A bit surprisingly we recently learned that several major motherboard manufacturers had removed the support for the next generation Serial ATA interface from its coming Intel P55 motherboards. They had discovered problems with the SATA controller chipset delivered by Marvell and in the end it affected both performance and reliability of SATA 6Gbps drives. Marvell has decided to share some more details on the problem, and it’s actually the built-in PATA support with the 88SE9123 chip that is causing problems.
That many are forced to live with the IDE interface can be frustrating as it is but now that the ancient format is throwing spanners in the works of the next generation SATA interface makes us like it even less.
According to a statement made by Marvell, published by PC Perspective, there is nothing wrong with the SATA 6Gbps support of the chip.
Recent news of delays of SATA 6Gb/s product launches is due to a hardware issue related to PATA (legacy Parallel ATA, or IDE) compatibility on the Marvell 88SE9123. This Marvell controller chip supports both 6Gb/s SATA as well as PATA on the same chip.
It is the legacy PATA functionality, not the SATA, which is the root cause of the product delays. Marvell has already identified a solution to the PATA issue and a new chip revision to resolve the issue will be introduced quickly. To date, as far as Marvell is aware, no SATA (6Gb/s, 3Gb/s, or 1.5Gb/s) issues with the 88SE9123 have been reported by Marvell customers or partners, or discovered via extensive Marvell internal qualification testing.
Marvell continues to work with its customers and partners on development, as well as on compatibility and performance testing in preparation for the 6Gb/s SATA industry introduction, which remains on track for a 2009 launch.
The problem is that Intel’s P55 chipset lacks PATA support and to offer backward compatibility the majority of motherboard makes had chosen Marvell’s 88SE9123 chip that goes both ways with both PATA and SATA 6Gbps. The chip now has to be replaced for full backward compatibility.
In some way the problem seems to affect the SATA 6Gbps support, but the good news is that Marvell claims to have solved the problems and is working on a new circuit. Unfortunately this one will not be ready for the launch of Intel’s P55 motherboards.