SATA 3.2 spec ratified, enables 2GB/s transfer rates

Serial ATA is about to get a whole lot quicker. The SATA-IO (the folks in charge of the standard) has ratified the SATA 3.2 specification, which uses PCI Express to enable transfer rates as high as 2GB/s. The spec also introduces a number of other enhancements, covering everything from embedded storage to hybrid hard drives.

Here’s the skinny on SATA Express, which enables the new spec’s speed improvements, straight from the official press release (PDF):

Initially introduced in January 2013, the SATA Express specification enables a client storage ecosystem that allows SATA and PCIe solutions to coexist. A host implemented to this specification will connect to and function with either a SATA or PCIe storage device. PCIe technology enables increased interface speeds of up to 2GB/s (2 lanes of PCIe 3.0), compared with today’s SATA technology at 0.6GB/s (6Gb/s). The increased speed of PCIe provides a cost-effective solution for optimizing performance of Solid State Drives (SSDs) and emerging SSHDs. Storage devices not requiring the increased speed of PCIe, such as traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and optical drives, will continue to be supported by SATA.

SATA 3.2 also introduces the following features:

  • M.2, a small form factor much like mSATA, except with support for "a variety of applications including WiFi, WWAN, USB, PCIe and SATA."
  • microSSD, a standard that allows "single-chip SATA implementations" for use as embedded storage.
  • Slimmer USM modules for consumer electronics devices.
  • A deeper sleep mode called DevSleep, which can "almost completely" shut down a drive.
  • Transitional Energy Reporting, which helps improve power management by transmitting more detailed information about SATA devices.
  • Hybrid Information, a scheme that lets systems "communicate data caching information" to hybrid hard drives (a.k.a. SSHDs) in order to boost performance. (Hybrid drives haven’t done too well in our benchmarks thus far.)
  • Rebuild Assist, which "speeds the data reconstruction process in RAID configurations."

Yeah, those are nice, but I’m definitely more excited about the performance boost. PCI Express SSDs with eye-popping transfer rates already exist, but on the desktop, they fit on full-sized PCIe expansion cards. Those can limit your expansion options—especially inside small-form-factor PCs. According to this presentation, SATA 3.2 will bring PCIe connectivity to 2.5" drives much like those on the market today. It looks like connectors will be a little different, though.

Comments closed
    • JdL
    • 6 years ago

    Only 2 GB/s?

    Single SSD’s are shown be being capable of transfer rates in excess of 800 MB/s (in the 2013 MBA 13″ for example – see anandtech.com). The technology is HERE, TODAY that would allow for 2x-10x more. Why limit the bus to such a short-term number (1-2 years out)?

    In my humble opinion, the internal bus architecture needs to be redesigned and simplified, such that it can allow persistent storage (SSD) and volatile storage (RAM) to potentially become one, and further, that any additional computing processors (GPU’s etc.) can be seamlessly plugged in and have access to the same.

      • Airmantharp
      • 6 years ago

      I don’t like the ‘limit’ either; it’s entirely artificial, given that they could just scale the number of PCIe lanes to increase bandwidth, just as SSD controllers could scale the number of channels they address. They could build an SSD that could saturate a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot today, if they chose to.

    • Krogoth
    • 6 years ago

    This interface is standard meant more for small factor PCs and laptops. They do not possess the same for dedicated PCIe card for SSD media and faster SSD media is held back by SATA2/SATA3 interfaces. It will probably be an “extra” feature on higher-end desktop motherboards like Firewire and Thunderbolt.

      • Meadows
      • 6 years ago

      [quote<]"It probably be an extra feature on higher-end desktop motherboards"[/quote<] Krogoth. It probably be.

        • indeego
        • 6 years ago

        Krogoth mad at fun made of. Krogoth not impressed. Krogoth stomp.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 6 years ago

    This will only matter to hobbyists if Intel increases the number of PCIe channels on their mainstream parts or SLI/Crossfire is shoved aside.

    Intel continues to choke users with few channels to keep enthusiasts eyeing the far more expensive LGA2011-class systems.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 6 years ago

    [url<]http://memegenerator.net/instance/40525859[/url<] 🙁

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      There was large number of problems making an external PCIe connection. Thunderbolt is mostly PCIe external with a few differences here and there.

      Thunderbolt is inherently expensive to make compared to USB, serial, Ethernet and parallel interfaces.

    • LukeCWM
    • 6 years ago

    Any word on when we might see this on drives and motherboards? We need this!

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Nice…

    So this is SATAe? Why wouldn’t they just name it SATA4 since this is essentially the next iteration of SATA? If this isn’t SATAe is this just a in between step?

