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USB 3.0 the Real Deal, SATA 6GB Not Yet 168

Posted by timothy
from the built-for-speed dept.
MojoKid writes "HotHardware has posted a sneak peek at a new motherboard Asus has coming down the pipe with USB 3.0 and SATA 6G support. The Asus P7P55D-E Premium has a PLX PCI Express Gen 2 switch implementation that connects to NEC USB 3.0 and Marvell SATA 6G controller chips. With a USB 3.0 enabled external hard drive connected to a USB 2.0 port and then to the board's USB 3.0 port, there were some rather impressive gains to observe. When connected to a USB 3.0 port, the external hard drive was about 5 — 6x faster versus connecting over USB 2.0, with total throughput in excess of 130MB/sec. On the other hand, benchmarks with Seagate's new Barracuda XT SATA 6G drive show little performance difference but a burst rate that is off the charts. According to ATTO, there are slight overall performance benefits to be had connecting the drive to the SATA 6G controller, but the deltas were quite small; somewhere in the neighborhood of 5MB/s or so."
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USB 3.0 the Real Deal, SATA 6GB Not Yet

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  • Shoddy Method (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spqr0a1 (1504087) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:16AM (#29921679)

    The Barracuda XT is a spinning platter HDD and so should not be expected to benefit significantly from the new SATA revision. SSDs on the other hand have already maxed out the transfer rate SATA 3Gbps. I suspect they would have seen the difference if they used a top of the line SSD.

    This is good news all around, it's great to see things getting faster.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And anyway - wouldn't it benefit everyone if they merged the interfaces into one, SATA and USB merged into one single unified interface.

      They do overlap in functionality.

  • by astrowill (1593647) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:37AM (#29921727)
    Make the chart bigger!
  • moral? (Score:5, Informative)

    by macshit (157376) <miles.gnu@org> on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:38AM (#29921729) Homepage

    This all sounds like exactly what you'd expect.

    The old SATA standard was more than sufficient for the hard disk's max sustained transfer rate, so only burst performance (when everything is presumably coming from the disk's RAM cache) changed with the new SATA. So "SATA 6GB" is working fine, but this disk is just too slow to take advantage of its speed increase.

    With USB on the other hand, USB 2 is simply far too slow to handle even the drive's sustained transfer rate, whereas USB 3 is fast enough to handle it.

    So the moral seems to be: USB 2 sucks for disks, USB 3 is better and probably sufficient for a typical hard drive, and SATA's still probably better than either (it's not really possible to tell from this article, since the sustained transfer rates are limited by the drive, and they curiously omitted the burst rates for USB).

    • Re:moral? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sosume (680416) on Friday October 30, 2009 @06:43AM (#29921969) Journal

      > So "SATA 6GB" is working fine, but this disk is just too slow to take advantage of its speed increase.

      You are forgetting that lots of people are switching to SSD disks with amazing throughputs.. so there is an actual benefit for SATA 6GB. I for one welcome the new SATA 6GB overlord.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RoboRay (735839)

        If the reason SATA 6GB exists is to boost SSD performance, then the should have TESTED it with an SSD.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          And that's why some people call this HotHardware article "shoddy journalism".

          I'm sure there are other articles which test SSD drives.

          SATA Third generation is a new standard, and disks are just coming out now. I wouldn't expect to much until the vendors come out with new, competitive products.

    • by VMaN (164134)

      Well, I'd probably say something more like:

      "USB 1 sucks for disks, USB 2 is better and probably sufficient for a typical hard drive"

      Your comment made me feel old you insensitive clod :(

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OverlordQ (264228)

      "So the moral seems to be: USB 2 sucks for disks"

      I can't be the only one that miss-parsed that is USB 2 sucks dicks.

  • SATA 3 is for SSDs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by distantbody (852269) on Friday October 30, 2009 @05:43AM (#29921743) Journal
    SATA 2 is already a bottleneck for many SSDs as this [anandtech.com] chart shows them hitting a wall at approximately 260MB/s. SATA 3 should release the proverbial floodgates for sequential reads.

    On a tangent, Samsung just started mass production of a 64MB, 60nm phase-change RAM in September. Initially they are going to use them in mobile phones. The chips read, write and erase approximately 7 times faster than Flash memory, and also use less power. Sooner rather than later Samsung or the other PRAM producer Numonyx will put the chips in SSDs that can read and write at around 1GB per second.
    • by odin84gk (1162545)

      On a tangent, Samsung just started mass production of a 64MB, 60nm phase-change RAM in September. Initially they are going to use them in mobile phones. The chips read, write and erase approximately 7 times faster than Flash memory, and also use less power. Sooner rather than later Samsung or the other PRAM producer Numonyx will put the chips in SSDs that can read and write at around 1GB per second.

