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USB 3.0 To The Front Panel: ASRock Leads The Way
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This isn’t a motherboard roundup, but a test of ASRock’s USB 3.0 front-panel implementation. By limiting ourselves to that evaluation, we can assuage fears of bias that might result from differing CPU technologies. 

Test System Configuration
Socket AM3 CPUAMD Phenom II X4 965 (3.40 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 3.84 GHz at 240 MHz, 1.4875 V
LGA-1156 CPUIntel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8MB  L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 4.00 GHz at 200 MHz, 1.375 V
LGA-1366 CPUIntel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 3.80 GHz at 200 MHz, 1.350 V
890FX MotherboardASRock 890FX Deluxe4 BIOS 1.10 (08/25/2010)
AMD 890FX Northbridge, SB850 Southbridge
P55 MotherboardASRock P55 Extreme4 BIOS 1.42 (08/20/2010)
Intel P55 Express PCH
X58 MotherboardASRock X58 Extreme6 BIOS 1.00 (08/31/2010)
Intel X58 Express Northbridge, ICH10R Southbridge
Comparison
Motherboard
Gigabyte X58A-UD3R BIOS FB (08/24/2010)
Intel X58 Express Northbridge, ICH10R Southbridge
RAMKingston KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX (6 GB)
DDR3-2000 at DDR3-1600 CAS 7-7-7-21
GraphicsSapphire Radeon HD 5850 1 GB
725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
OS Hard DriveWestern Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS
1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
Test DriveOCZ Enyo 128 GB USB 3.0 SSD
USB 3.0 AdapterIntegrated NEC D720200F1 PCIe 2.0
Two ports, onboard 5.0 Gb/s PCIe interface
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850 W Modular
ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
ComparisonSystem Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 10.8
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.2.1007
Benchmarks
h2benchw 3.13Sequential and Sustained Reads, Writes (KB/s)
Interface Bandwidth (MB/s), Access Times (ms)
Iometer 2006.07.27Database, File Server, Web Server, Workstation Patterns (IOPS)


Comparing the performance of each front-panel USB 3.0 implementation to that of each motherboard’s rear-panel controller wouldn’t have made this a complete test, since ASRock’s USB 3.0 controllers use a PCIe 2.0 bridge on its X58 Extreme6 and a PCIe 1.1 connection on its P55 Extreme4. While ASRock’s AMD solution appears to be well-optimized, we needed an Intel system with its USB 3.0 controlled connected directly to the X58 northbridge to set a baseline for the other two motherboards. For that we called upon our recent System Builder Marathon alternative $2000 configuration.

Because all of ASRock’s motherboards were overclocked to the limit, we left the comparison PC at its limit as well. A full rundown of its configuration can be found on its test settings page.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    takeapieandrun , October 1, 2010 6:32 AM
    New standards = competition = win for us
  • 10 Hide
    razor512 , October 1, 2010 7:14 AM
    Now all they need to do is lead the way with a standardized case connector.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , October 1, 2010 6:30 AM
    Thank you ASRock for bringing USB3.0 front header on your motherboards! Now i can expect a much nicer set-up in my case in an upcoming build...
  • 14 Hide
    takeapieandrun , October 1, 2010 6:32 AM
    New standards = competition = win for us
  • 10 Hide
    razor512 , October 1, 2010 7:14 AM
    Now all they need to do is lead the way with a standardized case connector.
  • 3 Hide
    darthvidor , October 1, 2010 7:20 AM
    I sure hope the standard connector comes out before this gets out of hand.
  • 5 Hide
    117killer117 , October 1, 2010 7:49 AM
    Hopefully some other motherboard manufacturers catch on.
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , October 1, 2010 8:32 AM
    razor512Now all they need to do is lead the way with a standardized case connector.
    darthvidorI sure hope the standard connector comes out before this gets out of hand.
    You're looking at it, Page 1 photo. Other motherboard manufacturers are already using this same connector as mentioned in the article, so it should only be a matter of a few months before case manufacturers follow suit.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 1, 2010 8:58 AM
    ASRock responds to pleas? Maybe someone could plead for dual-gigabit-ethernet equipped SOC-chipped (atom? i3?) 6x sata2 motherboards, too. It's impossible to build your one-machine-to-rule them all firewall-server-htpc in a small form factor currently!
  • 0 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , October 1, 2010 9:52 AM
    Yeah i remember reading reports that Intel dithed USB 3.0 about 6 months ago in favor of the mb and new CPU research (P66, 67). Surprisingly they sold this tech or the design to ASROCK. Im sure they will eventually come around to implimenting this for ALL future motherboards.

