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Serial ATA, worth the investment right now?

Old 05-26-04, 07:39 AM
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Serial ATA, worth the investment right now?

A friend of mine is putting together a new pc in the next month or so. I've been doing some research so I can advise him on some of the parts he is considering. I've been looking into serial ATA since I've heard so much about it lately. But after doing research on the subject, I wonder if there is any compelling reason to invest in it right now?

1. Parallel ATA technology can transfer data at a maximum of 133 MB/sec.

2. Serial ATA technology can transfer data at a speed of 150 MB/sec., with 300 MB/sec. and 600 MB/sec. in the future.

3. However, one article I read states
100-110 MByte/s is rarely achieved using today's technology
(http://www6.tomshardware.com/storage...ialata-03.html)
And another article states that hard drives rarely exceed data transfers of 45 MB/sec. due to sharing the PCI bus. (Don't remember the link for that one.) Now I know what Patrick Norton means about hard drives having a big pipe that they can't fill up.

Both articles I read were a year or two old. From reading all of this it would seem that spending the extra dollars on serial ata is not worth the investment. I do like the cables, though.

Does anyone have an opinion? Could anyone point me to any more recent articles?
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Old 05-26-04, 09:31 AM
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Most SATA drives are essentially PATA drives with an SATA to PATA converter tacked on. That may be changing now, but that's the way it has been. In addition, most SATA drives are built with the same mechanisms that comprised PATA drives that weren't even able to hit 100 MB/sec.

The only exception I know of (and use myself) is the WD Raptor line of drives which are 10K RPM and have faster mechanisms that allow substantially quicker access times than normal PATA drives. They are close to good SCSI drives and are the only SATA drives worth the extra money in my opinion.

When using controllers on the motherboard I'm not sure the PCI bus timing matters since data transfer should not have to go through the PCI bus. However I have added a PCI controller to handle some PATA drives and tests showed no difference in speed between the onboard or addin controllers.
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Old 05-26-04, 10:20 AM
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Originally posted by X
The only exception I know of (and use myself) is the WD Raptor line of drives which are 10K RPM and have faster mechanisms that allow substantially quicker access times than normal PATA drives. They are close to good SCSI drives and are the only SATA drives worth the extra money in my opinion.
But the performance increases experienced with the Raptor are due mostly to the 10,000 rpm rotational speed and not because they are SATA, correct? Incidentally, I was at Fry's yesterday looking at Raptors. $250 for the 74 gig model.
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Old 05-26-04, 11:03 AM
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Raptor:
Seek Times
Track to Track Seek 0.7 ms
Read Seek 5.2 ms (average)
Full Stroke Seek 10.2 ms
Average Latency 2.99 ms
Rotational Speed 10,000 RPM

Conventional WD SATA drive:
Track-to-track Seek 2.0 ms (average)
Average Read Seek 8.9 ms (average)
Full Stroke Seek (Read) 21 ms (average)
Average Latency 4.2 ms
Rotational Speed 7200 RPM

The latency improvement of the Raptor is due to the higher rotational speed. But the faster head movement speed reflected in the better seek times makes a substantial difference in non-sequential data/program access speed. I don't think SATA itself offers any improvement in the speed though.

You can get deals on the Raptors. I seem to recall seeing them for around $200 of less. But you have to compare them with the cost of SCSI, if that is the level of performance you need.

I have two 36 GB Raptors that cost about $120 each when I got them. I'm running them in a RAID 0 configuration and use it for my OS partition and a temporary storage partition and still have about 35 GB free. I would have been happy with an even smaller drive since storage isn't my primary purpose for it. I'm used to using 18 GB SCSI drives for that purpose but the Raptor was more cost-efficient in a RAID configuration.
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Old 05-26-04, 11:50 AM
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what kind of applications would benefit from a faster HD?
I mean, its not like you copy data onto your HD everyday.
Usually u run an install process just once and youre done.
Just curious.
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Old 05-26-04, 11:53 AM
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It really isn't an "investment" per say though. Serial ATA is going to be the new standard and on all future motherboards. While there's no performance increase at this point, there's also nothing that should prevent you from buying a SATA hard drive should your new computer support it, outside of maybe a small price premium.
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Old 05-26-04, 12:44 PM
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Originally posted by timewaster
what kind of applications would benefit from a faster HD?
I mean, its not like you copy data onto your HD everyday.
Usually u run an install process just once and youre done.
Just curious.
I come from a world of always having a fast and reliable SCSI drive as my OS and apps drive. I have a fairly fast work system and I optimize my system for fast throughput.

I always try to ensure that the drive is not holding up my system when I want to switch tasks (I tend not to leave many different tasks open at a time but I want them to be there fast) or do a compile or other "work" type tasks. The Raptors have allowed about the same performance as I got from a 10K RPM U160 Cheetah SCSI drive.

I haven't found that the higher price of the SATA interface is worth it but they're getting closer. It's around a $10-20 difference now but often a much larger difference when you find PATA drives on sale. I rarely see good sales on SATA drives.
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Old 05-26-04, 02:06 PM
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I'm interested in upgrading to serial ATA but my computer as far as I know only supports parralel (1 year old Dell 8300).

What equipment do I need to purchase & would that allow me to add 2 serial ATA Hard Drives?
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Old 05-26-04, 02:10 PM
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Originally posted by WhattheFFF
What equipment do I need to purchase & would that allow me to add 2 serial ATA Hard Drives?
http://www.pricewatch.com/1/44/5083-2.htm

You might want to get some reviews on the cards. I believe the Promise brand at around $40 is a good one.

You might need SATA cables, I'm not sure whether the cards come with them or not.
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Old 05-26-04, 05:09 PM
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To me it would be a non-issue. If you are building a new computer, and the motherboard supports it, why not go for it?

If the board does not support SATA, maybe you should be considering another board? If new tech, and SATA in particular is making you wonder, go ahead and do it now. If you are running an older system, I would wait until replacement time to worry about SATA. Or just go for whatever is cheapest when you are upgrading storage....

Personally, I just switched over to SATA a few months back when building my new system. It worked out fine, and I didn't pay any premium for it in the first place. I was able to find a 250gb SATA WD Caviar drive for $157 shipped. Sadly that price has gone up since, so YMMV
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Old 05-26-04, 05:41 PM
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Ok, I have a question then.

I currently have a 120 gb wd hd SE w/ 8mb IDE. If I were to change to SATA running RAID 0 will I notice any improvment? If so, would it be worth the price of the upgrade? My MOBO supports SATA and RAID, I am looking at paying 157.00 for two SATA 80 gb wd hd w/ 8mb. What about if I were to go with two WD raptor 37.6 gb hds for 220.00?
I guess my questions is the $220.00 worth the upgrade?

Thanks

Last edited by TheKobra; 05-26-04 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 05-28-04, 10:40 AM
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I don't have tests on an individual Raptor versus a RAID 0 configuration of them. I've read that the RAID 0 configuration can even be slower than using only one of them in normal workstation use. I probably wouldn't spend the money on two of these just to RAID 0 them again. But I might to mirror (RAID 1) them.

I did some SiSoftware Sandra speed tests on my RAID 0 Raptors and got 47360 kB/s. A 120 GB WD with 8 MB buffer got 22775 kB/s. The test says a 15K RPM U160 SCSI drive would get 40212 kB/s.
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