SATA is a primary standardized connection that has been in service since 2003. Its wide adoption by the industry and three significant revisions over its lifetime make it the standard choice for all consumer motherboards not meant for today's enterprise business.
The mSATA standard would eventually become the M.2 standard. From its inception in 2009, its overall goal was to reduce the form factor of SATA technology. There is no performance difference between MSATA and a SATA SSD(Solid State Drives) as mSATA uses the same lanes as conventional SSDs and Hard Drives bound to at most 6Gb/s or 600MB/s when producing only 125MB/s.
This article goes over the adoption journey of mSATA and the standards that lead to how M.2 drives work in most motherboards for gaming PCs and into conventional/gaming laptops.
Serial ATA’s goal was to form the standard connection between motherboards and hard drives. SATA’s first revision was only capable of a maximum of 150MB/s, which was fine for hard drives. However, SSDs needed more bandwidth to keep up with expanded storage becoming cheaper and cheaper.
SATA 2.0 was released, making hard drives and newer SSDs reach speeds of 300MB/s. By 2009, work had begun on the technology that would coincide with smaller form factor SSDs that lead to the M.2 standard.
Mini-SATA or “mSATA” had started as a mobile solution for laptops looking for smaller form factors as Hard Drives had become too bulky and slow for the laptop market, and SSDs, as we knew them then, was still too expensive. mSATA sought to strip down the conventional bulkiness of SSDs and condense the NAND-flash storage and controllers to a 50mm by 20mm PCB capable of fitting in a mini PCIe slot developed especially for this form factor. Dell and HP laptops at the motherboard manufacturers saw the winds changing for smaller storage solutions and sought to include them in their boards to test integration.
For example, in 2012, Gigabyte released a board designated the GA-Z77X-UDH5 (which happened to be the first motherboard when getting into PC building) with an mSATA option new to motherboards in 2011. It proceeded to come out on some motherboards the following year.
While in its infancy, early implementation into gaming motherboards gave rise to the standards and form factors we see with common M.2s. With a significant increase in read and write speeds, mSATA pioneered the mini PCIe slot redesigned to the M.2 slot we know today. (Here is an example side by side)
MSATA vs. M2
What is eSATAp?
ESATAp (or “Power over Express SATA”) is a variant of SATA meant for media devices like SD cards and external storage devices. This connection gained popularity because it combined the 6GB/s capabilities in an external link, enabling quicker transfer times for mobile media. However, it can be considered short-lived as most of the direct need for media connection stead opted for other connections like USB type C for media connections instead.
Image Source:Ruggero Turra
While mSATA served as an essential test bed for what would become M.2s, their only benefit compared to their SSD counterparts through SATA connection is their form factor. While speed is only part of it, it is always important to distinguish how comparable any technology is through years of development.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we have SATA SSDs that offer upwards to 500MB/s in read and write speeds and varying M.2 support for upwards of 3.5GB/s of read and write speeds. Feel free to check out our main line of PCs or try our custom configurator for gaming PCs. Whatever your storage type or needs, we hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written By William Wilson
Header photo credit: Pavan Bhakta