USB 3.0 Performance: Two Solutions From Asus And Gigabyte

Conclusion

While we have yet to see any device capable of defining the performance limits of USB 3.0, benchmarks prove it’s a huge step up from USB 2.0, even when using a average desktop hard drive. USB 3.0 is able to match the eSATA controller against which it initially competes, and its 5.0 Gb/s limit will continue to remain competitive, even after 6.0 Gb/s transfers are applied to eSATA.

Offering around 50% more amperage over the same power wires as the USB 2.0 interface it shares, USB 3.0 looks to become the de-facto standard for high-speed portable devices. The marketing power of the USB name, along with its shared connector and compatibility with non-ATA devices, will likely relegate the competing eSATA standard to stationary backup devices.

Asus’ solution appears to be the most elegant option because it doesn’t steal pathways from the x16 graphics card slot, but instead relies on a PLX bridge to convert four of the chipset’s 2.5 Gb/s pathways to two 5.0 Gb/s pathways. Yet Gigabyte managed to edge out Asus in write performance by taking its 5.0 Gb/s pathway directly from the CPU, eliminating any middle parts (like the DMI interface connecting Core i7 to P55) that could slow the interface down, while also limiting the PCIe slot to x8 mode. This tradeoff can be blamed directly on LGA 1156 platform limitations, and high-end buyers who want the best of everything should instead consider X58-based solutions such as Asus' P6X58D Premium or Gigabyte’s X58A-UD7.

We knew Intel's incorporation of PCI Express into its Lynnfield design would bite us in the butt somewhere, but we always thought it'd be the performance of next-generation graphics cards split over a pair of x8 slots. Such is the double-edged sword of integration.

We reserve criticism of USB 3.0’s overall performance until someone is able to supply a component with significantly greater bandwidth, but we still have other concerns. Chief among these is the lack of standardization for USB 3.0 front-panel breakout cables, since the convenience of front-panel access is key to its marketability. We have little doubt that major system manufacturers such as HP and Dell are designing new cases right now with proprietary case-to-motherboard connections, and that could spell disaster for independent builders, unless retail-component manufacturers can quickly agree on a breakout-header standard. It took several years before retail motherboards came with standardized front-panel USB connections, and a repeat performance by the industry is something the custom-built market might not be able to tolerate.

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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
    Anonymous 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