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ASUS Previews USB 3.1 Performance - Motherboards and Add-in Card Incoming

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Manufacturer: ASUS

Technology Background

Just over a week or so ago Allyn spent some time with the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard, a fact that might seem a little odd to our frequent readers. Why would our storage editor be focusing on a motherboard? USB 3.1 of course! When we visited MSI at CES in January they were the first company to show working USB 3.1 hardware and performance numbers that we were able duplicate in our testing when MSI sent us similar hardware.

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But ASUS is in this game as well, preparing its product lines with USB 3.1 support courtesy of the same ASMedia controller we looked at before. ASUS has a new revision of several motherboards planned with integrated on-board USB 3.1 but is also going to be releasing an add-in card with USB 3.1 support for existing systems.

Today we are going to test that add-in card to measure ASUS' implementation of USB 3.1 and see how it stacks up to what MSI had to offer and what improvements and changes you can expect from USB 3.0.

USB 3.1 Technology Background

Despite the simple point denomination change in USB 3.1, also known as SuperSpeed+, the technological and speed differences in the newest revision of USB are substantial. Allyn did a good job of summarizing the changes that include a 10 Gbps link interface and a dramatic drop in encoding overhead that enables peak theoretical performance improvements of 2.44x compared to USB 3.0.

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USB 3.1 is rated at 10 Gbps, twice that of USB 3.0. The little-reported-on nugget of info from the USB 3.1 specification relates to how they classify the raw vs. expected speeds. Taking USB 3.0 as an example, Superspeed can handle a raw 5Gbps data rate, but after subtracting out the overhead (packet framing, flow control, etc), you are left with ~450MB/s of real throughput. Superspeed+ upgrades the bit encoding type from 8b/10b (80% efficient) to 128b/132b (97% efficient) *in addition to* the doubling of raw data rate. This means that even after accounting for overhead, Superspeed+’s best case throughput should work out to ~1.1GB/s. That’s not a 2x speed improvement – it is actually 2.44x of USB 3.0 speed. Superspeed+ alright!

Continue reading our preview of USB 3.1 Performance on ASUS hardware!

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ASUS has done some additional work in this area, as they did with USB 3.0, to enable UASP and Turbo Modes for its own USB 3.1 implementations. Turbo Mode is an optimized form of the standard BOT transfer mode (that can only handle one request at at time) that improves device read speeds by adopting a streaming architecture eliminating much of the round trip communication time. This can be run on all devices that support USB 3.0/USB3.1 and SCSI commands and isn't restricted to devices with USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) support.

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UASP will still provide the best performance for USB 3.1 devices with nearly all of the delay of command phases being removed and a multi-tasking aware architecture that is capable of handling multiple file transfers at the same time. Much like native command queuing (NCQ) helped improve overall performance for SATA, UASP continues to improve USB experiences.

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ASUS enables the activation of UASP and Turbo transfer modes as a part of its AI Suite software shipped with its motherboards. The latest iteration will have the option for "USB 3.1 Boost" and you can speed up your USB 3.1 data transfers with the click of a single icon. In our performance results you will be able to see how this early iteration of USB 3.1 Boost works.

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February 21, 2015 | 02:26 AM - Posted by MC Mikey Mike (not verified)

Just a heads up, there's a small mistake on the "The Hardware and test setup" page, that reads: "Intel's Core i7-5960X and 16GB of DDR3 running at 1866 MHz were used as well" I assume that's supposed to be DDR4?

February 24, 2015 | 03:51 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Fixed. Thanks!

February 21, 2015 | 04:48 AM - Posted by Funkatronis

I'd be curious to see how well current USB devices fair in the new 3.1 port, for example, a Corsair Flash Voyager GTX seems like that might have all the parts to get within the higher end ball park. and it figures I just bought a rampage V extreme

February 24, 2015 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Check the results in the chart on the last page. The Samsung T1 is tested on VIA, Intel, and the ASMedia 3.1 port. The T1 is about as fast as you're going to see for a USB 3.0 device.

February 21, 2015 | 04:14 AM - Posted by JohnB (not verified)

Is the Utility just för external drives atm?

February 21, 2015 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Will there be dual USB 3.1 controllers for PCs/Laptops, with the ability to drive 2 10Gbs transfers simultaneously, or will it mostly be one controller and a few USB 3.1 attached plugs sharing bandwidth? For sure the laptop OEMs will be adopting the Type-C form factor plug standard, but how long will it take for the USB 3.1 controller to begin appearing in laptops.

