SATA 3.0 600MB/s on ThinkPad Notebooks

I know there has been confusion on the Lenovo Forums lately about whether our latest generation of ThinkPad notebooks supports SATA 600 MB/s speed.  The short answer is yes.  Those who only want the short answer can stop reading here.

We at Lenovo have not always taken advantage of the latest technology afforded by the chipset used inside our products.  For example, we took some flak because our ThinkPad T61 capped its SATA bus speed @ 150 MB/s.  The 965 generation of chipset actually supported faster 300 MB/s transfer rates.  In our defense, no hard disk at the time came close to saturating a SATA 150 bus; no SSDs really did either.  But I understand the psychology of having a brand new hot rod sports car artificially limited to 120 MPH by a governor chip, even if you’d never drive it that fast anyway.

I know there is a lot of confusion on this topic, so I started asking our engineers questions about our latest systems.  I learned that if you buy a new ThinkPad system featuring Intel’s Huron River chipset, you’ll get a primary hard disk bus that runs at SATA 600 speeds.  The reason many benchmarks are not showing this bus speed increase is because the drives we are currently shipping are only SATA 300 capable.  We’ll add SATA 600 drive choices at a future date.

Your Ultrabay will also run at SATA 600 speeds if you choose to put a SATA 600 capable drive inside.  If you buy one of our ThinkPads with a mSATA drive, note that this drive is connected via the Mini PCIe bus inside your notebook.  Though the drive electrically is a SATA drive, it does not communicate at SATA 600 speeds.  However, today’s mSATA drives are not designed to have the highest performance specifications like traditional SSD drives.  This allows internal mSATA drives to be available as lower cost options.  (You’ll still see significant speed improvements over a spinning hard disk drive though.)

I hope this clears up the confusion.  This is one of those areas where our customers’ feedback about our past choices has made a difference.  Our engineers had feedback on our ThinkPad T61 generation in mind when they were designing today’s products.