SATA 6Gb/s, eSATA 6B/s, and USB 3.0
I review motherboards from three companies, ASRock, Asus, and Gigabyte. All motherboards from these three companies have so many features that there is no way to point them all out in a review. I usually take a feature or two and talk more about them.
The big feature of this motherboard is “333”, SATA3, eSATA3, and USB 3.0. To be precise, the new SATA is actually not called SATA3, but SATA 6Gb/s, but I can assure you that once it catches on, it will be known as SATA3, the real title takes too many keystrokes.
SATA 6Gb/s, eSATA 6Gb/s: As I touched on earlier, SSDs are fast enough to have already saturated SATA2’s 3 Gb/s bandwidth. SATA 6Gb/s takes care of that, it will be a long time before SSD’s saturate that much bandwidth.
SuperSpeed USB 3.0: If you were around when USB 2.0 replaced USB 1.2, you should be really excited about USB 3. The 480 Mbit/s transfer rate of HiSpeed USB has served us well, but over the past few years there has been a huge increase of USB capable hardware and peripherals, probably more than the creators of USB ever imagined. Besides the need for higher bandwidth, the power requirements for some of these have pushed USB 2.0 beyond its power transfer capabilities.
USB 2.0 has a big limitation…data transfer is half-duplex. That is, data packets travel in one direction only and there is always data waiting its turn to be transferred.
SuperSpeed USB3 takes care of all of this. First, data transfer is 10 times the speed of USB2, at 480 Gbit/s. Next, USB3 is full duplex, data packets travel in both directions simultaneously, so there is no bottleneck of data. Additionally, USB3 has a power capability of 900mA, nearly twice that of USB2’s 500mA.
To accomplish all of this, USB3 has a new cable…but the ports are backwards compatible with USB2 cables.
OK, we have these awesome new methods of data transfer. So how do we get this data to the CPU? The only practical method that is fast enough is using PCI-E. But the X58 Express chipset (and currently all others for that matter), utilize all PCI-E lanes for the video cards. Some manufacturers have taken lanes away from the video cards, some share these lanes, both methods short-change enthusiasts utilizing SLI or CrossfireX. So whadda you do?
ASRock has added a PLX bridge to 333 motherboards, that is, they have added an additional PCI-E chip to the board to add extra PCI-E lanes to take care of USB3 and SATA 6Gb/s data transfer. Asus was the first to use this new idea, and I assume that eventually most motherboard manufacturers will.