Every now and then a product comes a long that causes a stir among enthusiasts. Usually it's the next gen graphics card or CPU but it's a rare day indeed that we get excited over a hard disk controller. Today however, Asus sent us a card promising twice the speed the latest motherboards have to offer, not in terms of memory, CPU speed or PCIe lanes but the latest generation of Hard drive controller based upon 6G technology.
6G is the direct replacement for SATA2. The reason for not calling the format SATA3 is due to the fact SATA2 allows 3GB/s and could become confusing so as 6G allows up to 6GB/s of transfer speed. The GEN2 card from Asus will allow two SATA 6G hard disks to be installed such as our test hard disk, the Seagate Barracuda 2TB XT 6G.
Initially it was hoped that all motherboards based on the P55 chipset would include 6G technology but due to the problems with the on-board Marvel controller and PATA devices, this feature was pulled from early releases. Intel now do not have any plans on integrating the technology until 2011 so those holding out for a motherboard with this feature could be in for a long wait. To counter this, Abit were first on the scene with there controller but this two failed to truly deliver speeds due to bottlenecks between the PCIe port and the hard drive. Asus have researched the problems and with there own version sporting the Marvel 9123 6GB/s controller chip have eradicated the issues previously encountered, claiming there card gives up to twice the amount of speed previous gen cards allowed. The issue was solved by including an expansion bridging chip courtesy of PLX, allowing true PCIe GEN2 bandwidth. Better still, the card is also backward compatible with SATA 1&2 hard drives.
But do you really need SATA6G?
While SATA6G will certainly offer the user much more future proofing, the boost in performance 6G offers is not currently expected to be massive due in part to it being in the infancy of its development. However, once the devices that attach to the controller catch up, we can expect to see worthwhile boosts in speed. For example, if you look at the way bandwidth has increased over the years from PATA (100MB/s), SATA 1.5GB, SATA 3.0GB and now SATA 6.0GB it is not hard to imagine that the latest technology will certainly offer greater flexibility and performance as the SATAII format is close to being saturated by multiple SSD's in raid arrays so the progression of technology will certainly be welcomed by those looking for optimal bandwidth. Todays storage hungry applications also demand ever increasing capacities of hard disks and it is now common place for the average desktop user to have over 1TB of storage space available. So with the ever increasing hard drive capacities, it is becoming important that the speed of the drives also follow suit and for the drives speed not to be bottlenecked by the controller. SATA6G promises these faster data speeds as well as double the storage bandwidth.
The following specification was taken from the instruction manual from our sample and as such are subject to change.
| ||Asus PCIe GEN2 SATA 6G Expansion Card|
2xSATA 6GB/s ports supporting upto 2 SATA Hard Disk Drives
PCI Express x4
Compatible with PCI Express x4, x8 and x16 slots
|Operstaing System||Windows7/ Vista/ XP (32bit/64bit)|
TRUE SATA 6GB/s: Native Support PCIe GEN2 bandwidth
Hot plug function
Native command queueing (NCQ)
2 x Serial ATA 6GB/s cables
1 x Support CD
1 x User Manual
|Form Factor||4.8" x 3" (12.2cm x 7.6cm)|
As you can see from the specification above, the card is small enough that it should not cause issue upon installation assuming you have a spare PCIe slot of x4 or above.
Without further delay, let's take a look at the card and its packaging...