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Does The USB 3.0 Controller On Your Motherboard Matter?

What Does This Mean In The Real-World?

While our synthetic tests show throughput performance scaling, that's not very applicable to real-world use. If you exclude thumb drives, most enthusiasts only use one external storage solution at a time. And those who have more than one probably don't max them out when they're attached to the same controller, at the same time.

In that context, you're most likely going to hammer performance when you issue multiple commands to that one attached drive, such as if you write two files at the same time. We don't get NCQ support, so you're always dealing with a queue depth of one. At the driver level however, the operating system interweaves commands using a memory buffer. This is what allows you to read and write to a USB device at the same time.

Writing multiple files over USB 2.0.

Practically, you see the speed of a write operation slow down for every additional write that you pile on top. However, the sum of file transfer speeds should still equal what you get from a single transfer.

Reading combined with writing is handled a little differently. Take a look at our two videos. In them, we're playing a raw Blu-ray rip (30 GiB) and writing to the same drive.

Due to the availability of separate buses for transmission and reception, reading and writing simultaneously occurs just as fast as it would if you performed each task separately. That's why we don't see a sustained drop in write speed, and video playback doesn't stutter. The only difference between USB 2.0 and 3.0 is the speed at which the file transfer occurs.

  • nikorr
    Great article!
    Reply
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Asus changed the USB 3.0 controller on their P8P67 line of boards... I think they switched to ASMedia from NEC, and I'd love to see the difference between the two benchmarked. I think this article has way too few controllers; there're more USB 3.0 solutions on the market.

    Well, at least the article showed that it's possible to reach 150 MBps write speeds and higher... good enough for me. Now all I need is a USB 3.0 drive :)
    Reply
  • The Greater Good
    That's why eSATA is the best for external storage. USB is great for everything other than data throughput.
    Reply
  • de5_Roy
    thanks for the article! i always use usb drives, most of the old drives using usb converters. good to know i can run multiple of them without hitting speed limit.
    Reply
  • lockhrt999
    They should have included windows 8 in this benchmark. On my system win7 writes at 3-4 MB/s to thumb drive and win8 writes at constant 10 MB/s to same thumb drive. (Everything's USB 2.0 though). Some witchcraft :D I don't know but they should have included win 8.
    Reply
  • lp231
    The Greater GoodThat's why eSATA is the best for external storage. USB is great for everything other than data throughput.
    I've tried eSATA and found out it's not as user friendly as USB.
    You will need a external power source if the eSATA isn't self powered.
    Then you will also have to setup the right bios config or the eSATA won't
    work properly like it's suppose to and basically the eSATA drive becomes a internal cause you lose the ability of hot plugging and swapping.
    Reply
  • lockhrt999
    lp231I've tried eSATA and found out it's not as user friendly as USB. You will need a external power source if the eSATA isn't self powered.Then you will also have to setup the right bios config or the eSATA won'twork properly like it's suppose to and basically the eSATA drive becomes a internal cause you lose the ability of hot plugging and swapping.
    What? Even internal drives can be hot plugged and swapped. OS recognizes both internal and external sata drives alike. Once you connect it just go into My computer > manage > devices and search for new drives. To unplug simply right click on that drive and click disable. Even this can be done with IDE (ATA) provided you don't use old P4 era motherboards.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    lockhrt999What? Even internal drives can be hot plugged and swapped. OS recognizes both internal and external sata drives alike. Once you connect it just go into My computer > manage > devices and search for new drives. To unplug simply right click on that drive and click disable. Even this can be done with IDE (ATA) provided you don't use old P4 era motherboards.You started off right but then went soooo wrong.
    1.) Motherboards with hot-plug capability to internal drives were available almost from the beginning. Nvidia was famous for adding this function to its drive controller firmware, and ASRock was famous for adding it to the drive controller firmware of boards with other chipsets.

    2.) To this very day, the ports of many NEW motherboards STILL lack firmware support for this function on at least some of the ports. A few lack hot swap firmware on all of the ports, and a many have this feature selectable in BIOS.

    So, even though you're part right, the person you responded to is more right.
    Reply
  • lockhrt999
    CrashmanYou started off right but then went soooo wrong.1.) Motherboards with hot-plug capability to internal drives were available almost from the beginning. Nvidia was famous for adding this function to its drive controller firmware, and ASRock was famous for adding it to the drive controller firmware of boards with other chipsets.2.) To this very day, the ports of many NEW motherboards STILL lack firmware support for this function on at least some of the ports. A few lack hot swap firmware on all of the ports, and a many have this feature selectable in BIOS.So, even though you're part right, the person you responded to is more right.
    Thanks for filling me. Coincidentally I never came across motherboard that doesn't support hot plugging out of the box that's why I thought everyone supports it.
    Reply
  • I am a little surprised to see no mention made of USB 3 connections being dropped when plugging a (supposedly) USB 3-capable external dock or enclosure into a motherboard port connected to a Renesas/NEC USB 3 controller. Speculation faults, for instance, the JMicron USB 3 controller on the dock/enclosure; ASMedia is speculated to be less problematic. At any rate, "real world" experience finds dropped connection problems, which makes speed a secondary concern. Can this "dropped USB 3 connection" issue be addressed as well? Thanks.
    Reply