Intel’s Smart Response Technology is really starting to get some good coverage in the last day or two following the launch of Intel’s new Z68 chipset. And rightly so. However one of the more interesting aspects of our own Z68 series motherboards launch was the decision to integrate mSATA modules on selected Z68 motherboard models. Sure, most techies are now familiar with the overall concept of Smart Response and disk caching with a small SDD, but mSATA seems to be less well understood, especially in terms of the benefits mSATA brings to the table compared to a standard SSD. Let’s a have quick look at what those benefits are.
mSATA uses the SLC and MLC memory modules that you’d find in an ordinary SSD so there’s no difference in terms of read and write speeds; its the same memory chips in both. The difference is that with an mSATA module the memory modules are simply soldered on to a small PCB and not housed in a 2.5 inch case as you’d find with a drive. This helps to save on cost. Also, whereas regular SSDs are installed inside the chassis the same way you would with a 3.5 inch drive and connect to the board via a SATA cable, mSATA uses the Mini-PCIe interface to connect directly to the board. Note however that mSATA still uses up one of your SATA ports and not any of your PCIe lanes.
Check out the image below to get a better idea about how an mSATA module looks once it’s hooked up to your board.
mSATA modules are considerably smaller than an SSD, usually 29.85mm x 50.8mm x 3.5mm which is approx one eighth the size of a regular 2.5 inch SSD. This makes mSATA ideal for small mobile systems (‘m’ for mobile?) and also small enough to be installed directly onto a motherboard. As I’m sure you can appreciate, spare motherboard real-estate is usually quite limited, nevertheless, mSATA modules can be accommodated due to their tiny dimensions. But it’s not just dimensions where mSATA has the advantage. mSATA is also fairly power efficient. Compared to an Intel 510 SSD which uses up 380mW when active and 100mW at idle, mSATA can work with a peak power consumption of 150mW and idles at only 75mW.
We’re convinced that users who opt for the mSATA route to Smart Response will appreciate what a simple and effective upgrade it really can be. It will take up less space, use less power, require no additional cabling and it’ll no doubt represent a better deal financially than an SSD.
And let’s not forget that at the end of the day, mSATA will perform to the same levels as a regular SSD.