Review Index:

USB 3.0 and SATA 6G Performance Preview - ASUS brings the goods

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: General

Performance and Closing Thoughts

SATA 6G Performance

As I have said, we already looked at the somewhat lower than expected SATA 6G performance results in our previous article but I wanted to compare the performance of the controller on the motherboard and on the add-in card.

that was easy.  The performance of our Seagate Barracuda XT hard drive
was pretty much identical on either the P7P55D-E Premium motherboard
directly or via the ASUS U3S6 add-in card. 

USB 3.0 Performance

Now this is where I think a lot of you are going to be reading with
great anticipation.  Our testing methods were very simple and you'll
see four results:

  1. Our ASUS USB 3.0-ready HDD dock plugged directly into the P7P55D-E Premium motherboard's USB 3.0 ports
  2. The ASUS USB 3.0 dock plugged into ASUS U3S6 add-in card
  3. The ASUS USB 3.0 dock plugged into a USB 2.0 port on the P7P55D-E Premium motherboard
  4. The ASUS USB 3.0 dock with an Intel X25-M G2 160GB SSD plugged into the USB 3.0 port on the P7P55D-E Premium motherboard

The comparisons we should be looking at are:

  • USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0: Look at how the USB 3.0 results compare to the legacy USB 2.0 speeds.  I think you'll be impressed.
  • USB 3.0 (on-board) vs USB 3.0 (add-in): Are there any performance differences between the integrated motherboard solution and the add-in card that ASUS is selling?
  • USB 3.0 HDD vs USB 3.0 SSD:Because we think that the HDD won't be pushing the speed of USB 3.0
    completely we plugged in the SSD to put the highest speed storage we
    had to the test.

are already some good stuff showing up here in our HDTach burst read
results.  The new USB 3.0 hard drive is running about 4x faster than
the USB 2.0 connection while we were able to get an additional 22%
performance boost when using the Intel SSD rather than the older 500 GB
hard drive.

Again the increased speed of USB 3.0 impresses especially when coupled with incredibly fast storage like the Intel X25-M SSD.

Because the X25-M we are using for testing is limited to 80 MB/s write speeds (though there is an update from Intel that will push it to 100 MB/s) the spindle-based hard drive is able to come out on top with about 4x the performance of the USB 2.0 device.

Final Thoughts

Let's talk about the hardware first; the ASUS P7P55D-E Premium
motherboard and the ASUS U3S6 storage card.  The motherboard takes an
already high-quality P55 solution and improves it slightly by adding
support for USB 3.0 via the NEC 720200 controller.  It should not be
overlooked that the board is in fact a stand out P55 option to begin
with that includes great features and overclocking support and the
addition of SATA 6G and USB 3.0 really cements its place as likely the
top-of-the-line Lynnfield motherboard. 

The ASUS U3S6 controller card is also likely to be a popular
purchase not only for ASUS motherboard owners but all users that want
to add USB 3.0 and SATA 6G support to their systems for a great price
of only $30! 

While we have already lamented about SATA 6G in a previous article,
I will simply note that I was let down by what we saw here.  The truth
is that our first SATA 6G-ready hard drive, the Seagate Barracuda XT,
doesn't show noticeable performance gains in our testing over current
generation SATA hard drives.  There will be SOME cases where the larger
cache (64MB on this drive) will help but in most cases the Barracuda XT
is basically going to act like a very faster SATA 3.0 Gb/s hard drive. 
While we can't be 100% sure with only one piece of storage to test, we
assume that the ASUS implementation of the Marvell 9123 controller is
able to provide better transfer rates down the road when higher density
spinning drives and SATA 6G-ready SSDs become available.

USB 3.0 turned out to be much more impressive out of the gate -
transfer rates were easily four times faster than USB 2.0 using the
hard drive and dock.  Going from 31 MB/s to over 100 MB/s will
definitely be a noticeable gain in real world performance and the 150
MB/s we saw when the Intel SSD was in the USB 3.0 dock shows that there
is more room up the scale. 

I have to admit I was disappointed to see that the USB 3.0 speeds
seemed to top out where they did - when attached to the P55 chipset the
Intel SSD was able to get get burst speeds in the 250 MB/s range and
consistent read speeds near 180 MB/s.  With the ASUS implementation of
the NEC 720200 controller our limit seems to be 150 MB/s.  Because
there are so many new variable in this test though (including the early
sample of the USB 3.0 hard drive dock) it is tough to see which
component might be at fault for this. 

To be sure, 150 MB/s is a HUGE gain over current USB 2.0 speeds of
35 MB/s or so and anyone that is dependent on external storage or any
streaming data over USB connections is going to love the bandwidth
increase we are seeing today.  Keep in mind that the USB 2.0 controller
on the P55 chipset has had more than 9 years to evolve to where it is
at today while this is the first publicly available implementation of
USB 3.0.  We will surely see more speed as the months and years
progress, but for now I have to say that I am ready for USB 3.0
accessories to hit the shelves.

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