USB 3.0 Performance: Two Solutions From Asus And Gigabyte

New Motherboards From Asus And Gigabyte

Always trying to stay on the leading edge of hardware development, the first challenge motherboard manufacturers faced in adopting any high-bandwidth controller for Intel’s latest platform is that the chipset doesn’t have a suitable high-bandwidth interface. The 16 lanes of PCIe 2.0 provided by LGA 1156 processors are normally tied to graphics card slots, and any additional PCIe connections must be made through the P55 PCH at a half-rate 2.5 GT/s. A single 5.0 Gb/s PCIe 2.0 lane would have been adequate for USB 3.0, but P55 has none.

Asus’ solution is to add a PLX PCIe bridge, which can be seen in the photo above as the large IC with a silver logo to the left of the power and reset buttons. The PLX bridge converts the P55 Express chipset’s four 2.5 GT/s lanes into two 5.0 GT/s lanes, making it possible for Asus to host its USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 GT/s controllers at full PCIe 2.0 bandwidth. While today’s article is limited to USB 3.0 implementation, we’ll communicate more details about this P7P55D-E Premium motherboard in a future roundup.

At two-thirds of the price of its Asus rival, Gigabyte’s P55A-UD4P cuts costs by using the processor’s PCIe 2.0 connections to host its high-bandwidth controllers. Two of the primary graphics card’s 16 PCIe lanes supply its USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s controllers, and Gigabyte disables six more lanes to make the upper slot an effective x8 interface. The USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s controllers revert to the chipset’s 2.5 GT/s lanes whenever two graphics cards are installed, to preserve the x8 transfers each graphics card needs for optimal CrossFire or SLI performance.

Thus, users with a single graphics card must sacrifice half of its peak bandwidth to enable 5.0 Gb transfers to the USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s controllers, while those with two cards must live with 2.5 Gb/s bandwidth limits on USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s controllers. Neither of these sacrifices is huge or even noticeable on most of today’s hardware, yet anyone trying to future-proof their system could be left cold.

Knowing that some users would rather pay more than sacrifice performance credentials, Gigabyte has been showing off its upcoming P55A-UD7 motherboard with PLX and nForce 200 PCIe bridges. The company has yet to announce the new product’s launch date or price.

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    Top Comments
  • amnotanoobie
    Wow, transferring your por..... programs should be a lot faster now.
    21
  • Other Comments
  • Lessqqmorepewpew
    Great review. This waiting game sucks.
    1
  • amnotanoobie
    Wow, transferring your por..... programs should be a lot faster now.
    21
  • playerone
    This seems a bit dated, my two week old ASUS P6X58D Premium has Sata 6.0 and USB 3.0!
    Obviously waiting for a bit more mature drivers and more hardware...
    -2
  • Onyx2291
    Can't wait for it all to be standard.
    1
  • staalkoppie
    Pitty they'll only be available at the back for now....but good news nevertheless
    2
  • liquidsnake718
    BAH.... Im waiting for an X58 with USB.3.0 AND 16x 16x SLI. I would not want to sacrifice the other slot for a 8x config....
    0
  • Crashman
    liquidsnake718BAH.... Im waiting for an X58 with USB.3.0 AND 16x 16x SLI. I would not want to sacrifice the other slot for a 8x config....


    Uh, d00d, 1366 CPU has 36 2.0 lanes, don't those X58 boards use the leftover four for USB3 and SATA6? I mean, c'mon, 16+16+4=36
    -2
  • bujuki
    I've been waiting to see how USB 3 performs. However, if you may it's better to test the CPU utilization comparison between all connectors as well. Still, thanks for the great review. b^^d
    2
  • anamaniac
    Honestly, with USB 3.0, I don't see any reason at all for eSATA anymore.
    I just want a 80GB Intel x18-m with a USB 3.0 port. Who the hell wants a slow 64GB flash drive?

