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USB 3.1 Performance Preview: ASUS Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard

By Koh Wanzi - 20 Apr 2015

Results - File Transfer & Conclusion

File Transfer Results

Lastly, we measured the time it took to transfer a 15GB batch of files from desktop to the ASUS USB 3.1 Enclosure. As expected, USB 3.1 (Turbo mode) was the best performer here, although it’s worth noting that it was only 3 seconds faster than when the Boost utility was set to Normal mode. On the other hand, USB 3.0 took 75 seconds to complete the transfer, which was a good 15 seconds slower than USB 3.1 with the Boost software disabled. Clearly, the improved data rate of the USB 3.1 standard is coming into play here.

We again ran the test with the power savings options in BIOS enabled to see the effect of this in real-world numbers as opposed to a synthetic test. We were glad to find that the difference is not that significant, with a timing of 63s for USB 3.1 (Normal mode) and 61s for Turbo mode. As most of the usage scenarios involving the USB interface center around bulk data transfers as in this test, everyday users probably don’t have to worry about going into BIOS to tweak the settings just to shave off that few seconds.


Preliminary Conclusion

Image Source: USB-IF

USB 3.1 delivered fairly impressive figures in the sequential read/write tests, with transfer speeds almost doubling over USB 3.0 when Turbo mode was enabled. ASUS USB 3.1 Boost utility essentially had the greatest performance improvement in the latter tests as compared to random read/write tests and PCMark 8. Given that users using USB-attached storage devices in day-to-day use will probably find themselves dealing with sequential workloads more often, ASUS has focused on the right area to optimize with its USB 3.1 Boost utility.

In our real-world 15GB file transfer test, USB 3.1 (both Turbo and Normal mode) capably demonstrated that it was quite a bit faster than USB 3.0, so users who routinely transfer large videos, music and image files over USB can indeed look forward to speedier transfers.

In addition, ASUS has said that its USB 3.1 Boost utility is designed to show the largest performance on Windows 7 as the drivers for Windows 8.1 are already optimized for better performance with USB 3.1. As a result, users on Windows 8.1 can expect to see performance numbers that are similar to what we found for USB 3.1 with Turbo mode enabled on our Windows 7 test setup. Windows 8.1 users will be able to use the USB 3.1 Boost utility if they wish, but they will see a less significant performance improvement, probably in the range of 3-5%.

However, we must add that our test drives on the external enclosure were still stuck on the 6Gbps mSATA interface and at the end of the day, we're really not seeing the full potential of USB 3.1. This is the reason why we found some test results (such as PCMark 8) not bearing as much performance delta as we had hoped to see between USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 (Normal and Turbo). 

With that said, mainstream adoption of USB 3.1 is still likely to take some time as we wait for native ports on chipmakers’ chipsets, native OS drivers and additional accessories that utilize the new standard. But with what we’ve seen so far, we’re definitely looking forward to wider support for USB 3.1 in the coming months and we can't wait to test drive more suitable test products to really showcase the capabilities of USB 3.1.

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