Introduction

Serial ATA is becoming standard on most new motherboards, this is especially true for the new enthusiast
boards such as the ABit IC7 Max3 board, which has 8 SATA headers on the motherboard. At the same time
SATA Hard Drives are starting to become readily available at reasonable prices. This however is no comfort
for people who have only recently invested in addition storage. To cater for this market a number of
manufactrurers are providing Serial ATA to Parallel ATA converters. Here in Australia you can pick these up
for around $40. In todays review, I will hopefully provide some insight for people about a few thing:

  • How do the SATA to PATA converters perform
  • How does a PATA drive on an SATA channel perform relative to straight SATA

Methodology

To try and come to some conclusions I will perform some benchmark testing using Winbench 99 v2.0 and
PcMark 2002 Pro. The Hard Drive of choice is the 120gb Seagate ST3120026A 7200.7. This disk has been chosen
as I have both the Serial ATA and Parallel ATA versions of the same drive. A set of benchmarks will be available
covering the following:

  • PATA Performance
  • Abit Serillel 2 Performance
  • Vipower VP-9041 Performance
  • Acard AEC-7900 Performance

So we can then see some comparative results, we will compare the PCMark 2002 benchmark tests against a Seagate Barracuda V (ST 380023A)
and then both the PcMark 2002 and Winbench 99 v2.0 benchmarks against the Serial ATA version of the 120 Gb 7200.7 (ST3120026AS). This should give you
a complete picture of all three possibilities, PATA, PATA on SATA, and SATA.

I will also cover how these work with CD and DVD drives, and usability issues that you may encounter. I have found some interesting quirks that people need
to be aware of when looking at purchasing SATA Drives, or the PATA to SATA converters.

The Converters

ViPower VP-9041

The Vipower Controller is based on the Silicon Image SATALinkTM Chip. This one is marked
S113611CT80
060486.3
0245
1.4

The design of this converter means that the board sits flush with your Parallel ATA devices. To protect the back of the circuit board from shorting on your HDD or CDROM you will notice from
the second photo that there is a plastic strip covering the circuitry. It comes with a power splitter, so you can power the converter and your PATA device from a single 4 pin molex cable. The
package also comes with a 50cm Serial ATA cable.

Abit Serillel 2

The Abit Serillel 2 comes with new Abit motherboards but is also available seperately for purchase.

I pulled this one apart so you can all see whats inside. This one won’t be going back to Abit but for those of you interested in opening one of these up, be warned that you will have voided your warranty.

Once opened up this board is remarkably similar to the Vipower converter. The colour, orientation and power connector are obvious differences. Upon Closer inspection you will notice that the this board
is also based on the Silicon Image SATALinkTM Chip. This one however has different Chip markings:

S113611CT80
029623.1
0323
1.4

Acard AEC-7900

The Acard AEC-7900 came boxed with a Power Splitter, an installation manual and a support CD. The AEC-7900 came in a very confusing box. Verbatim Australia are providing this unit for review, and when it was delivered I thought they had shipped the wrong product. For those who might be interested in purchasing one of these I can confirm that the contents are nothing like the outside of the box, so be careful.

Having a closer look at this unit shows that is the only one of our selection of converters not based on the Silicon Image Controller. This board is based on the Marvell 8818030 chipset. This chipset was used on the early model Abit boards like the BH7, but now Abit use the Silicon Image controllers. The PCB for the AEC-7900 is marked Revision 1.2 and the markings on the Marvell chip are:

8818030-TBC
DD33980.7
0239 B2P

Now, unfortunately this unit seemed to not work on any of the equipment that I have. I am awaiting the RMA details to send this back to Verbatim Australia for a replacement. So unfortunately this unit will not get any further coverage in the rest of the review. This is unfortunate as it is the one unit with a different chipset. This would have provided some additional insight into the respective performance of the adapters across different chipsets, rather than different implementations of the same chipset.

PCMark 2002 Pro Benchmarks

I ran PCMark 2002 HDD Tests in all configurations and here are detailed the results straight up.

As you can see the performance increase from the older generation Seagate 80Gb Barracuda V ATA drive to the newer Seagate 80Gb 7200.7 PATA drive are quite significant. This was to be
expected. What I didn’t expect though, was the 7200.7 PATA drive to perform so well on the SATA Channel with a converter. In all of the tests except the file copy, the 120Gb 7200.7 Drive on the
SATA drive performed significantly better than on the PATA Channel. In the file copy the Drive performed 10% better on the PATA Channel. Even with this, The 7200.7 120Gb Native SATA drive outperforms all of the drives on nearly all of the tests. It is only marginally behind on the File Copy. to see the overall HDD Score you can have a look at the next chart.

Now I love this little chart. It shows quite clearly, that the 120Gb SATA drive is the best performer. The thing I wanted to confirm though, was if these PATA to SATA converters add any value. According
to both of these charts the answer is a definite yes. I have also run a series of Winbench 99 tests, so you can jump on over to the next page for a look at the results.