February 24, 2015 | 03:39 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The ASMedia chip is a dual USB 3.1 device (i.e. two channels).

February 21, 2015 | 02:16 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

Ryan, Thanks for this timely review.

Please, one question I cannot answer completely concerns that third device in your first photo:

Is that a power brick and, if so, I thought USB 3.1 provides its own DC power?

You write: "The external enclosure is powered by a standard microUSB connection"

Thanks for clarifying.

MRFS

February 24, 2015 | 03:41 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The ASMedia RAID solution doesn't currently support the higher power deliveries, and exceeds the max draw of the earlier spec.

February 21, 2015 | 02:22 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

This answered my question:

http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/motherboards/2015/02/19/usb-3-1-preview...

"The Asus USB 3.1 Enclosure, meanwhile, is not a final retail product, merely something concocted by the Asus engineers for testing purposes. It is a simple PCB inside a black aluminium Lian Li EX-M2 enclosure, meaning it fits to the 2.5in form factor. Externally it features a micro-B USB connection for power (via mains) and a Type-C USB 3.0 connection for data transfer, as well as a series of indicator LEDs and a jumper."

February 21, 2015 | 02:30 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

This is a surprise too: "lower power states adversely affect the performance of the ASMedia controllers, at least with the current drivers"

Evidently, when Intel's SpeedStep steps down, the data rate suffers.

This will be something to watch for, as storage interfaces ramp up their clock rates in the visible future.

February 24, 2015 | 03:45 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

SpeedStep adds latency to any operation that performs intermittent IO. What looks like a full speed transfer actually takes a small fraction of CPU cycles, meaning it spends a lot of time in an idle state. Spinning back up to full speed takes a small bit of time, but that adds up when you multiply it by the number of IO's.

The same applies to SATA and PCIe SSD testing, but turning off C-States just to get higher numbers is not a realistic expectation to demand of typical users.

February 21, 2015 | 06:08 PM - Posted by Terje (not verified)

The addon card is using PCIe 8x?

February 23, 2015 | 07:27 AM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

In the article, see: "The card requires a free PCIe x4 slot at Gen2 or Gen3 speeds."

February 23, 2015 | 10:49 AM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

I dunno. Marketing-wise? If you got 3.0 capability already, I don't think it's worth buying a new mobo over until maybe they get 4.0 (a 10x - like improvement). And what do you really need it for except for corner cases like this one.

Still, it's a nice step up if you're coming from older tech- I just don't see a big crowd falling over themselves to upgrade to this from 3.0.

February 24, 2015 | 01:00 AM - Posted by Ken H. (not verified)

Ryan -

When will the Type-C connector and native Chipset support for USB 3.1 be released/included in mainstream motherboards?

It is a nice technology, I am just wondering when it will be released?

February 25, 2015 | 12:30 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's a chicken and egg problem. Enough devices need to be available to warrant it. I think for a while we will see what we got for this review - cables going from older style (motherboard) to Type-C for the device end.

February 26, 2015 | 08:11 AM - Posted by X-mass (not verified)

Is there any news about either of Asus's ITX boards: the ROG Impact or the Z97i-Plus?

I specifically bought a B-Plus M.2. Type M to 4x PCIe so that I could put a convertor card in and then mod my IO sheild for two 3.1 sockets.

The news about the asus card is massievly useful, and if there is no news about upgraded ITX boards is the way I will go.

I would have thought they would upgrade the ROG board as its about having the leading edge kit and has in the UK a price premium of at least $100 over the Z97i-plus.

It would certainly make me switch from a plus to a ROG!!!

February 27, 2015 | 12:34 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Will this support networking between two PCs? 10gb?

February 27, 2015 | 04:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Err. This looks like a PCI-e X1 lane card. That is 5Gbps @ PCIe v2.0 or 8Gbps @ PCIe v3.0

How can it possibly handle 2 x 10Gbps USB 3.1 ports?

Hmm?

February 27, 2015 | 04:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Oops. sorry didn't see the line about it being a X4 card.

Wish there were more of these slots on motherboards!

February 28, 2015 | 10:30 AM - Posted by fvbounty

Will the add in card work on a ASUS Z87-WS...thanks for any info...

April 10, 2015 | 11:38 AM - Posted by LaurynasG (not verified)

Will the add in card work on my ASUS P9X79 WS board?

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