    I wish we could agree on a stanard already. I like USB, so let's just scrap IDE, SATA, eSATA, PCI (not PCIe), analog audio cables completely already. Well, that or miniDisplayPort.
    -1
  • JohnnyLucky
    Thanks for explaining how USB 3.0 fits into the grand scheme of things.
    0
  • coolkev99
    Looks like I'll stick to using esata for a while longer. Not too thrilled with the early implimentations.
    1
  • thackstonns
    Cant you build 2 computers with the same motherboards, and then run a network through usb 3.0. Run raid in both with ssd, and then fully test bandwidth? That way you are maxing out the spec?
    9
  • cah027
    I'm With Thackstonns on this one. Would have been nice to have done a more in depth look and used raided SSD's. See if you can max out the interface with enough of them. Is that possible?
    0
  • playerone
    262820 said:
    BAH.... Im waiting for an X58 with USB.3.0 AND 16x 16x SLI. I would not want to sacrifice the other slot for a 8x config....



    ? ? ?

    ASUS P6X58D-Premium has 16x16x8x with USB.3.0 & SATA.6G/s, I have had mine for two weeks and loving it.
    It does tripple LSI or Crossfire.

    Running it with I7-920 and 6gb of Patriot 2000 mhz cl8

    On the Back Panel there is 4 USB2.0 2 USB3.0 (backward compatable) Inside 2 USB2.0 hdr, 6 SATA-3.0 and 2-SATA-6.0 as well as a E-SATA hdr
    -1
  • tecmo34
    With having an e-SATA external hard drive, I see no quick need to upgrade to USB3.0, as their is little performance difference. I'm waiting more for the performance increase overall with the SATA-3.0 hard drives, at which point I'll upgrade my motherboard.
    0
  • Crashman
    thackstonnsCant you build 2 computers with the same motherboards, and then run a network through usb 3.0. Run raid in both with ssd, and then fully test bandwidth? That way you are maxing out the spec?


    That would be great if the hardware to connect the two had been available. It's certainly something to look for, now that you've suggested it!

    cah027Would have been nice to have done a more in depth look and used raided SSD's. See if you can max out the interface with enough of them. Is that possible?


    It's possible if you send two SSD's in a 3.5" internal bay adapter that has a built-in RAID controller. Of course, this could be problematic still since the USB 3.0 adapter provides only SATA 3.0 Gb/s (we've also been told that it's limitted to 180MB/s on current firmware). But other than the lack of hardware...
    1
  • scryer_360
    Although its good to see the hardware in the wild, I don't yet see any reason to buy something for USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s.

    Yes there is some future proofing, but as I think it was mentioned at the beginning of the article, it will be years before we see a significant number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s devices on the market, and maybe even longer before we see storage with the ability to use all that bandwidth.

    Certainly it will take aeons for traditional hdds to utilize all that speed, but ssd's might be able to do that in a few years, right?
    -1
  • Crashman
    scryer_360Although its good to see the hardware in the wild, I don't yet see any reason to buy something for USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s.Yes there is some future proofing, but as I think it was mentioned at the beginning of the article, it will be years before we see a significant number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB/s devices on the market, and maybe even longer before we see storage with the ability to use all that bandwidth.Certainly it will take aeons for traditional hdds to utilize all that speed, but ssd's might be able to do that in a few years, right?


    SSD's could probably do that now if they applied 24-way parallelism to the internal controller and the fastest available chips.
    0
  • sylvia648
    Sounds good, but on the "Throughput, Streaming, And Interface Performance" page you have a mix up of letters "Regarding write speeds, Gigabyte’s eSATA controller looks a little better while Asus’ USB 3.0 implementation looks a little worse in IOMeter. USB 2.0 performance remains relatively pathetic, so eSATA and UBS 3.0 will both give you a substantial performance boost."
    -1
  • sylvia648
    Crap posted before I was done, but anyway the mistake is that you stated it as "UBS 3.0" and not USB 3.0. Tiny error.
    -1