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Need for more speed With new USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s standards, you won’t have to wait too long for data transfers.

Need for more speed With new USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s standards, you won’t have to wait too long for data transfers.

In the last few months, we have seen updates to two standards. One is Hi-speed USB 2.0, which has been the interface standard for peripherals and external storage devices since almost a decade, and the other is SATA 3 Gb/s, which has been around for five years or so. With the upgrade to version 2.0, the USB interface received a speed bump that was 40 times higher than its predecessor, USB 1.1. Now with SuperSpeed USB 3.0, the peak theoretical throughput has reached 4.8 Gb/s, which is ten times faster than Hi-speed USB 2.0. Such a bump was long needed because external storage devices, especially hard drive-based ones, can easily saturate USB 2.0 bandwidth. Thus, the USB 2.0 interface has become a bottleneck for external hard drives, which are capable of transferring data at more than twice the interface bandwidth. The same isn’t the case with SATA 6 Gb/s, because even today, spindle-based hard drives aren’t capable of saturating the existing 3 Gb/s bandwidth. Here, the bottlenecks are areal density and spindle speed, which can't be bumped much due to mechanical restrictions. However, solid state drives, which are faster, are gradually reaching a point at which they will fully utilize the current 3 Gb/s bandwidth, after which, they will need to move on to SATA 6 Gb/s for optimum performance.

SATA 3 Gb/s vs SATA 6 Gb/s

The 2 TB Seagate Barracuda XT is a terrific performer. When connected to a SATA 3 Gb/s port, it read multiple files amounting to 2 GB in 16 seconds, which translates to 123 MB/s. The average write speed was 128 MB/s. HD Tach reported read and write speeds of 116 MB/s and 102.5 MB/s respectively. On switching over to SATA 6 G/s, we found absolutely no difference in performance. Infact the write performance deteriorated and average speed fell by 20 MB/s. We ran the test thrice, with a restart between tests to confirm the difference in performance. Results were similar when we switched over to the ECS S6M2 card.


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