New Features in SATA Revision 3.0 (SATA 6Gbit/s)

One of the nice things about being able to update a hardware standard every few years is the ability to anticipate certain trends in the market and to design in ways to accommodate those needs.  The group that developed the specifications did exactly that. Disclaimer—some of the improvements discussed here were preceded by SATA 2.6, a brief precursor to the announcement of SATA Revision 3.0 (SATA 6 Gbit/s).

For example – they anticipated even smaller drives than the current 2.5” and 3.5” drives that most of us are using and developed new connectors to work with those new drive sizes.  A new microSATA connector, for example, is designed for 1.8” hard drives.  These drives will probably be appearing in even smaller netbook and notebook computers than exist today – but may be even more commonly used in ‘pad’ (or tablet) computers.  It may even be possible that some future generation phones will use the smaller hard drives.  We may also soon be enjoying the new book readers – a move from flash storage, which is great for books and other static content to small hard drives or solid state drives will probably enable enough capacity for that book reader to become a video and movie player.

A slimline cable will enable future optical drives (Blu-ray, CD and DVD) to occupy an even slimmer profile than they currently use.  This will help manufacturers to use optical drives in products like those mentioned above.

Additionally, a new Low Insertion Force (LIF) connector has been developed for SATA Revision 3.0.  This connector is designed to be even smaller than the one in current use, and will enable use of SATA drives that are even smaller than those in use today, in future devices.

In keeping with the concept of compactness – one of the improvements in SATA Revision 3.0 is improved power management.  (Anyone who has used a notebook computer on an airplane would be familiar with battery life issues).  An automatic ‘partial to slumber’ mode enables compatible drives attached to a SATA Revision 3.0 controller to conserve less power when the drive has been idle for a short period.   Ultimately, this mode can help prolong battery life in devices running SATA3 devices.

SATA Revision 3.0 is designed so that either the SATA Revision 3.0 controller – or a controller on the target device can put a device into a low power mode, reducing the amount of electricity being used by a less than active drive.  This capability can help notebook computers, pads/tablets, or other devices to get more use on a single charge than a comparable SATA Revision 2.0 drive and controller would.

SATA Revision 3.0’s Isochronous Native Command Queuing (NCQ) improves the support for data streaming, making SATA Revision 3.0 drives even better suited to audio/video transfers than earlier drives.  Further, NCQ includes other features that are designed to optimize performance.

The sum total – SATA Revision 3.0’s development team have provided some excellent additional features (and I haven’t covered ALL of them) that will help direct the future of computing and consumer electronics.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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