Partly because the Asus drive enclosure doesn't support either TRIM or secure erase, and partly because we were short on time, we forewent our usual storage benchmark suite. Instead, we simply ran CrystalDiskMark, which measures sequential read and write speeds. That ought to give us a nice, at-a-glance overview of USB 3.1's potential.
For our testing, we fired up Asus' AI Suite software and enabled "Turbo" mode for the USB 3.1 controller. "Turbo" mode enables the USB attached SCSI protocol, which boosts transfer speeds by "eliminating most of the round trip delays between command phases and by utilizing a multi-tasking aware architecture that [speeds up] multiple transfers," according to Asus. Here are the results:
Simply switching the drive enclosure from a USB 3.0 port to a USB 3.1 one boosts sequential read and write performance by a good 75-78%. 4K random write speeds almost triple, too, although that gain may be attributable partly to differences between the Z97 chipset's native USB 3.0 implementation and the ASMedia USB 3.1 controller.
Either way, these speeds are impressive. Yes, it does take two SSDs running in RAID-0 mode to reach them. But keep in mind that newer M.2 SSDs can surpass the SATA interface's 6Gbps limit, and nothing is stopping hardware makers from devising USB 3.1 enclosures for those.
So, when can you get your hands on some USB 3.1 hardware yourself?
The motherboard we tested today is already available at Newegg for $159.99. The same e-tailer also sells Asus' Z97-PRO(Wi-Fi ac)/USB 3.1 and Z97-Deluxe/USB 3.1, which are similarly equipped with USB 3.1 Type-A ports. If you need cables, Newegg has you covered there, as well.
As for USB 3.1 devices to plug into those boards, I don't see any listed yet—but Asus did provide us with this handy list of upcoming products:
|Manufacturer name||Product category||Product name||Availability|
|AKiTiO||USB 3.1 device||Neutrino Bridge USB3.1||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 device||NT2 U3.1||March 2015|
|AVLAB Technology SIIG||USB 3.1 to 2.5-inch||USB 3.1 to SATA 2.5-inch Enclosure||April 2015|
|USB 3.1 to 2.5-inch||USB 3.1 to SATA 2.5-inch Enclosure Pro||Q2-Q3 2015|
|USB 3.1 to 3.5-inch||USB 3.1 to SATA 3.5-inch Enclosure||April 2015|
|GODO||2.5-inch USB 3.1 enclosure||GD25602 2.5-inch USB3.1 HDD Enclosure||March 2015|
|2.5-inch USB 3.1 enclosure||GD25702 2.5-inch USB3.1 HDD Enclosure||March 2015|
|2.5-inch USB 3.1 enclosure||GD25611 2.5-inch USB3.1 HDD Enclosure||March 2015|
|HighPoint Technologies, Inc||USB 3.1 device||RS3111A||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 device||RS3112A||April 2015|
|Iomaster||2-port host card||IOT-U31A3||March 2015|
|SATA 2.5 enclosure||IOT-3125A3||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 to SATA 2.5 & 3.5 adapter||IOT-3123A3||April 2015|
|USB 3.1 to MSATA & M2 SSD enclosure||IOT-U31NF||March 2015|
|Minerva Innovation Company||3.5-inch SATA to USB 3.1 enclosure||3.5-inch SATA mSATA x 2 and M.2 x 2 to USB 3.1 Adapter (Type B)||March 2015|
|2.5-inch SATA to USB 3.1 enclosure||2.5-inch SATA mSATA SSD x 2 to USB 3.1 External Enclosure (Type-C x 2)||March 2015|
|2.5-inch SATA to USB 3.1 enclosure||2.5-inch SATA M.2 SSD x 2 to USB 3.1 External Enclosure (Type-C x 2)||April 2015|
|Speed Dragon||USB 3.1 device||USB 3.1 to SATA 6G cable adapter||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 device||USB 3.1 PCI-Express add-on card||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 device||USB 3.1 PCI-Express add-on card||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 device||USB 3.1 to dual SATA 6G hard drive enclosure||April 2015|
|Super Talent Technology Corporation||USB 3.1 device||USB3.1 Portable SSD||May 2015|
|Sunrich Technology||Adapter||U-1040 USB 3.1 to SATA 6G Adapter||March 2015|
|Adapter||U-1050 USB 3.1 to SATA 6G Adapter||April 2015|
|Hub||U-1060 USB 3.1 4-Port Hub||TBA|
|Hub||U-1070 USB 3.1 7-Port Hub||TBA|
|Docking station||U-1080 USB 3.1 Docking Station||TBA|
|Docking station||U-1090 USB 3.1 Docking Station||TBA|
|UNITEK||PCI Express to 2 Ports USB 3.1 (Type-A x 2)||Y-7305||March 2015|
|PCI Express to 2 Ports USB 3.1 (Type-A x 1, Type-C x 1)||Y-7306||March 2015|
|USB 3.1 to SATA6G enclosure||Y-3363||April 2015|
|USB 3.1 to SATA6G Docking station||Y-3605||April 2015|
|USB 3.1 to 2.5-inch Dual SATA6G enclosure (Type-C)||Y-3364||April 2015|
|USB 3.1 active extension cable||Y-3001||June 2015|
I don't see that nifty Type-C thumb drive Adata showed us at CES a couple months back, but I'm sure it's coming, too.
Other motherboard makers are also jumping on the USB 3.1 bandwagon. Both ASRock and MSI have boards with USB 3.1 Type-C ports in the pipeline, and Biostar is cooking up a Z97 mobo with USB 3.1 Type-A ports. Then there's Apple, whose next MacBook Air laptop is rumored to feature a single USB 3.1 Type-C connector that splits power, data, and audio/video output duties.
In short, USB 3.1 is here, and there's plenty more where it came from. Given the encouraging nature of our performance results and the awesome reversibleness of the Type-C connector, that's cause for celebration.
51 comments — Last by Hrunga Zmuda at 11:31 AM on 03/16/15
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