We've been waiting and waiting. By the end of last year more than two thirds of all motherboards sold featured Serial-ATA connectors - however, the corresponding drives available on the market had scarcely increased at all. In the spring of this year, hard drive makers were still only delivering small quantities, and manufacturers of optical drives often seemed to be shrugging their shoulders. MSI now intends to change all that.
In fact, Serial ATA does not entail any extra performance in and of itself - contrary to what is often propagated in innumerable marketing brochures. At the current maximum 150 MB/s, only the interface itself offers a good deal more bandwidth than UltraATA at 133 or 100 MB/s. But there are still no drives that can approach the maximum bandwidths of the UltraATA standard. Anyone solely interested in fast transfer speeds can continue to do without Serial ATA - unless you're dealing with a Western Digital hard drive with 10,000 rpm.
Up to now, the advantages of Serial ATA lie above all in uncomplicated cabling: the plug is reverse-polarity protected and the annoyance of configuring the master/slave on a single channel is a thing of the past, as exactly one drive is connected per SATA port. Plus, the sea of cables in the case is visibly reduced, which makes it easier to tell what's going on and aids airflow.
Subsequent generations of Serial ATA will not only be able to handle up to 300 MB/s per port, but will also feature what is known as Command Queuing. Assuming there is support for your controller and driver, a single device can rearrange numerous incoming data requests in a way that is optimal for its internal setup (disk or magnetic disk). The technology makes sense for optical drives, too, as it lets you avoid any unnecessary vibrations in the lens system and fluctuations in latency times due to rotation.
But all of that remains the stuff of tomorrow's discussions, so today we turn our attention to the innovation at hand: we're talking about the first DVD drive with SATA interface. The surprising fact is that it doesn't come from a traditional drive producer like Toshiba, Sony or Pioneer. Nope, the trailblazer this time is MSI with the XA52P. We took a first look at it for you.