Additional Info: Specs

Ok, given these are all performed on the same system, specs and driver versions shouldn’t matter, but for
those who are interested here we go:

  • Athlon Xp 2400+ @ 2Ghz
  • Abit NF7-S v2.0
  • 2 x 512Mb PQI PC2100 DDR (Dual Channel)
  • Windows XP PRO Service Pack 1 + All Critical Patches
  • Nforce 2 2.45 WHQL
  • Silicon Image 3112 SATA Raid Driver v1.0.0.32 WHQL

Now back to the tests….

Winbench 99 Pro v2.0 Benchmarks

Winbech 99 v2.0 tests are much more time consuming than the PC Mark 2002 Pro tests. Given this and the resutls of the
PCMark 2002 Pro Tests, I will skip some of the drives, and just do testing on 3 configurations. The results are for
the Seagate 7200.7 120Gb PATA, Seagate 7200.7 120Gb PATA on the Abit Serillel 2, and Seagate 7200.7 120Gb SATA.

Seagate 7200.7 120Gb PATA (ST3120026A)

Seagate 7200.7 120Gb PATA (ST3120026A) with Abit Serillel 2

Seagate 7200.7 120Gb SATA (ST3120026AS)

Well, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference across each of the drives when looking at these tests.
The one thing that is really quite noticeable is how erratic the throughput is on the SATA drive in comparison to the PATA drive. Given that
mechanically they are the same so it has to either be issues with the SATA on the motherboard or the SATA on the HDD. Either way this is an insightful
test.

Converters and CDRW and DVD Drives

These SATA to PATA IDE converters are not just for use with Hard Drives. In theory you can use them with any device.
I successfully used both adapters with a Lite-on 52246S CD-RW Drive, and a Pioneer DVR-105 DVD Burner.
Ok, so it works, but does it add to performance. In theory it shouldn’t, because the drive is the limiting factor and
not the interface. To make sure of this I ran some Nero CD-DVD Speed tests against the Lite-on drive.

A quick run through some Nero drive speed tests, and I couldn’t notice any difference. This is a good result. I will refrain from
posting 3 tables full of identical results, as there is no point.

What about Apple’s

These things look like they can be used on anything. So it is time for the ultimate challenge. I gave JaySee the ViPower
adapter and sent him off to do some playing with an Apple G5. Now there are a few problems with the G5 before we start. The
first problem is that Apple says they aren’t supported. A quick browse of the Apple support forums, and you find a number of
people who are using the converters on G4′s. The one guy who tried using one with his G5 had a few interesting comments. At first
he got it working, but then his drive wouldn’t mount any more. This is not a good sign. The other concern is that the unique layout
of the G5 means that some of the converters don’t actually fit. Anyway, to get to the bottom of all of these comments JaySee did
some testing of his own.

JaySee had a play for me in his G4 and G5 and it all worked seamlessly. The G4 had much more room than the G5, which didn’t fit it properly. Then againHopefully one of these days he will give it back. Then again
Mac users are not normally adventurous enough to play with something like this anyway.
Looks like he is pretty happy with it.

Usability Issues

Case Concerns

Well the performance of the Adapters speak for themselves. These things are abolutely great.
But there are a few issues you need to be aware of. this is particularly true for people with
Sideways mounted Hard Drives, Apple Mac owners or people with really long AGP Cards. Basically the
converters can get in the way of things.

In my case (the Antec Sonata), I couldn’t close the side of my case with any of the SATA to PATA
converters attached to my IDE drive. If i did I would have had to bend the cable at right angles.
So when I had them attached, I had to leave my case open.

Different Drives

As you can see I have tested this with a number of seagate drives. You would think then that the converter
would work with all hard drives. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. I tried two other drives to see
how they went. The first of these was an IBM Deskstar DTLA-307030 30Gb HDD. When I connected it to the converter I
couldn’t even get the SATA controller to see the drive. The same was also true for a Western Digital WD300BB 30Gb.
So far then, I can only confirm that it works with my Seagates and not with my older Western Digital or IBM Drives.
If you have any further drives that you have tested with these converters feel free to mention the drives in the forums.

This is a bit of a worry. I haven’t been able to figure out why this is the case, if I do then I will add a postscript to this
article.

Conclusions

It is plainly clear from the benchmarks that SATA to PATA converters can squeeze
some extra performance out of your existing PATA drives. In my opinion not enough to
justify the expense, but if you are trying to eek out every little bit of performance
you can, then these are great.

If on the otherhand you have so many devices that you would like to use your SATA for an additional
drive or two, then these converters can be a cheap solution. In that regard they are ideal. They also
work with Mac’s

They are easy to install and use and come with an SATA cable (which cost quite a bit anyway).
Unfortunately however you need to be careful. It appears that they don’t seem to be universlly
compatible with all Hard Drives.

All of this though obviously comes with a warning, there seems to be no guarantee that these little units will
work with all drives. If you are like me, and have seagates then you “should” have no problems. I did however have
big problems getting any of the converters to work on an IBM or Western Digital drive. This is a worry, as they really should
all be the same with regard to the interface.

If you are interested in purchasing a SATA to PATA converter, you can get them from

Verbatim

Aus PC Market

Thanks to Verbatim for providing an evaluation unit.