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6 Gb/s SATA: Seagate’s Barracuda XT And Marvell’s SSD Controller

When it comes to differentiating motherboards—especially those based on P55—it ain’t easy. Asus, specifically, put forth a sizable effort in enabling 6 Gb/s SATA on its first round of P55-based platforms (we should know; we were talking to all of the motherboard companies about their 6 Gb/s plans before Intel’s mainstream chipset was officially launched).

At the time, the easy conclusion was that SATA 6 Gb/s wouldn’t make an immediate impact, and so it probably wasn’t worth basing your entire purchase on when you’re shopping for P55 boards today. I think that our initial results with Seagate’s Barracuda XT would confirm those suspicions.

At $300+, the Barracuda XT has a hefty premium tied to it, especially compared to Hitachi’s 2TB Deskstar, available for $180 online. Support for 6 Gb/s is a measurable benefit, but it’s not going to change your computing experience whatsoever.We'll have a more complete review of the Barracuda XT once Patrick gets his hands on the drive and is able to run a full benchmark suite on it.

More promising is Marvell’s 6 Gb/s SSD controller. Because our test subject arrived somewhat indirectly, Marvell wasn’t willing to share any additional details about its plans for this particular device. What we do know is that it’s able to demonstrate a sizable difference between 3 Gb/s and 6 Gb/s SATA devices. Also, Marvell isn't a drive vendor; the company won't be selling SSDs and instead plans to sell the controller to drive vendors, similar to what Indilinx does with its Barefoot. By the time Marvell gets its performance dialed in and drive vendors start integrating it into their own SSDs, we might have a very compelling reason to recommend motherboards with 6 Gb/s SATA functionality—at least to the enthusiasts able to enjoy all of that throughput.

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