Ever wondered why brand new computers these days still come with floppy drives? Why do many motherboards still feature clunky Parallel and Serial ports on the ATX backplate? Does anyone still use a PS2 mouse? We are, of course, talking about Legacy Devices and as we enter the second half of this first decade of the 21st Century, you'd think we would have moved on by now, right?
To be fair, we are heading in the right direction. Some OEMs are (finally) ditching the floppy drive, and we dropped the stalwart PCI / ISA slot combo with the advent of PCI-Express. Some motherboards are indeed Legacy Free, not only dropping the Parallel and Serial ports but even the humble PS2 keyboard / mouse pair in favour of multiple USB 2.0 ports, dual on-board LAN and the like.
As everybody knows, this quiet revolution is not limited to external I/O. Serial ATA (SATA) promised greater transfer rates and neater cabling for hard drives and in early 2003, the first generation of drives and motherboards hit the market. Enthusiasts were rightly dubious about the actual benefit of the switch in the beginning, but SATA is now the defacto choice for all new hard drives.
Early motherboards featured just two SATA ports, as many users still had ATA-100 / ATA-133 drives on the old 40-pin Parallel ATA (PATA) standard. Again, as time has moved on, we are now seeing boards with as many as eight SATA ports, such as the DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR.
The anomaly that exists today is that while hard drives merrily zip along on SATA (and more recently, SATA 300) motherboard manufacturers are forced to include PATA ports for that other essential component: your DVD drive. So while you can achieve optimal airflow inside your case by tucking the thin SATA cables neatly to one side, you are still handicapped with a pesky ribbon cable from your optical drive(s).
"It's 2005 damn it - why can't I buy a SATA DVD burner to match my SATA hard drives?" The answer is, you can...
Belgian optical specialists, Plextor, are one of the first to dip their digital toes into the water and release a SATA DVD burner: the PX-716SA. It is a full monty 16x dual-layer DVD-R/W drive with all the features you would expect, but obviously eschews PATA in favour of SATA.
Is there any tangible benefit from moving to a SATA optical drive? We decided to find out by pitting the SATA Plextor against a venerable stalwart of the DVD burning club, the Pioneer 110D on PATA.