Earlier this month my Crucial RealSSD C300 died in the middle of testing for AMD’s 890GX launch. This was a problem for two reasons:

1) Crucial’s RealSSD C300 is currently shipping and selling to paying customers. The 256GB drive costs $799.
2) AMD’s 890GX is the first chipset to natively support 6Gbps SATA. The C300 is the first SSD to natively support the standard as well. Butter, meet toast.

Since then, Crucial dispatched a new drive and discovered what happened to my first drive (more on this in a separate update). While waiting for the autopsy report, I decided to look at 890GX 6Gbps performance since it was absent from my original review.


AMD's SB850 with Native 6Gbps SATA

In the 890GX review I found that AMD’s new South Bridge, the SB850, wasn’t quite as fast as Intel’s ICH/PCH when dealing with the latest crop of high performance SSDs. My concerns were particularly about high bandwidth or high IOPS situations, admittedly things that you only bump into if you’re spending a good amount of money on an SSD. Case in point, here is OCZ’s Vertex LE running on an AMD 890GX compared to an Intel X58:

Iometer 6-22-2008 Performance 2MB Sequential Read 2MB Sequential Write 4KB Random Read 4KB Random Write (4K Aligned)
AMD 890GX 248 MB/s 217.5 MB/s 38.4 MB/s 130.1 MB/s
Intel H55 264.9 MB/s 247.7 MB/s 48.6 MB/s 180 MB/s

 

My concern was that if 3Gbps SSDs were underperfoming on the SB850, then 6Gbps SSDs definitely would.

Other reviewers had mixed results with the SB850. Some boards did well while others did worse. I also discovered that AMD’s own internal testing is done on an internal reference board with both Cool’n’Quiet and SB power management disabled, which is why disabling CnQ improved performance in my results. As far as why AMD does any of its own internal testing in such a way, your guess is as good as mine.

I received an ASUS 890GX board for this followup and updated to the latest BIOS on that board. That didn’t fix my performance problems. Using AMD’s latest SB850 AHCI drivers however (1.2.0.164), did...sort of:

Iometer 6-22-2008 Performance 2MB Sequential Read 2MB Sequential Write 4KB Random Read 4KB Random Write (4K Aligned)
AMD 890GX (3/2/10) 248 MB/s 217.5 MB/s 38.4 MB/s 130.1 MB/s
AMD 890GX (3/25/10) 253.5 MB/s 223.8 MB/s 51.2 MB/s 152.1 MB/s
Intel H55 264.9 MB/s 247.7 MB/s 48.6 MB/s 180 MB/s

 

All performance improved, but we’re still looking at lower performance compared to Intel’s 3Gbps SATA controller except for random read speed. Random read speed is faster on the 890GX (but slower than X58).

The best part of it all is that I no longer had to disable CnQ or C1E to get this performance. I will note that my performance is still lower than what AMD is getting on its internal reference board and the performance from 3rd party boards varies significantly from one board to the next depending on board and BIOS revisions. But at least we’re getting somewhere.

In testing the 890GX, I decided to look into how Intel’s chipsets perform with this new wave of high performance SSDs. It’s not as straightforward as you’d think.

The Primer: PCI Express 1.0 vs. 2.0
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  • Ralos - Saturday, March 27, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Using Firefox 3.6.2 with the security options activated, your site appears blocked for security reason. Untrustworthy. www.anandtech.com/storage specifically.

    Thought you'd like to be informed of this misunderstanding.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Saturday, March 27, 2010 - link

    what is the CPU usage ? Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    It would have been nice to see the Marvell speeds when attached by PCIe on the AMD board. Seems like an obvious thing to include to be honest.

    Impressive write speeds for the AMD controller, which gives a lot of hope that they can improve the read speeds, as they indicate they can with their in-house test bed.

    AMD should bulk up their test bed with retail motherboards as well, so that they don't just test in ideal circumstances.
    Reply
  • assassin37 - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    Im torn,
    I have the Gigabyte X58-ud3r system with I7, I also have the Gigabyte AMD 890GPA-UD3H with Phenom 965. Lastly I have a 256 crucial C300 and 2 vertex 120's,I have to return 1(mobo-cpu) setup to new egg soon, what would you do, sorry I know this is not a comment
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    I'm not Anand, so I can't say what he would do. But honestly, it's a matter of your personal preference and priorities.

    I like to support competition, so I put together an AMD Phenom II X4 system instead of an Intel Core i5 750 system. I chose AMD because they offered me similar performance per dollar (they were slightly cheaper but had slightly lower performance), plus I felt good about supporting much-needed competition in the CPU market.

    What are YOUR priorities? Maximum performance? Supporting competition in the CPU/GPU market? Best performance per dollar? Most energy efficient?

    That should be what makes your decision. The hardware you listed will all be blazingly fast, whatever you decide. The Intel platform offers potentially higher performance, but probably at slightly higher cost. Your choice. Same for the SSDs.

    [sorry if that wasn't a "you should do this" kind of answer.]
    Reply
  • wiak - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    what about Highpoint Marvell 6Gbps PCIe 2.0 card on AMD 7-Series chipset?
    for me that has no USB3 or SATA 6Gbps on my AMD 790FX motherboard

    it will make this article fully complete, its the only thing thats missing! :)
    Reply
  • georgekn3mp - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    About the two different Marvell controllers 88SE9123 and the 88SE9128...the older 9123 does NOT support RAID and the newer 9128 DOES natively support RAID 0, 1 and 5.

    Unfortunately on my Asus P6X58D, the controller is the older 9123 so the only way I could RAID a SATA-III SSD (or even mechanical) drive is using "Windows" Raid, not firmware on the controller. Whether it hurts performance though is harder to say since I can't test it yet ;).

    I have been planning on the 256GB RealSSD for a couple of months now and am happy they started shipping...as one of the main reasons I had picked the Asus board was the native USB3 and SATA-III support. Unfortunately it does not support the RAID function but at almost 750 a drive I was not going to RAID for a while anyway....I AM happy I went with X58 for sure!

    It seems the newer Gigabyte boards UD4 or higher do have the newer controller and are better for RAID SSD expecially now that it is hardware supported...the open question no one has been able to answer is if the Marvell 88SE9128 will pass TRIM commands to a RAID SSD set. So far Gigabyte boards are the only ones with that controller it appears...

    Intel just updated their ICH10R chipset firmware to pass TRIM to SSDs in RAID...hopefully Marvell does too.

    Since the disk speed is the bottleneck on my new computer, $750 is worth it just to prompt me to Crossfire my 5850 because the bottleneck shifted to graphics....especially with i7-920 OC to 4Ghz ;)
    Reply
  • deviationer - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    So the p6x58d does have the PLX chip? Reply
  • Mark McGann - Monday, May 10, 2010 - link

    The p6x58D premium apparently does not according to this link

    http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_c...

    Don't know about the newer p6x58D-E
    Reply
  • KaarlisK - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    Software RAID is definitely no slouch:
    http://kmwoley.com/blog/?p=429">http://kmwoley.com/blog/?p=429
    But this comparison used a very old ICH.
    Reply

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