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P6X58D Premium

Forget Intel, mobo makers will go on their own

Technology enthusiasts are the first to adopt faster interfaces. Interface speeds increase every couple of years, and it is no surprise that an upgrade cycle usually follows. No one wants to get stuck with an older interface, especially if they are planning to keep their motherboard for several years.

USB 3.0 and 6 Gbps SATA are both getting speed increases this year in an unusual two-for-one special. USB 3.0 introduces the SuperSpeed mode, which provides raw throughput of 5 Gbps versus the measly 480 Mbps of USB 2.0. The USB interface uses 8b10 encoding, so with overhead USB 3.0 will top out at around 400 MB/s. This standard will quickly be adopted by USB flash drives and digital cameras due to the large amounts of data involved.

The case for 6 Gbps SATA isn't as strong, unless you're into Solid State Drives. While Seagate has shipped the world's first hard drive to support the new standard, it uses magnetic storage and is only able to use the extra bandwidth when reading from cache. However, SSDs have been bandwidth limited since early this year, and SSDs supporting the new interface should have transfer speeds over 500 MB/s.

ASUS and Gigabyte were both showing off motherboards supporting USB 3.0 and 6 Gbps SATA during the Computex trade show in June. They both announced several motherboards last week, and the boards are available in volume. All of these boards use NEC's USB 3.0 host interface controller introduced in June.

ASUS is now shipping the P7P55D-E Premium using Intel's P55 chipset and the P6X58D Premium using the X58 chipset. The P55 chipset only supports the first generation of PCIe with single lane bandwidth of 250 MB/s, so ASUS uses a PLX8613 bridge chip and four PCIe lanes to optimize the throughput potential of the new interfaces.

The company is also making its U3S6 expansion card available for all P7P55D series motherboards. It will plug into a PCIe x4 or x8 connector and add two USB 3.0 and 6 Gbps SATA ports.

Gigabyte is also shipping seven motherboards in its P55A series supporting the new technologies. They have decided against using a bridge chip, but their implementation means you will be unable to use a second PCIe x16 slot for CrossFire or SLI.

Meanwhile, problems at Intel have delayed new chipsets that will use these new technologies until the beginning of 2011. Solutions from motherboard manufacturers will have to do for now.

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about time
By invidious on 11/4/2009 9:46:08 AM , Rating: 0
Can't wait to replace my external enclosures with usb 3.0, should finally allow me to view 1080p x264 files from external drives without skipping.

Not nearly as excited about the new SATA, my SSD awesome but is definately not limitted by the current SATA bandwidth. I would imagine only the most expensive current gen SSDs come even close to the SATA bottleneck. But of course if you are buying a new mobo anyway make sure you get one with the new standard, everyone will be using fast SSDs a few years from now.

RE: about time
By 3DoubleD on 11/4/2009 12:31:14 PM , Rating: 5
I watch high bit rate x264 files and Blu-ray rips from a usb hard drive all of the time (it's even a 2.5" drive), the interface is not limiting playback performance. The highest bit rate Blu-rays are between 40-50 Mbit/s, USB 2.0 theoretically maxes out at 480 Mbit/s. You could watch several Blu-rays at one time before USB 2.0 becomes a limiting factor. Your real problem is your CPU or you are using a crappy video codec.

RE: about time
By mindless1 on 11/5/2009 11:16:15 PM , Rating: 2
You can't watch as many as you might think, do a couple simple tests:

1) Benchmark a single hard drive known capable of well above 50MB/s. You'll find it gets closer to 35MB/s or 280Mbit/s, IF it is alone in transfer on that controller hub.

Initiate 4 different concurrent file transfers in rapid succession, such that you have most of the first still downloading by the time the last starts. Time them to get an average throughput rate. I doubt you'll get 20MB/s average on a good chipset in both host and slave USB bridge, let alone an average or poor chipset. That's a max of two concurrent if they're highest bitrate *normally* seen, and that assumes windows isn't doing the things windows continually does, access HDDs without your specifically requesting it do so.

RE: about time
By psenechal on 11/4/2009 4:19:02 PM , Rating: 2
I stream mine from a QNAP NAS over gigabit ethernet to my PS3...full 1080p and DTS audio without any skipping. I agree with the other poster...I would check your CPU, video card & driver, or codecs.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

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