Intel's next-gen Haswell platforms are just around the corner, and early reports suggest the top Z87 model will have something new in the storage department. Instead of splitting its Serial ATA connectivity between two 6Gbps and four 3Gbps ports like existing Intel platforms, the new chip will supposedly be capable of running all six of its SATA ports at 6Gbps speeds. AMD's platform hubs have offered six 6Gbps ports for some time, so Intel wouldn't be breaking new ground. The firm may be more daring with its 9 Series chipsets, though. A spy shot leaked by VR-Zone's Chinese site suggests that the platform attached to Haswell's successor will support the new SATA Express storage interface.
SATA Express was first revealed in 2011, and the standard entered the ratification phase earlier this year. As its name suggests, SATA Express combines Serial ATA and PCI Express. The interface is based on PCIe 3.0 and promises 1GB/s of bidirectional bandwidth per lane with up to four lanes. Four-lane implementations will apparently be limited to expansion cards, but single- and dual-lane devices will connect via cables that plug into backward-compatible ports. Motherboard makers will be able to support both existing SATA drives and cutting-edge SATA Express hotness with a single port.
Even if the interface restricted to a port-friendly one or two lanes, SATA Express would offer a nice bandwidth boost over 6Gbps SATA. The current interface runs out of road at about 600MB/s, and high-end solid-state drives are close to that speed already. Obviously, SATA Express—SATAe, perhaps—has loads of potential for wicked-fast SSDs. What makes the VR-Zone image so intriguing is that it implies SATAe is a feature of the entire 9 Series family, not just the high-end Z97 derivative. Mobile platforms might get in on the action, too.