i have no experience with sATA hard drives, i want to steer clear for now. This is my last chance to stay with my IDE hard drive, otherwise i gotta start learning.
At the moment I'm always looking for a Core 2 capable motherboard which acknowledges that a lot of us still have a few (see my sig :roll PATA hard drives. But honestly, doing so because you don't want to mess with SATA certainly strikes me as ... well ... a less special reason.
There really is no reason to avoid SATA and many reasons to embrace it. You plug the cables in. You use it. That's pretty much it. No master/slave/cable select jumpers to worry about. No struggling with bulky cables. And much better airflow due to the skinny cables.
As already pointed out, you can attach your PATA hard drive and optical drive to the same PATA cable so you should be able to get by with a single PATA socket on the motherboard. But if you are willing to spend (possibly waste) $14 to try something that may not work, you can also try this PATA to SATA converter dongle. It allows you to use a PATA drive with one of the SATA sockets on a motherboard. You plug it into the PATA hard drive and then plug a SATA cable into the converter.
I've had good luck with this converter with a hard drive. Bad luck (repeated windows XP system error events) with a DVD drive. It's something I definitely intend to explore further sometime after Jan 21 when I expect to finally get around to buying a motherboard that supports SATA. (Oh, and Core 2 too :wink .
You should find 2 PATA connectors (4x devices) also on any motherboard that uses NVIDIA's 650i chipset. At this moment only one is available, the ASUS P5N-E SLI, but more should be showing up during the rest of this month and the next.