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Add in card for SSD

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March 16, 2011 10:15:20 PM

Hi guys, i'm currently gearing up to buy one of the latest SSDS when they come to market in a few months. I've seen on a number of reviews that the marvell sata III ports on my mobo (x58a-ud3r) arent all that good, and wont give me enough bandwith to make use of a drive such as a Vertex3.
All of the reviews for the vertex 3 use P67 boards which have the best implementation of sata III. Therefore to get the best out of my purchase, i'm gonna have to buy an add in card.

I was previously looking at the Highpoint 620
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/highpoint-rocket-620-%28...

but then it was pointed out to me that because it only uses a Pcie x1 lane, you can only get 4Gb/s from this.

I want to be able to get an add-in card that gives me the full 6 Gb/s, as i'm sure SSDs will only be getting fater.
The ones i have been looking at are:

Highpoint 640
http://www.scan.co.uk/products/highpoint-rocketraid-640...

Asus U3S6
http://www.amazon.co.uk/ASUS-U3S6-USB-SATA-PCIe/dp/B002...

Is there any disadvantages to the asus card, as it is a fraction of the cost? I'm only concerned with reaching 6 Gb/s, and i wont be using the USB3 on the card as i already have it on my mobo.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, sorry it this is a bit of a long explanation!

More about : add card ssd

a c 283 G Storage
March 17, 2011 12:40:13 AM

I bought the ASUS U3S6 board based on a recommendation made by Retired Chief, who is another veteran here at Tom's Hardware. He is using it in one of his systems with a Patriot ssd. No problem.

I still do not have a solid state drive but I installed the ASUS U3S6 board in a PCI-e x16 slot (which is backward compatible) on my ASUS Sabertooth 55i motherboard and was able to verify that it is working properly. The U3S6 is definitely an inexpensive compromise for individuals who do not want to or cannot upgrade their motherboard and cpu just yet.

There is one downside. The U3S6 will not work with every motherboard. The official ASUS web page for the card has a link to a list of approved ASUS motherboards that are compatible with the card. In addition there have been some user comments in forums indicating the card will work with some non-ASUS motherboards. Consider it similar to buying lottery tickets. You may or may not win a prize.

Are you from Philly? I am originally from Chester.
March 17, 2011 12:13:21 PM

Oh right, i wasnt aware of the fact that it wasnt compatable with every board, surely if it meets pci-e x4 standard then it should be compatible with every board that has the correct free slot?

What about the speed? Anyone have a definitve answer? I've just had a look at the product page on
http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=lGYmelQ8mJvPtYTv

and it seems to imply that it apportions a singe pci-e x1 lane per port. If so, then its no better than the highpoint, as sata III can saturate 500mbps.
Anyone know what happens if i just run one SSD off the card? Do both lanes get apportioned?

Haha, i live nowhere near i'm afraid mate, I live in the UK, but my name is Phil, so that's where my username come from!
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a c 283 G Storage
March 17, 2011 2:23:54 PM

The card is definitely not compatible with every motherboard. If you go to the Asus (Asustek) forums you'll quickly learn that there are compatability issues with some motherboards. My Asus Sabertooth 55i is not listed as being compatible but it definitely is. :) 

The U3S6 is a PCI-e x4 device so it can make use of 4 lanes to transmit and receive data. If one were to install two SATA III (6 GB/s) ssd's and two USB 3.0 devices, then there would definitely be a bottle neck. Installing just one or two devices will result in performance according to published specifications. I am going to install just one ssd so it is not an issue for me.
March 17, 2011 2:46:12 PM

There use to be a dedicated forum for this card on the ASUS Support Forum site but they got rid of it... at least I cant find it anymore
a b G Storage
March 17, 2011 7:36:14 PM

You'd be surprised on how well the onboard Marvell 9128 chip does. I'm one of the beta testers for this drive and I can tell you that it's tough to tell a difference with this drive over a good Intel chipset. Intel is really that good with mature drivers and excellent caching. Marvell is playing catch-up and still has a ways to go but they're not all bad. Here's a review thread with many screens you won't see on the review sites. Take alook at the newer Marvell 9182 chip on the 1st page(mines a little deeper into the thread) which uses 2 PCI-E x1 lanes.
http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?...
March 17, 2011 7:53:13 PM

I'm not sure i'm quite following that thread, sorry, its just a touch above me!
So your saying that when i buy the vertex 3, and plug it into the existing sata6 ports on my mobo gigabyte x58a ud3r, that performance loss wont be enough to warrant buying an extra adding card?
a b G Storage
March 17, 2011 10:12:12 PM

did you check out the link? the answer lies within. lol

yeah, pretty much what I was trying to say there. The other thing to consider is the forward compatibility you would gain by moving to a next gen drive even though you may not maximize its full potential right up front. With SSD in general it's not just about sheer bandwidth. Small file performance and IOPS is king for an OS volume. Because of this fact alone, many times a chip that has better caching drivers and greater IOPS capability can outperform one with higher max throughput.