      RAM, a volatile memory, is 7x faster than FLASH, which is a non-volatile memory. This impresses you? Maybe you misspoke and meant something other than RAM.

  • what real deal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by razvan784 (1389375) on Friday October 30, 2009 @06:04AM (#29921803)
    From what I can see in the graphs the USB3 HDD is indeed faster than on USB2 because of the bandwith; the SATA HDD is about the same on SATA 2 and 3, but also pretty near USB3. The title is implying superiority of USB over SATA when clearly the HDD is the limiting factor.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday October 30, 2009 @06:04AM (#29921807)

    It's relatively straightforward to add more parallel channels to an SSD drive and increase bandwidth. In the long run, there isn't even much of a cost difference to make the same capacity SSD drive fast enough to max out SATA 6. (the main cost driver of SSDs appears to be the cost of the flash chips themselves)

    So bring on the new drives that can max out SATA 6! Right now, you can get comparable performance if you put two or four high end SSDs into a RAID 0 array. However, there's a lot of problems with doing this : you have to fuss with software drivers, certain SSD features aren't supported very well (like Trim), and there are bottlenecks in motherboard RAID chipsets because spinning disks were never this quick. Dedicated hardware RAID cards cost $300-$1000, making the cost rather steep for most users. Finally, while SSDs probably are inherently more reliable in the long run than hard disks, it's not a good idea to build a system that depends on 2-4 separate drives, a motherboard chipset, and potentially buggy drivers or else your data is hosed.

    So I'm very much looking forward to upcoming SSDs like the Vertex 2 that should be able to max out a SATA 6 link. That is, once the SATA 6 motherboards become relatively common.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      there already is http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/27/fusion-io-ioxtreme-and-ioxtreme-pro-pci-express-ssds-sneak-out/
      just pack that into sata controler, and sata3 is no more.

    • This makes me wonder if SATA 6G is a smart idea. It doesn't provide any significant benefit to magnetic drives, and upon release it will already be a bottleneck for SSDs. They needed to jump right to 12G, even if that meant extra delays and higher initial costs.

      • Good point. I think the problem may be the limited number of conductors in those little red SATA cables. I know that SATA 3 and 6 are connector compatible and I think cable compatible. (that is, I think your old SATA cables will work for SATA 6)

        Going to 12 without giving the cable more conductors might be possible, I'm not an electrical engineer. But you can pretty much guarantee it's a difficult feat, and that means much higher costs.

        As another poster pointed out, if SSDs are that hungry for bandwidth,

  • Price of USB 3.0 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TorKlingberg (599697) on Friday October 30, 2009 @06:44AM (#29921973)

    The big question with USB 3.0 is the price. That is the big advantage of USB over competitors like FireWire. Cables, host controllers, devices, hubs, everything is cheap. USB 3.0 looks a lot more complicated. The cables are much thicker with more wires and shielding. A USB 3.0 hub has to contain everything a USB 2.0 hub does, plus the new SuperSpeed part which is no longer just a dumb hub but more like a switch or router.

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Friday October 30, 2009 @07:17AM (#29922097)

    My issues with USB 2.0 are not so much about speed:

    1- there's that ridiculous fudging about hi-speed, full-speed... is USB 3.0 **ALWAYS** USB 3.0, at last ?

    2- I've got a bunch of 2.0 stuff (whichever 2.0 that was) that only works if I set my PC's USB ports as 1.0 only.

    3- Even 2.0 stuff that kinda works has a way to make any non-intel-chipset PC freezy-jerky

    4- I very rarely got anywhere near the supposed speed of 2.0 anyway.

    In the end, I'd rather have a reliable, compatible, no PC freezes connection, than a "if everything works well" (read: rarely if ever) 10x faster one.

    • 1. My USB hard drives run consistently at ~25 Mb/sec. I have several types from different mfgrs and they all have the same transfer rate. I also have several 100 Mb Ethernet dongles from different mfgrs and they are all quite capable of saturating the network.

