough to avoid system bottlenecks, and most SATA drives, including SSDs, are capable of taking full advantage of the speed.

Backwards Compatibility

Backwards compatibility is offered through all of SATA's revisions and updates. This allows you to connect a SATA 3 device into a SATA 6 port. With that in mind, some PC users will want to upgrade their hardware to SATA 6 in order to prepare for the next generation of high-speed devices.

In Conclusion

Since most consumer drives of today are not fully compatible with SATA 6, there is not much of a benefit seen when using the newest specification. Because technology continues to grow and develop, however, it will not be long until we see a generation of solid-state hard drives that operate at a speed of 6 GB/s.

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