I've tried the V3 on both the Intel SATA2 and the Marvell SATA3 ports on my board and to be honest, I still like the Intel despite over 100MB/s less read speed. Take a peek at that link to see some benchmarks you won't see anywhere else. Good Luck on the hunt
a c 353 G Storage
March 18, 2011 2:48:21 PM

Just a couple of comments.
On U3S6
The U3S6 card uses I marvell controller (I believe) and could be an older version than your onboard marell controller.
On some MB when you add the U3S6 card, or enable USB3 and Sata 6 on some of the P55A MBs - it will downgrade your PCI-e X16 slot 1 to X8

I don't think it there is any performance decreased by plugging in to SATA 6 persay - HOWEVER, there may be a performance decrease based on the AHCI driver used. Which version you can use is determined by the chipset Performance msahci-> iaStor & amd_Sata. I'm quessing that amd FINALLY solved the problem of passing Trim.
If the Chipset is Marvel I believe you are forced to use the uSoft default msahci driver. The SF controllers perform much better when used with the Intel driver (ver 9.6 or later. AMD fans were also forced to use the msahci drive. However I They must have finally fixed ther driver (recently)

On bandwith - Do not be overlly concerned with - Even if there was, it would only effect Seq, not the small file random read/writes. Seq is the least improtant performance parameter unless you are sticking 1 gig dot vobs (DVD files) and who would stick a 40 gig blueray file on there SSD. Yes if you are working with large databases and or cad/cam drawings, or large jpeg/bitmape photos you MIGHT notice if the Seq wast 20% lower than specs.

Myself I'm in a hold - waiting on the Z67 MBs. Will probably wait on SSDIII drive for the dust to settle and get a feel for reliability and Hopefully a price drop.
On reliability issue.
(1) On OCZ Vetex-II, they quitely went 34->25 nm then BACK to 34 nm as they had considerable problems with the 25 nm. Users could not tell which one they were getting.
(2) I've noted an increase in the 1/2 eggs (newegg reviews) for vertex-II. Also with the Pheonix Pro Sata II. Must take with grain of salt and hard to factor out ones that have damaged the SSD in handliing (ie ESD), and ones that just simply don't install correctly (ie use ide mode vs ahci/raid and install the correct driver).
On the ESD - This can be a real problem during winter when RH is often at or below 30%. 30% RH is bad enough, but There is a HUGH increase in the possibility of generating several hundred volts of static when the RH is around 20 percent. At the several hundred volt level you do not even know you have the build up. Also you do NOT have to touch the Pins to damage the SSD, just close Proximity can kill or create a "Walking Wounded" SSD

Added
@ johnny. Although I have the U3S6 card, My SSD (Sata II, SF1200 controller) is plugged into the SATA II MB port. Currently I Have the WD Sata III 1TB drive plugged in to the U3S6 card Mistake I know (currently plugged into 2nd X16 slot (Both X16 slots are now X8)

@grobert101 - Outstanding link, good read. (Is 101 like college Electronics 101)
March 18, 2011 9:08:13 PM

Okay, i kinda understand a bit more now, so the marvell 9128 ports on my x58 mobo will be fine providing i can get the right drivers for it? anyone have a link for the best ones? i read somewhere about being able to flash the firmware on them too, not sure if this is true though.

With regards the u3s6 then, i dont think i'll bother, its a bit of a pot luck, and it will downgrade one of my x16 lanes. Do u recon its worh getting this card then?

http://www.scan.co.uk/products/highpoint-rocket-620-%28...

its only £30, will run off the southbridge pcie x1 lane, and i've read that if gives more sequential headroom than the marvel ports?
a b G Storage
March 19, 2011 12:09:28 AM

not tryin' to step on toes Retiredchief so just bear with me here a bit on a couple of corrections.

RST drivers only work while hooked and running on the Intel chip(though Revos will use it and not sure how that works) otherwise you are using the default MSAHCI driver OR the Marvell driver(1051 version is best over at station drivers with better caching especially on the small reads). as another FYI.. on my Gigabyte X58/UD5 when I updated to W7's SP1 I got a new MSAHCI driver bundled with it and it's actually faster all around. I saw over 30MB/s faster speeds with it in many benchmarks. Worth it if you haven't got it yet. Can post a screen of the original and the new in side by side compares if you guys need to see what version I'm talking about here. A clue is that when looking at the MSAHCI in devide mgr, you will see SP1 designation in the driver version number.