    So would old cases be able to use this since it is just a connector?
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , October 1, 2010 10:11 AM
    liquidsnake718Yeah i remember reading reports that Intel dithed USB 3.0 about 6 months ago in favor of the mb and new CPU research (P66, 67). Surprisingly they sold this tech or the design to ASROCK. Im sure they will eventually come around to implimenting this for ALL future motherboards. So would old cases be able to use this since it is just a connector?
    Revised cases could use it, if they had the new cable and connector. Remember that USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 are not cross-compatible, they use separate signal pins and share only power and ground with each other.
  • 1 Hide
    mauller07 , October 1, 2010 10:24 AM
    They should have kept the board like the 890gx extreme 3 without all the legacy rubbish like floppy or pata, when looking at the boar layouts in comparison this extreme 4 just looks messy
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , October 1, 2010 10:41 AM
    mauller07They should have kept the board like the 890gx extreme 3 without all the legacy rubbish like floppy or pata, when looking at the boar layouts in comparison this extreme 4 just looks messy
    ASRock still markets in places where Windows XP prevails. That means that the floppy header is still more valuable than most of us would like to believe.
  • 6 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , October 1, 2010 12:09 PM
    Thicker color lines in the legend so we can see what color they are, please.
  • 5 Hide
    Deadstick50 , October 1, 2010 12:30 PM
    What I take from this article is the fact that Inhell hobbles all the good features that AMD doesnt! And people wonder why I always recomend AMD? GET REAL.....get AMD for the performance you deserve! (this add brought to you by..........nobody, I just really like AMD)
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , October 1, 2010 2:09 PM
    While I wouldn't go quite as far as Deadstick50, I did take from this article that P55 is just not the way to go; not if you expect any kind of future-resistance, i.e. to take full advantage of high speed USB 3.0 peripherals.
  • 1 Hide
    Deadstick50 , October 1, 2010 2:13 PM
    Yeah, but look at Intels implementation of PCI-E, its chanelled wrong and limited in scope...i stand by what i said.
  • 1 Hide
    theoutbound , October 1, 2010 2:14 PM
    If nothing else, I'm glad ASRock did this so other manufacturers will be forced to include front USB3. Manufacturers have been very slow to offer this, and it's nice to see someone begin to step up.
  • -1 Hide
    Onus , October 1, 2010 2:38 PM
    It's not "Intel," it's the chipset and/or CPU; consider that X58 offers full speed and full functionality. A lesser AMD chipset (like 870) would chop out some lanes and/or features too.
  • 0 Hide
    zyzeast , October 1, 2010 2:44 PM
    I got the x58 extreme 6 when it came out on Newegg and loving it so far, just wish it had more on-board USB 2.0 connectors.
  • 0 Hide
    False_Dmitry_II , October 1, 2010 2:46 PM
    jtt283It's not "Intel," it's the chipset and/or CPU; consider that X58 offers full speed and full functionality. A lesser AMD chipset (like 870) would chop out some lanes and/or features too.


    Yeah, like the second graphics card slot. Wait, that's another 16 lanes that can be used even if some were removed resulting in similar other stuff as the higher mobos. Sorry the fact that intel limited that entire platform to that low is insane and ridiculous.
  • 3 Hide
    ares1214 , October 1, 2010 4:10 PM
    Asrock, you done good. You guys are always make boards with features other people dont have, or more of them. 870 board with 2 x16 lanes, more USB 3 than most, so on and so forth. Good prices too. Now just make sure they are quality.
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