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Basically I want to replace a consumer grade SATA cable with something a bit more tolerant to high temps and other environmental stresses.

The general cross section of a SATA cable looks like this: SATA Cross-section

And the cable I want to use looks like this: enter image description here

My Question is

Does the gap in the SATA cable provide a noticeable difference in speed/reliability compared to a cable that has its differential pair shielding in contact with each other?

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Yes the conductor width to gnd gap and gap to adjacent pair is critical as this determines both incremental capacitance and inductance but the L/C ratio affects the controlled impedance which in turn affects return loss, and amount of cross talk.

The SATA 6GHz cables were stiffened in design to improve DC to 6GHz controlled impedance variations due to bending and retain these critical dimensions of conductor thickness to gap ratio and dielectric constant of the insulation, as well as loss tangent of the dielectric at GHz frequencies. The connector is also equally important in geometry.

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