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Does Your Storage Controller Affect The Performance Of An SSD?

Chipsets, SATA Controllers, And The Test Platforms

Again, in order to measure the performance of our 840 Pro on various platforms, we rounded up a total of seven motherboards, each one sporting a different south bridge or platform controller hub.

South BridgeMotherboardChipsetSocketNumber and Type of SATA Ports
AMD A75MSI A75MA-G55AMD A75FM16 x SATA 6Gb/s
AMD SB750MSI 790FX-GD70AMD 790FXAM36 x SATA 3Gb/s
AMD SB950Asus M5A99X EVOAMD 990XAM36 x SATA 6Gb/s
Intel ICH10RMSI Big BangIntel X58 ExpressLGA 13666 x SATA 3Gb/s
Intel P55Gigabyte P55A-UD7Intel P55 ExpressLGA 11566 x SATA 3Gb/s
Intel Z77Asus P8Z77-V ProIntel Z77 ExpressLGA 11552 x SATA 6Gb/s
Intel Z87Intel DZ87KLT-75KIntel Z87 ExpressLGA 11506 x SATA 6Gb/s

In addition to the seven different integrated storage controllers, we also used five third-party SATA controllers, three of which power PCIe add-in cards (Asus U3S6, HighPoint Rocket 620, and HighPoint Rocket 1220), while the other two are soldered onto a motherboard (Asus P8Z77-V Pro und MSI Big Bang).

SATA ControllerPCIe Slot Card or MotherboardMotherboard UsedChipsetSocket# and Type of SATA Ports
ASMedia ASM1061Mounted on motherboardAsus P8Z77-V ProIntel Z77LGA 11552 x SATA 6Gb/s
Marvell 88SE9123-NAA2Asus U3S6 (PCIe x4)Asus P8Z77-V ProIntel Z77LGA 11552 x SATA 6Gb/s
Marvell 88SE9125-NAA2HighPoint Rocket 620Asus P8Z77-V ProIntel Z77LGA 11552 x SATA 6Gb/s
Marvell 88SE9128-NAA2Mounted on motherboardMSI Big BangIntel X58LGA 13662 x SATA 6Gb/s
Marvell 88SE9130-NAA2HighPoint Rocket 1220 (PCIe x1)Asus P8Z77-V ProIntel Z77LGA 11552 x SATA 6Gb/s

Test Configuration and Test Platform

System Hardware
HardwareDetails
Marvell 88SE9125-NAA2 Highpoint Rocket 620 (PCI x1) 2 x SATA 6Gb/sAsus P8Z77-V Pro, Intel Core i7-3770K, Chipset: Intel Z77, LGA 1155
Marvell 88SE9123-NAA2 Asus U3S6 (PCI x4) 2 x SATA 6Gb/s
Marvell 88SE9130-NAA2 Highpoint Rocket 1220 (PCI x1) 2 x SATA 6Gb/s
ASMedia ASM1061 (Integrated) 2 x SATA 6Gb/s
Intel Z77 (SATA 6Gb/s)
Intel ICH10R 6 x SATA 3Gb/sMSI Big Bang, Intel Core i7-980X, Chipset: Intel X58, LGA 1366
Marvell 88SE9128-NAA2 2 x SATA 6Gb/s
Intel P55 6 x SATA 3Gb/sGigabyte P55A-UD7, Intel Core i7-870, Chipset: Intel P55, LGA 1156
AMD SB950 6 x SATA 6Gb/sAsus M5A99X EVO, AMD FX-8350, Chipset: AMD 990X, Socket AM3
Intel Z87 6 x SATA 6Gb/sIntel DZ87KLT-75K, Intel Core i7-4770K, Chipset: Intel Z87, LGA 1150
AMD A75 6 x SATA 6Gb/sMSI A75MA-G55, AMD A6-3670, Chipset: A75, Socket FM1
AMD SB750 6 x SATA 3Gb/sMSI 790FX-GD70, AMD Phenom II X4 965, Chipset: AMD 790FX, Socket AM3
DDR3 Memory (Dual-Channel)2 x 8 GB DDR3-1600 CL10-10-10-27, Corsair Vengance CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10
DDR3 Memory (Dual-Channel)2 x 8 GB DDR3-1866 CL10-11-10-30, G.Skill RipjawsX F3-14900CL10D-16GBXL
DDR3 Memory (Quad-Channel)4 x 4 GB Kingston KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
System SSDIntel X25-M G1 , 80 GB, Firmware 0701, SATA 3Gb/s
ControllerIntel PCH Z68 SATA 6Gb/s
Power SupplySeasonic X-760 760 W, SS-760KM Active PFC F3
Benchmarks
Performance Measurementsh2benchw 3.16 PCMark 7 1.0.4
I/O PerformanceIometer 2006.07.27 File server Benchmark Web server Benchmark Database Benchmark Workstation Benchmark Streaming Reads Streaming Writes 4 KB Random Reads 4 KB Random Writes
System Software & Drivers
DriverDetails
Operating SystemWindows 8 Pro x64
AMD South BridgesAMD Chipset Drivers 13.4
Intel Z77 And Z87 ExpressIntel RST 12.​5.​0.​1066
All otherWindows 8 integrated driver
  • Madn3ss795
    It's clear that Intel won over AMD in this, because 4k read/write and access time is what we care most about nowadays. It's a shame that AMD went for quantity over quality.

