USB 3.0 To The Front Panel: ASRock Leads The Way

Test Settings

This isn’t a motherboard roundup, but a test of ASRock’s USB 3.0 front-panel implementation. By limiting ourselves to that evaluation, we can assuage fears of bias that might result from differing CPU technologies. 

Test System Configuration
Socket AM3 CPUAMD Phenom II X4 965 (3.40 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 3.84 GHz at 240 MHz, 1.4875 V
LGA-1156 CPUIntel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8MB  L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 4.00 GHz at 200 MHz, 1.375 V
LGA-1366 CPUIntel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache)
Overclocked to 3.80 GHz at 200 MHz, 1.350 V
890FX MotherboardASRock 890FX Deluxe4 BIOS 1.10 (08/25/2010)
AMD 890FX Northbridge, SB850 Southbridge
P55 MotherboardASRock P55 Extreme4 BIOS 1.42 (08/20/2010)
Intel P55 Express PCH
X58 MotherboardASRock X58 Extreme6 BIOS 1.00 (08/31/2010)
Intel X58 Express Northbridge, ICH10R Southbridge
Gigabyte X58A-UD3R BIOS FB (08/24/2010)
Intel X58 Express Northbridge, ICH10R Southbridge
RAMKingston KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX (6 GB)
DDR3-2000 at DDR3-1600 CAS 7-7-7-21
GraphicsSapphire Radeon HD 5850 1 GB
725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
OS Hard DriveWestern Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS
1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
Test DriveOCZ Enyo 128 GB USB 3.0 SSD
USB 3.0 AdapterIntegrated NEC D720200F1 PCIe 2.0
Two ports, onboard 5.0 Gb/s PCIe interface
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850 W Modular
ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
ComparisonSystem Builder Marathon: TH's $2000 Hand-Picked Build
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 10.8
ChipsetIntel INF
h2benchw 3.13Sequential and Sustained Reads, Writes (KB/s)
Interface Bandwidth (MB/s), Access Times (ms)
Iometer 2006.07.27Database, File Server, Web Server, Workstation Patterns (IOPS)

Comparing the performance of each front-panel USB 3.0 implementation to that of each motherboard’s rear-panel controller wouldn’t have made this a complete test, since ASRock’s USB 3.0 controllers use a PCIe 2.0 bridge on its X58 Extreme6 and a PCIe 1.1 connection on its P55 Extreme4. While ASRock’s AMD solution appears to be well-optimized, we needed an Intel system with its USB 3.0 controlled connected directly to the X58 northbridge to set a baseline for the other two motherboards. For that we called upon our recent System Builder Marathon alternative $2000 configuration.

Because all of ASRock’s motherboards were overclocked to the limit, we left the comparison PC at its limit as well. A full rundown of its configuration can be found on its test settings page.

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  • mi1ez
    As other companies continue to copy this interface, we’d like to thank ASRock for “getting the ball rolling” on an issue that will hopefully help us all as the gradual proliferation of USB 3.0 makes the technology more influential in our component choices.

    Hear hear!
  • Anonymous
    I personally still see USB 3.0 as pretty useless, or maybe pretty, and useless. USB 2.0 was fast enough for everything i have known till now. i have to see real practical benefits before i even consider using it. the only real thing is maybe the higher ampere rate which it provides but that is still not enough. cheers
  • roots
    KrokBandit; you cant have ever used a USB hard disk then. They have been limited by USB2 for a long time.
  • Phoenixlight
    Yeah my external 1TB storage device takes ages when i'm transferring large files (3gb+) across to my laptop.
  • MartinVickers
    Asus demonstrated its motherboard with a USB 3.0 header for the front panel back in July, what happened to it?