Today we connect almost all of our storage devices to the PC in two different ways: through a SATA 3 connector if the device is 3.5 / 2.5 inch, and in the case of M.2 format SSDs. , its most common interface is PCI -Express (although there are also SATA interfaces). Sin embargo, en los inicios de los primeros SSD fuera del formato de 2,5 pulgadas, también se utilizó durante un tiempo la interfaz mSATA, que si bien no tuvo mucho éxito ya día de hoy apenas se utiliza, sí que tuvo cierta importancia en industry.
Features of the MSATA interface
An mSATA SSD is an SSD drive that meets the interface specifications dictated by the International Serial ATA Organization. It has a smaller form factor than a standard SSD because it is designed for use in power limited portable devices such as ultrabooks, mini PCs, and even tablets. It has also been used in commercial devices such as digital signs, point of sale devices, retail kiosks, and multifunction printers.
An SSD in this format is about the size of a business card. The advantages of this format include the small form factor, low power consumption, high resistance to shock and vibration, and instant start and stop capabilities. The maximum bandwidth of an mSATA SSD is 6 Gbps, the same as that of SATA 3.
Like SATA, mSATA uses the Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) command set to transfer data between the PC and the storage device, so after all the main differences between this format and the usual SATA 3 are none other than the physical size and its connector, which is specific, and while it might not sound like it, it does not support an M.2 socket.
In the image above, you can see the difference between SSDs in M.2 format (left and center, being the central SATA interface) and an mSATA on the right. The connector of the latter is wider and with a higher number of pins the PCB is also wider and as you can see instead of only having a half hole for the screw on the back it has two full holes to anchor it in the plinth. Otherwise, the layout of the controller and memory chips is the same.
How are they different from M.2 SSDs?
Both types are high performance storage devices originally designed for use in small devices, such as laptops and tablets. However, as you already know, the main difference between these interfaces is that mSATA only and exclusively uses the SATA interface, while M.2 format SSDs can use both SATA and PCI-Express interfaces, with the same format, same size and more. .
The M.2 form factor appeared in 2013, about two years after the mini-SATA specification. The PCI Special Interest Group consortium of technology providers has defined the M.2 specification; SATA-IO describes the SATA version of M.2 in the SATA specification revision 3.2, and this type of SSD also supports the SATA Express interface, which is also defined in the SATA revision 3.2 and allows SATA or PCIe connectors ( it is the own SSD that tells the host if the interface is PCIe or SATA).
The new M.2 form factor allows for variations in drive dimensions (M.2 2280, 2240, etc.) while mSATA SSDs are only available in two sizes, the full size and the so called half -cut.
An M.2 SSD can extend data throughput far beyond the 6 Gbps limitation of a SATA SSD, and if it is PCIe-based, it can use four of these lanes to support a speed of several gigabytes per second. Additionally, PCIe SSDs that support NVMe protocol can increase performance and reduce latency compared to SSDs that use ATA command set.
The story of a disappearance
The International SATA Organization (SATA-IO) began the development of this type of interface in 2009. The mSATA specification emerged in 2011 as part of Revision 3.1 of the SATA standard, and the vendors who contributed to its development and adoption were, among others, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, SanDisk, sTec (which was later acquired by HGST), Western Digital and Toshiba. By the way, initially the specification was called mini-SATA, although then came the contraction that became popular later.
The problem is that the adoption of this interface has never been very widespread beyond certain mini PCs (including Intel NUC) and laptops, since its use was quickly replaced by the M.2 format, which had more success thanks to its compatibility with PCI. -Express interface since its width and anchors have made it easier to install.
Therefore, the use of the mSATA interface on a PC has never been far from “the order of the day”; Yes, we saw a lot of SSDs in this format from big manufacturers like Samsung or Kingston, but since devices that used it were scarce, sales were also scarce, which is why manufacturers ultimately decided to remove it from their market. production until today, so it’s only used in some more “weird” devices outside of the PC industry itself, such as multifunction printers and commercial vending machines.
Today this interface is still in use, but it is almost always already integrated into the device itself despite the fact that they are still marketed and it is not difficult to find these devices in computer stores. (what is hard to find are the motherboards that support it).