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Does Your Storage Controller Affect The Performance Of An SSD?

Twelve SATA Controllers, Benchmarked

Is your SSD turning in lower benchmark numbers than what its spec sheet promises? It's possible that your motherboard's chipset or an add-in storage controller is to blame. But do those results really mean anything in an enthusiast's desktop PC?

The real-world performance of a SSD doesn’t just depend on drive, but also the computer you're dropping it into. Which chipset does your motherboard employ? Is it older, and limited to 3 Gb/s transfers, or does it sport 6 Gb/s connectivity? More specifically, even if your storage controller supports the very latest standards, is it as fast as the other controllers out there with similar specifications from competing vendors?

We've spent plenty of time digging into the performance attributes of SSDs. Now, we want to have a look at how different south bridges and standalone controllers affect storage performance. We gathered an     impressive array of motherboards and add-in cards from around the lab. The boards represent a veritable who's who of chipsets from 2008 to 2013, including AMD SB750, AMD A75, AMD SB950, Intel Z87, Intel P55, Intel ICH10R, and Intel Z77. The cards include ASMedia's ASM1061, Marvell's 88SE9123-NAA2, Marvell's 88SE9125-NAA2, Marvell's 88SE9128-NAA2, and Marvell's 88SE9130-NAA2 controllers.

In an SSD review, you'd see us use a bunch of different drives as comparison points. Here, though, we want to stick with one and have that serve as a stake in the ground, facilitating consistent throughput to our various controllers. Samsung's 256 GB 840 Pro is one of the highest-end SSDs we have in the lab, and the company sent out one to each of our editors for use as Tom's Hardware's reference through 2013.   

If you want more information on the 840 Pro, check out our launch coverage: Samsung 840 Pro SSD: More Speed, Less Power, And Toggle-Mode 2.0, along with our last two experiments with these things: Is A SATA 3Gb/s Platform Still Worth Upgrading With An SSD? and One SSD Vs. Two In RAID: Which Is Better?