OCZ has not gone back to 34nm. They simply revised the use of 64Gbit chips back over to 32Gbit which was effectively halving the channels used on smaller cap drives(60's mainly). That was the biggest mistake there as even a change to smaller nand may have been forgivin a slight bit(by some) UNTIL people started using them for raids and the lost capacity became an issue as well across the board regardless of implementation methods.

And IMHO, the major issues seen with the Sandforce drives is that of bios compatibility and detection(cold boot issues). Not that there isn't the chance some may have inflicted damage with ESD out of the lot with issues.

Anywho.. thought I'd share again and hope no disrespect was taken. Pretty down to earth guy, I am.

PS. yes the Marvell does just fine as a stepping stone to better chips later on.
a c 353 G Storage
March 19, 2011 3:14:11 AM

No problem, I'm pretty thick skin, Also I learn this way.
Yes Intel RST only works with Intel chipset, kind of a given.
On new uSoft Ahci driver (from SP1), good catch - have not seen anything on it
On OCZ 34->25->34, caugth that in a artical, but then I've not mistakes in articale before.
March 31, 2011 11:37:45 AM

Sorry for the late reply guys, really useful info here, thanks alot!
I've just pulled the trigger and pre ordered a vertex 3, hopefully should have in with the next few days.
Decided to go down the route with the onboard marvell for now, but i've read somewhere that the Marvell 9128 doesnt pass the TRIM commands???
I'll be running the latest Drivers, Version 1.2.00.1002 WHQL, and i'll bump the firmware to 1.0.0.1701/2.2.0.1118/1.0.0.1029.

I'm also running the latest BIOS F7L

Any clarification would be great!
Cheers
a b G Storage
March 31, 2011 3:38:54 PM

I haven't tried the 1002's but the 1051's had much improved caching to ram so the newest should be decent enough.

Don't worry about Trim with Sandforce controllers as it's not used in the same manner to speed up the drives. Helps with efficiency of GC as the blocks are pre-marked but certainly not necessary as this controller figures it out pretty well. Is why raid/Ibis/Revo's do just fine longterm. Enjoy it and let us know how it goes.

PS. the 120's are slower than the 240's but good luck trying to "see" that in an OS volume. Takes incompressible data to even see it.
April 2, 2011 9:33:00 AM

Awesome, i guess its not worth chucking out the i7-930, mobo, ram and replacing it with a sandy bridge kit just to get decent
Yeah i was gonna get the drive delivered yesterday, but the Japanese disaster has affected shipments, so its looking like tail end of next week instead.

Do you know if the Highpoint rock 620 passes the TRIM command to drives? I wont be running it in a raid array, and TRIM can only help right?
a b G Storage
April 2, 2011 2:59:19 PM

not sure if the 620's silicon would pas it or not. there is speculation that Marvells latest drivers do pass trim commands down the stack but I'm not sure. Would take a controller that respnds to manual trimming with speed increases to see/test which as mentioned prior, the Sandforce does not.

I would contact Highpoint and/or Marvell to pose that question. I've heard awful things about Highpoints customer service, so good luck there. Marvell should be much better though I've seen several post of difficulty/lags on that end as well. Worth a shot and a few e-mails I suppose.

Seems that all the others who have received their V3's are pretty happy campers so far. Good Luck with it all.
April 5, 2011 11:48:22 AM

Great, thanks for the help, i've sent emails today, so i'll await the outcome.

On some better news, my drive just got dispatched, so i'm extremely happy, cant wait to set it up and running.

Any tips for the install? I was going to install it on the intel southbridge, and then once id installed the marvell drivers, transfer it over to those ports. Is this alright to do?
Also, any tips on updating the firmware for the marvell controller? I've downloaded an ISO for it, i recon i just burn it and follow the prompts once booted?

Cheers again
a b G Storage
April 5, 2011 9:04:36 PM

I'd check out the mfgrs forum to see what others are doing so far.

as for the Intel to Marvell switch it should be OK with the possibility of a boot repair to fix/revert drivers if you get a no-boot situation. Could also just delete the RST drivers before the swap to the card.

To allow an easier transition I'd probably just run the default MS ahci drivers instaed of the iaStor as it will allow the swap much easier without the boot repair issues since the Marvell chip can be run with default MS ahci drivers as well. Not absolutley sure about that particular card but all the onboard chips allow it anyways.

And an FYI, I actually found that the newer MSAHCI driver that came bundled in my SP1 update is almost as good as the Marvell 1051's. Very noticable in all benchmarks and may increase the chances for trim being passed(though I'm not sure if that card will block commands). Good Luck with it and enjoy the drive.

PS. you could also just put the cards firmware on a bootable USB if needed as well. Would just have to see the required method and what type of file is used first of course.
!