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USB 3.1 Tested: Performance On MSI's X99A Gaming 9 ACK

Coming Soon To A Motherboard Near You

As of right now, ASMedia is the only company ready with USB 3.1 silicon. Others will follow, of course. But Intel isn’t going to have the technology built into its chipsets any time soon. It’s not part of Broadwell’s supporting platform and it won’t be in Skylake, the generation after. Instead, we’ll have to wait until Cannonlake for native USB 3.1. Mainstream adoption has to start somewhere though, and enthusiasts will lead the way in 2015. 

Patriot Supersonic Magnum 256GB USB 3.0 Drive
Patriot Supersonic Magnum 256GB USB 3.0 Drive

The process will be slow, obviously. Our sources tell us that ASMedia will have competition in the controller space by the second quarter of 2015. Your favorite names in external storage, including enclosures and thumb drives, are expected to start shipping in Q3 of this year. Between now and then, motherboard vendors like MSI will do their part to jump-start the ecosystem. Should you bite?

That all depends on why you’re buying a new platform, and how long you intend to keep it. Haswell-E is a relatively young architecture, so enthusiasts replacing old Nehalem- or Sandy Bridge-E-based setups today would be wise to lay the foundation for USB 3.1 support. Conversely, you lose nothing by waiting. The X99A Gaming 9 ACK will undoubtedly be a $400+ motherboard like the X99S Gaming 9 ACK before it—there’s still a ton of room to fill in the X99 and Z97 space with more affordable options. And by then, we’ll be that much closer to the release of USB 3.1-capable devices.

It takes a couple of striped SSDs to really push USB 3.1. And even then, you’re looking at transfer rates similar to first-gen Thunderbolt. Without question, combining USB 3.1 with the Type-C connector opens the door to more exciting capabilities. But for now, we’re left anticipating thumb drives faster than today’s fastest SATA 6Gb/s drives. As power users, we can dig that.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.