    The other features are pretty nice and hopefully will make things more robust.

      • curtisb
      • 6 years ago

      [quote<]Why wouldn't they just name it SATA4[/quote<] Because technically there is no such thing as SATA II or SATA III. They're marketing terms and not an official designation from the SATA-IO [url<]https://www.sata-io.org/sata-naming-guidelines[/url<] A drive can have a 3Gb/s interface without supporting other features such as NCQ, hot swap, staggered spin-up, etc..

        • Bensam123
        • 6 years ago

        Not sure how that’s different then saying SATA 4, unless they’re just angry that they use roman numerals instead of numbers…

        That page honestly looks like they’re splitting hairs and some cases seems extremely confusing… Such as SATA 2 is not gen 2, but still is generation 2… It’s like they don’t know what short hand is or were trying to make a point out of it.

        Any manufacturers who referred to devices as SATA 2, but didn’t support a 3Gb/s trasnfer rate were just blatantly lying. I remember some didn’t support NCQ, but that’s different then having absolutely no difference from SATA 1, but calling the device SATA II.

        Either way I said SATA 4, not SATA IV, so I shouldn’t fall into this category.

      • bcronce
      • 6 years ago

      Major version changes typically mean the old way is broken. If 3.2 works with 3.0, then it is not 4.0.

      While a 3.0 device may support 2.0, it may not run as 3.0 when using 2.0. In this case, it could run as 3.2 while using 3.0.

      Talking about the protocol, not the signalling.

        • Bensam123
        • 6 years ago

        Decimal points in revisions generally means fixes, not major features. Major feature revisions are reserved for the primary number. A big speed increase is definitely a sign of a major feature, especially when you include all the other parts.

        Going off their earlier use of the decimal point and beginning number, this would also match. They’re being dumb while naming this and purposefully trying to confuse people, see Curt’s link of retardinism.

        Whatever sort of revision convention they had, they messed it up with this version.

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    just give me SATA Express please. hopefully before broadwell.

      • bcronce
      • 6 years ago

      This is SATA Express.

    • madmilk
    • 6 years ago

    Cool, now we can hook up graphics cards to ultrabooks using SATA!

    (Speaking of that, has anyone tried that on a 2013 Macbook Air yet, despite the much smarter option of using Thunderbolt?)

    • jackzheng0594
    • 6 years ago
      • Deanjo
      • 6 years ago

      Begone spammer!

    • kumori
    • 6 years ago

    Why are they quoting this speeds in terms of GB/s instead of the Gbps measurement that SATA is normally measured in? At first glance, that makes these new devices seem slower than current SATA 3 connectors.

      • Zizy
      • 6 years ago

      Heh, wait for marketing guys to get any number you want 🙂 Probably cause encoding also changes.

      • Byte Storm
      • 6 years ago

      Most likely because people will see transfer rates in GBps not Gbps, I personally prefer seeing the numbers that the users will actually see, because there are those out there that will ask why they aren’t seeing “numbers” as high as advertised.

    • willmore
    • 6 years ago

    Am I reading that PDF right? Each “Host Plug(1)” looks like two plain SATA ports and an extra ‘thingey’, maybe power?

    Can it function as two SATA ports or one SATA-express port? That’s going to cause some super fun layout issues.

    Other than that, it looks like it’s pretty straight forward.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      The traditional SATA port-looking bits are for backward compatibility.

        • willmore
        • 6 years ago

        Can both of them be used as normal SATA ports, though? Is there going to be any SATA 3.2/2 where ports can be used individually, but at the 1GB/s speed?

    • JosiahBradley
    • 6 years ago

    Well it seems like it may need to still take up some PCIe slots, as I doubt I’ll buy a whole new motherboard for updated SATA. But I still have a free x16(x8) PCIe3 slot so that gives me 4 SATA 3.2 ports on a card. Not bad.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      I might, depending upon the timing. If it becomes integrated into chipsets about two years from now that would be fine, I’d rather not buy one that just has it tacked on by a third-party controller.

      • willmore
      • 6 years ago

      You could probably get more ports than that on a 16x card. 8 SATA-express ports would be the same bandwidth as one 16x PCI-E slot. You could put more on there and rely on each attached devices to not use the full BW of their links. Heck, you could even rely on statistics as assume that they’re not all going to be running full bore at the same time.

      I’m think that 2 and 4 port 4x cards are going to be popular–probably 4 and 8 port 8x cards.

      Oh, maybe I should start using SATA 3.2 port in place of SATA-Express.

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