Firewire and USB Performance

It is really difficult to put together a simple, repeatable, and consistent test to measure USB and Firewire Performance. Since our goal was to make this a standard part of motherboard testing, we needed a benchmark that was reasonably simple to run and that would also provide consistent results on the same test bed. We finally determined that an external USB 2.0, Firewire 400, and Firewire 800 hard disk might be a sensible way to look at USB and Firewire throughput.

Our first efforts at testing with an IDE or SATA drive as the "server" yielded very inconsistent results, since Windows XP sets up cache schemes to improve performance. Finally, we decided to try a RAM disk as our "server", since memory removed almost all overhead from the serving end. We also managed to turn off disk caching on the USB and Firewire side by setting up the drives for "quick disconnect" and our results were then consistent over many test runs.

We used just 1GB of fast 2-2-2 system memory set up as a 450MB RAM disk and 550MB of system memory. Our stock file was the SPECviewPerf install file, which is 432,533,504 bytes. After copying this file to our RAM disk, we recorded the time to write from the RAM disk to our external USB 2.0 or Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 drive using a Windows timing program written for AnandTech by our own Jason Clark. The copy times in seconds were then converted into Megabits per second (Mb) to provide a convenient means of comparing throughput. Higher Rates therefore mean better performance.

Firewire & USB Performance

Possibly the most striking finding in our Firewire and USB throughput tests is the performance of a hard drive connected to Firewire 800. Gigabyte is the only SLI board to feature Firewire 800, and they have used Firewire 1394b on their top boards for almost a year. If you wonder why Firewire 800 matters, just look at the data. Our benchmarks show Firewire 800 at 40% to 55% faster than a drive connected to the more common Firewire 400, and about 16% faster than USB 2.0. The Firewire 800 drive even approaches performance of the IDE drive on the nVidia controller.

Our test is just one of many throughput tests, but in this benchmark, it is clear that the VIA Firewire 400 is faster than TI's 1394a chip.

All of the SATA solutions also slightly outperform IDE in our timed copy from RAM disk. We did not have SATA 2 drives to test with the onboard nVidia SATA2 or the MSI Sil3132, but it is still interesting that throughput with a SATA 1 drive is still a bit faster on the SATA 2 controllers than on SATA 1. We are looking forward to testing the SATA 2 controllers with true SATA 2 drives, which should begin appearing in the next few weeks.

Disk Controller Performance Ethernet Performance
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  • Heinrich - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Hi, this is a great article. I'm really disappointed that the issues with the new Winchesters and the MSI board were not uncovered. The new CPUs will not post past FSB of 219, which is far below the 250 many get with other boards. Someone with the depth of knowledge, experience, and understanding of all these little options in the BIOS could help us uncover the real problem. Here's the best thread devoted specifically to the problem on Rebel HQ:

    http://www.rhcf.com/sisubb/ultimatebb.php/topic/21...
    Reply
  • ajmiles - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Hey,

    I enjoyed the round up of the SLI boards very much and thought it was very thorough.

    I own an A8N SLI Deluxe board, and too have been thoroughly disappointed with it's overclocking performance.

    On behalf of tens of users on the Anandtech - Motherboards forums, would it be beyond Anandtech's power to get a statement from Asus about the issue???

    At a 2T Command Rate the board will overclock to 316, 1T however just 249. The sudden BSODing as you approach 250 smacks of something that could be fixed with a BIOS update.

    Please Anandtech, A8N users are begging for this to be fixed, or at least be told it can't be.

    Many thanks, and again, a great article.
    Adam Miles
    Reply
  • Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    is it true that the MSI board doesnt have a PCI Express x1 slot so that when the new Creative PCI express sound cards come out it wont fit? Reply
  • Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the review guys, just what I wanted! Although I am interested in the Ultra versions its still very similar...

    I was wondring if you could comment on the stability/stress testing of the DFI board as Hardocp seems to have had some issues...
    http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=NzE3LDc=

    Also would have been good if you included the Abit Fatal1ty board to make the review 100% conclusive for me.
    Reply
  • nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    dang, I wasn't first, oh well.

    one more thing....I no longer chase the FPS demon, and I am better for it (mentally and emotionally). To be honest I don't expect SLI to become a standard in MB design.....even for high end gamers. Isn't the price just too high?
    Reply
  • nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    First post!

    I was actually really (plesantly) surprised that DFI did so well. I know that they have been improving lately but isn't it great to see another MB manufacturer improving for once?
    Reply
  • arfan - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    finally...., thx 4 your review Reply
  • jkv71 - Saturday, June 3, 2017 - link

    My DFI video quit. I use an adapter to run hdmi on my tv. I replaced the video card and still nothing. I replaced the mother board. Still nothing. Any ideas? Reply

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