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

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: ASUS

Performance and Closing Thoughts

Our performance results will compare the ASUS USB 3.1 card in our X99-Deluxe motherboard to our data from last week on the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK. We quickly ran through a set of standard Windows file copy tests (using that P3700 as the target) as well as some ATTO runs to evaluate peak throughput.

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The top two sets of results in this graph compare the ASUS USB 3.1 Card attached to the enclosure with the AI Suite Turbo setting on and off. Coming in at 676 MB/s read and 569 MB/s write, the top score in this testing belongs to the ASUS configuration with its custom Turbo mode enabled. Second is the same hardware with Turbo turned off, down in standard BOT mode.

This does top the 607 MB/s we saw on the first MSI results from last week just slightly.

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Turbo Mode Disabled

Here is where things get interesting - a more peak theoretical look at performance that you might expect once USB 3.1 devices are optimized. Without the Turbo mode enabled in the AI Suite software, the USB 3.1 interface is working as high as 795 MB/s read speeds and 797 MB/s write speeds. That easily outstretches the top USB 3.0 speeds we have seen that hover around 450 MB/s.

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Turbo Mode Enabled

With the Turbo Mode enabled, transfer rates improve to 832 MB/s read and 834 MB/s write, a jump of about 40 MB/s in both directions. That nets us another 5% in storage performance - well worth enabling if you have the capability on your ASUS hardware.

Pricing and Availability

In North America, ASUS will begin shipping motherboards with USB 3.1 support built onto them February 27th starting with the Rampage V Extreme/U3.1 ($519 MSRP) and the Z97-Pro(Wi-Fi ac)/USB 3.1 ($229 MSRP). Here is a look at the rest of the time table.

  MSRP Shipping (est.)
RAMPAGE V EXTREME/U3.1 $519 2/27
X99-DELUXE/U3.1 $409 3/3
X99-PRO/USB 3.1 $339 2/27
X99-A/USB 3.1 $279 3/10
SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1/USB 3.1 $259 3/3
Z97-DELUXE/USB 3.1 $299 3/3
Z97-PRO (Wi-Fi AC)/USB 3.1 $229 2/27
Z97-A/USB 3.1 $159 3/10
USB 3.1 Card $39 3/10

This table is the "global" release schedule, so some SKUs might shift inside these windows for North America.

ASUS will have a total of eight motherboards available by the end of March with USB 3.1, four based on the X99 platform and four based on Z97.

The ASUS USB 3.1 Card will be shipping by mid-March and will have a price tag of just $39, a nice price for users to add to their existing ASUS motherboards. The vast majority of ASUS X99 and Z97 motherboards will support the card, though if you are using an older chipset or another platform, it appears you are out of luck.

As I said before, ASUS claims that this add-in card will not work non-ASUS board but I think that is likely to be not true. We'll try some other boards around the office when we get a chance to see how compatibility looks.

Closing Thoughts

It's great to see ASUS jumping into USB 3.1 with both new motherboards as well as an add-in card for existing customers. The performance improvements that we saw today in our early testing are promising. We still have a ways to go before we reach that theoretical limit of 1.1 GB/s and to be honest we just don't know when USB 3.1 hardware is going to be available to use at all. I haven't seen announcements from the typical external dock vendors yet or from SSD/storage companies that should be keen to demonstrate the performance of this new external solution.

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Keep in mind that in both of our previews of USB 3.1 performance we have been using dual SATA/mSATA SSD configurations running in RAID-0. To really take advantage of the USB 3.1 you are going to need some fast storage to even come close to stretching the interface's legs. Whether that means we will have some kind of PCIe-to-USB3.1 capability to take advantage of current and upcoming PCIe SSD controllers or if instead we'll have to depend on a new generation of USB 3.1 storage controllers to be built has yet to be determined.

We are looking forward to testing more USB 3.1 devices as they become available in 2015!

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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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