      2. Not my experience at all! I segregate devices and hook them up to different hubs, but that's all.

      3. Not my experience at all! I have nVidia chipset motherboards and NEC PCI cards that do USB just fine.

      4.See #1

      You don't mention anything about oper

      • by dangitman (862676)

        1. My USB hard drives run consistently at ~25 Mb/sec

        A whole 25 Mb/sec, eh? Don't go setting the world on fire with your scarily fast transfers. You might nearly reach 1986 era speeds. Where by nearly, I mean not even close.

      • I can copy a 30GB VM file in 13 minutes (roughly 39MB/s) via FW 800 on my MacBook Pro. It uses a LaCIE BigDisk with the 3 connections (an older model). The CPU stays nice and low and the machine is perfectly usable while I'm copying it. I do this nightly in OSX 10.4 (Tiger). I'm usually using Transmission to download BitTorrent content while this is going on.

        25 MB / second would mean that 30GB file would take 20 minutes or longer -- a 54% increase in time -- and the first time I tried it (using a differen
    • Your issues seem much more about unreliable and noncompliant devices.
    • AFAIK Full-speed is USB1.1, hi-speed is USB2.0, and i dont know what USB3.0 is.

      Ludicrous speed? Or is that USB4?
    • by tepples (727027)

      1- there's that ridiculous fudging about hi-speed, full-speed... is USB 3.0 **ALWAYS** USB 3.0, at last ?

      Naming the higher speed of USB 1.1 "full speed" was a mistake. But on newer devices, look for the "superspeed" to find devices designed for the full burst speed of USB 3.0.

      I've got a bunch of 2.0 stuff (whichever 2.0 that was) that only works if I set my PC's USB ports as 1.0 only.

      I've got a few devices that work only through a hub and others that work only not through a hub.

  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Friday October 30, 2009 @07:28AM (#29922139)
    I don't know why the editors didn't include a link to it, but AnandTech has a much better review of the SATA 6G-equipped motherboard [anandtech.com] and its performance; one that actually gets around to doing real-world tests and not just synthetic tests. It turns out that the 6G Marvell controller is slower than the standard Intel ICH10 controller in virtually all cases. Until someone integrates SATA 6G in to a proper motherboard chipset, it's not just performance limited, it's performance degrading.
  • misleading (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SkunkPussy (85271)

    article title is misleading, it should be "usb 3 sucks, sata6 is amazing"

  • The inevitable 10 Gbit Ethernet dongles will be limited by USB speed.

  • by gordguide (307383) on Friday October 30, 2009 @07:56AM (#29922273)

    " ... When connected to a USB 3.0 port, the external hard drive was about 5 -- 6x faster versus connecting over USB 2.0, with total throughput in excess of 130MB/sec. On the other hand, benchmarks with Seagate's new Barracuda XT SATA 6G drive show little performance difference but a burst rate that is off the charts. ..."

    So, the USB 3 will be attractive to consumers, with big, impressive numbers written large on boxes in stores everywhere, and the SATA 6G will be attractive to content creators (high end video production, etc). USB 3 will be cheap, and SATA 6G will be not-so-cheap.

    About 99 out of 100 moderately clued in techies could have guessed the outcome of this one.

    [Fudges around in toy box under desk ... pulls out crystal ball ... can barely discern "hippy type art school grad" reading AmandTech article dated Feb 2010 ...]

    "Yeah, but wait ... it says here that if you load up the USB 3 with more than one device, they both really slow down, but my film lab's SATA 3G just keeps on truckin' when you daisy-chain them ..."

    Yawn.

    • by gordguide (307383)

      " ... my film lab's SATA 3G just keeps on truckin' ..."

      Or 6G. The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy sometimes ...

    • I think I'm less impressed by your ability to see the future than your ability to somehow daisy-chain SATA-drives.

  • esata (Score:2, Interesting)

    by orange47 (1519059)
    but USB3 is probably *slower* than eSATA when used with external SATA HDD.. and most of motherboards already have that connector.
  • The speed of the USB connection will make NO difference in practice. Laptop machines have serious I/O bottle necks that typically don't allow the *sustained* I/O speed to exceed about 32 Megabytes per second. We started to call that the Galactic I/O Speed Barrier.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >don't allow the *sustained* I/O speed to exceed about 32 Megabytes per second.

      What?

      My esata port blows that away. Heck, I do imaging on a crappy laptop and do better than that a with plain-jane bottom of the barrel USB disk thats on its last legs.

