While we've managed to get hold of enough hardware to take a first look at both USB 3
and SATA 6Gbsps performance
- and motherboards
featuring one or both are filtering through, Intel has yet to make either new storage standard a part of its chipset line- up.
Our sources here in Taipei tell us that Intel has no plans to integrate USB 3 into its chipsets until 2012 at the earliest - there are no new platforms due this year, and next year's roadmaps currently show none featuring USB 3. Apparently Intel plans to make a USB 3/SATA 6Gbps all-in-one chip for optional use by motherboard manufacturers on its products, however it’s currently finding it difficult to get the pin-count down to an appropriate size.
In some respects this is good news, though because it means market diversity. Companies such as Marvell, NEC, VIA and Realtek can offer alternative USB 3 and SATA 6Gbps chips, however it's something that needs to be well implemented by the motherboard designer - high bandwidth devices need a connection to match: not just a bog standard x1 PCI-E lane. Recently in our own labs, we’ve found that testing the latest SATA 6Gbps Crucial SSD can saturate the Marvell controller currently used on all recent Intel boards. As such we’ve had to opt for an AMD system with its latest SB850 chipset that natively provides the SATA 6Gbps ports.
SATA 6Gbps is currently slated not to arrive in the Sandy Bridge refresh in Q1 2011 (which it appears has slipped from Q4 this year), however it will likely be integrated into the Q3 2011 refresh of the high-end X58 platform, currently being called ‘X68’
by many in the industry.
Does this affect your upgrade plans? Will USB 3 become a critical buying decision in the future and would you buy an AMD system instead for its native SATA 6Gbps support? Let us know your thoughts in the forums