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.

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.

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.

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.

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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