      I still cant think of where this limit would even come from. Laptops have the same chipsets as desktops. The only real limitation is the slower laptop drive, but that has nothing to do with the laptop per se. Connect a 3.5" or an SSD and it'll perform like a de

  • PIO or DMA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by etnoy (664495)
    Sure you can yank up the bandwidth of USB3, but as long as you're stuck with PIO that isn't much of a gain. I would rather have USB3 have a DMA extension for really fast transfers instead of having to have the CPU wake up for every little I/O operation. On a related note, does anybody know any laptop brand that sells computers *with eSata*? That would be awesome.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by eddy (18759)

      All of them which aren't from Apple? My mainstream HP laptop has eSATA.

    • There are several, i think some of HPs pavilions have them. Try browsing newegg.
    • As long as they do it better than FireWire. A lot of deployed FireWire controllers allow remote devices to initiate DMA transfers to and from arbitrary points in physical memory without requiring the driver to approve the addresses. This was done intentionally to allow dumb devices to have their memory accessed, but the same controller chips made it into computers.
  • Light Peak (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Friday October 30, 2009 @10:31AM (#29923557)
    I wonder if even Intel's heart is in USB any more. USB 3 sounds considerably more complex than previous versions, not just for the chipsets but in terms of the cost of cabling etc. I wonder if the tech is going to see serious adoption. Intel are already talking up Light Peak which has a potential for insane transfer rates. I expect USB will be around for a long time yet, but I wonder if USB 3 will have time to become established before something much better appears.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vigile (99919) *

      It's a good thought - in my USB 3.0 article I mention that specifically. Can USB 3.0 survive without the FULL push of Intel? I tend to believe that other controller vendors will push the technology hard enough to make up for it and that the speed differences will push customers to really WANT the technology:

      http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=809 [pcper.com]

  • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Friday October 30, 2009 @11:02AM (#29923999) Homepage Journal

    I ordered a new system based on an Intel CORE i5 750 2.66GHZ CPU running on the Asus Xtreme Design P7P55D-E Premium w/8 GB DDR3 1333 Mhz ram two days ago, and have been monitoring the net for signs of this mobo to actually hit the shelves. I will be running this with an unremarkable 64 GB Patriot SDD as the boot drive, until the new SATA 6 Gbps SSDs come out - which could take a awhile I imagine. I expect blazing speed from this platform, and can hardly wait for it. The only unknown is when will the mobo arrive. If it drags on and on, at least there is the option of an add on card that will convert one of the other ASUS X58 boards to USB 3 & SATA 6. I just hope I haven't made a mistake with the decision to wait. The P7P55D-E Premium motherboard will retail for $299 while the U3S6 add-on card will be $29.

    Here are a host of links I collected on it this morning...

    Asus Unveils USB 3.0 Motherboard [informationweek.com]
    Asus Xtreme Design P7P55D-E Premium
    The motherboard, unveiled Wednesday [October 28 2009], is 4.8 inches by 3 inches and is scheduled to be available next month for $299.

    October 30th, 2009
    USB 3.0 and SATA 6G Performance Preview - ASUS brings the goods [pcper.com]
    the P55-Express based P7P55D-E Premium is very close to hitting the market.

    October 29th, 2009
    USB 3.0 and SATA 6G Performance Preview [hothardware.com]

    October 29th, 2009
    This Is The First USB 3.0 Motherboard [gizmodo.com.au]

    October 28th, 2009
    ASUS debuts USB 3.0 motherboard and add-on card [zdnet.com]
    The P7P55D-E Premium motherboard will retail for $299 while the U3S6 add-on card will be $29. Both will be available November.

    October 28th, 2009
    ASUS brings the first mobo with SATA 3 and USB 3 [atomicmpc.com.au]

    October 28th, 2009
    ASUS P7P55D-E Motherboard Offers USB 3.0 and SATA-III 6G Performance [benchmarkreviews.com]
    North American Availability
    The P7P55D-E Premium and U3S6 expansion cards will be available at ASUS authorized retailers early November at $299 and $29 respectively.

  • Can the fabric between these different IO endpoints be set by an application running on the CPU to move data between endpoints, say USB and SATA, or perhaps even network and SATA or USB, then get out of the loop? Configure the switch to move data between endpoint devices, without the CPU required to process the data at all until the transaction ends, or if an exception is thrown?

  • Having written an AHCI driver and worked endlessly on USB driver code there's no real point comparing the two. SATA is far, far, FAR more reliable. End of discussion. The USB chipset specs are horrid and the chipset implementations are even worse. Most chipsets barely pass through standard I/O operations properly and rarely deal with things like disk synchronization or even proper serial number reporting (for the USB bridge chips). USB has far higher cpu processing overheads and the DMA specs or so bad

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