    As a side note, when can we see an usb3.0 controller comparison with those new AMD and Intel chipsets?
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    I was surprised to see intels 3gbs outpace marvels 6bps controllers in many benchmarks. Just goes to show you that not all SATA controllers are created equal.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    The one thing the article didn't say, which it should, is that Marvell controllers
    are garbage. Notice how often the P55 matches or beats one of the Marvell
    6gbit controllers. The PCIe x1 link issue is bad enough, but sometimes even
    having a proper connection doesn't help their performance.

    Also not mentioned is SSD reliability. The only time I've ever had problems
    with an SSD were when it was connected to a Marvell controller (eg. failed
    fw update; move the SSD to an Intel port, the update then works ok).

    Ian.

    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    I would like to see if there is any performance difference when each of the 3rd party controllers are tested on the available platforms.
    Reply
  • jg11
    There is one very significant piece of information that is not included in this article. Which particular ports being used on the controller makes a big difference.

    Most of the embedded chipsets (or external chipsets) carry a multiplexer between SATA and PCI Express. The CPUs accept PCI Express connections, not SATA, so there is a conversion that must be made, which is done by the SATA chipset. Each lane on PCI Express 2.0 supports approximately 8GB/s, and PCI Express 3.0 supports approximately 15 GB/s.

    Here's the problem I have seen in external expansion slots. They connect 4 SATA slots to a single PCI Express 2.0. So potentially, four connected SATA 6 GB/s drives, or 24 GB/s total I/O throughput, is being processed into a single 5 GB/s connection to the CPU. I don't care how good the SATA chipset is at processing and prioritizing I/O data, you are going to have an I/O bottleneck. Even four SATA 3 GB/s drives create a total of 12 GB/s throughput, more than a single PCI Express 2.0 lane can handle. SSDs can approach speeds greater than 3 GB/s, so it is not a theoretical bottleneck, it is a very real limitation.

    So going back to the article. At most, I have seen 4 SATA slots connected to a single PCI Express 2.0 lane. I have seen 6 or 8 connected to either 2 discrete lanes or a 2x lane (or 4x lane when talking about SAS), which carries approximately 10 GB/s of total throughput. So depending on the implementation of the embedded chipset on the motherboard, it may be the PCI Express lanes giving you the throughput limitation and not the SATA chipset. Different ports may be connected to different 1x PCI Express lanes or to a 2x lane, giving you either two discrete paths to the CPU, maximizing throughput, or a larger pipeline to the CPU, which is better than a 1x lane but not nearly as good as discrete pathways.

    I have an external PCI Express controller with a few drives on my main system, and when transferring files from drives on the internal (motherboard) chipset to drives on the connected card, there is a noticeable throughput difference.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I would like to have seen how CPU speed affects these measurements, if at all. As it is, other than to get off a Marvel controller or upgrade from 3Gb/s to 6Gb/s, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of difference; some, but not enough to write home about (i.e. to suggest an upgrade).
    Reply
  • Shneiky
    I am disappointed that there was no 67 chipset. After all, most of the people are still on Sandy Bridge.
    Reply
  • Lefturn
    Great article guys. I own an 840 pro myself, and I was wondering why the built-in benchmark numbers weren't as high as what was advertised. Now I know.
    Reply
  • ArmedandDangerous
    Looking at the testbed, I see the Intel X-25M G ONE. How the heck did that achieve above 300+MBps doing anyting at all? It's a SATA2.0 device, which is a 3Gbps interface. Your benchmarks are showing 6Gbps scores.
    Reply
  • ronch79
    Sorry guys, I just need to put in some 'constructive criticism'. This article's last paragraph just sounds so stupid and OBVIOUS that it's like reading an old issue of PC Magazine where the authors are a bunch of old fuddy-duddies who say things that are just too obvious. ALL motherboards today come with built-in SATA ports and nobody who has half a brain will buy a separate PCIe SATA controller to run his SSD or mech HDD. NOBODY! Unless that person has (1) run out of southbridge-provided SATA ports, or (2) he has an old board with old SATA 3Gbps ports and thinks a fancy new SATA 6 PCIe card will be a nice upgrade, or (3) he does have less than half a brain and thinks that a separate SATA controller somehow has some secret sauce that's faster than the motherboard SATA ports, or, lastly, (4) he thinks that the ASMedia controller that also came extra with his board is better than what Intel or AMD came up with. Of these four possibilities, 1 and 2 are probably acceptable, 3 and 4 are stupid scenarios.

    No, OF COURSE and OBVIOUSLY you plug devices into the built-in southbridge-connected SATA ports. Anyone who even thinks about installing his own SSD will AUTOMATICALLY do that, not go out and buy a separate SATA controller!
    Reply