Should You Care About Your Motherboard's USB 3.0 Controller?
In a world flooded with USB 2.0, external storage is pretty boring. The standard was really quite amazing when it emerged back in 2000. However, the technology world has a short attention span, and "up to 480 Mb/s," which really turns out to be more like "up to about 35 MB/s," became a bottleneck long, long ago. When it comes time to move high-definition movies, large audio libraries, or, worst of all, folders with lots of small files that absolutely hammer write performance, USB 2.0 almost always means starting your transfer and walking away for a while.
The third revision of the USB standard offers transmission speeds up to 5 Gb/s, which, theoretically, represents a 10-fold performance increase compared to USB 2.0. Unfortunately, it's taking a while for end-users to realize the full benefit of what USB 3.0 can do. The USB 3.0 standard was originally announced in November of 2008. It took a year, though, for Buffalo Technology to become the first vendor to ship USB 3.0-capable external hard drives. At the time, there still weren't any motherboards equipped with USB 3.0 controllers.
Slowly but surely, we've seen almost every motherboard vendor incorporate third-party USB 3.0 logic onto their boards. AMD even launched its A75 chipset with integrated USB 3.0 support (a capability that Intel still lacks).
NEC Electronics (now Renesas Technology) had the first add-on USB 3.0 controller. If you wanted SuperSpeed functionality, there was one game in town. Now, there are more options.
We've already spent some time looking at the devices you plug into USB 3.0-capable controllers (Not All USB 3.0 Implementations Are Created Equal). But, should you also care about the controllers themselves? We have solutions from ASMedia, Etron, and AMD's own A75 integrated controller.