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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  • ajmiles - Wednesday, March 2, 2005 - link

    If i was a doubting type I would suggest that Nvidia spent as much time tuning their drivers for benchmarks as they do games.

    Nice to see support for some unreleased games such as Battlefield 2 on the list though.

    Wesley, you get my email btw? (sorry for bugging you)?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 2, 2005 - link

    nVidia has just advised the release of Beta 71.84 drivers now supporting 70 games in SLI. The drivers can be downloaded at http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_downloads_rel70b... Below is a list of suypported games and benchmarks.

    Age of Mythology
    AquaNox 2: Revelation
    Armed & Dangerous
    Battlefield 1942
    Battlefield 2
    Battlefield Vietnam
    Breed
    City of Heroes
    Colin McRae Rally 2005
    Colin McRae Rally 4
    Conan
    Dark Age of Camelot: Atlantis
    Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps
    Dirt Track Racing 2
    Doom 3
    EverQuest
    EverQuest II
    Far Cry
    Flat Out
    Ground Control II : Operation Exodus
    Half-Life 2
    Halo
    Hitman 2
    IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles
    Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising
    Kohan II: Kings of War
    Leisure Suit Larry
    Lineage II
    Lock On
    Lord of the Rings, Battle for Middle-earth
    Madden NFL 2005
    Max Payne 2
    Medal of Honor
    NBA Live 2005
    Need for Speed: Underground 2
    Painkiller
    Perimeter
    Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
    Quake III
    Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
    Return to Castle Wolfenstien
    Rome: Total War
    Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
    Sid Meier's Pirates!
    Silent Storm
    Sims 2
    SpellForce
    Splinter Cell
    Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
    Star Wars Battlefront
    Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
    Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
    Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic
    SWAT 4
    The Chronicles of Riddick
    Thief: Deadly Shadows
    Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005
    ToCA Race Driver 2
    Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
    Tony Hawk's Underground
    Tribes Vengeance
    Tron 2.0
    Unreal
    Unreal 2
    Unreal Tournament 2003
    Unreal Tournament 2004
    Vampire: Bloodlines
    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
    World of Warcraft
    X2: the Threat
    Xpand Rally


    In addition to these top games, NVIDIA SLI supports the following applications:

    3DMark01
    3DMark03
    3DMark05
    AquaMark 3
    Code Creatures
    D3DRightMark
    HDRLighting
    NVIDIA Clear Sailing Demo
    NVIDIA Dawn Demo
    NVIDIA Nalu Demo
    NVIDIA Timbury Demo
    PCMark04
    Shadermark 2.1
    Trees of Pangaea

    Reply
  • giz02 - Wednesday, March 2, 2005 - link

    I've done some further testing, and still no luck. The PCStats review also indicated 192Khz output, but I can't find that either. I'm still hoping for something, and will let you guys know if anything comes up.

    Other points:
    + The onboard Creative can attenuate the digital outputs just like a regular live could. Most onboard solutions that i have used could not

    - Cannot have Analog and Digital outs enabled at the same time (at least I haven't found that yet). All other onboard solutions that I have tried were able to do this. An example of what I'd like to do (ideally) is have my Zalman Real Surround headphones plugged in to the analog ports, and the z5500's plugged into the digital (coax/optical). When the GF complains, I could turn the z5500's off, and put on the headphones. With creative you do this BUT you also have to uncheck the digital out only box. If they can bot h be enabled at the same time, let me know (Y)

    - Either the Z5500's can't accept 96/24 on the optical in, or the creative isn't outputting 96/24 on the optical out.

    - Only Coax or Optical work at one time (with the Z5500's)

    - DD and DTS passthroughs work with Videolan and DVD's/.ts's.

    I'll try this board for a while longer, but if encode will not work, I'll be heading to DFI. It's a bit more expensive, but you get the Lan Tote (woohhoo!) and the extra PCIx slots. Anyone have any comments on DFI's onboard sound?


    Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 2, 2005 - link

    Thanks giz02. One of these days some manufacturer is going to realize there's demand for this and meet it... I just hope that day comes sooner than later.
    Reply
  • SLK75 - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    I bought the GA-K8NXP-9 because fo the rave reviews on its OC abilities which Anandtech also proved in their pre-production sample reviewed towards the end of last year...All of a sudden now Gigabyte's production version of the board does not seem to clock high as was expected and proved previously WHYYYY ???? and Anandtech make it really clear to Gigabyte that people went and bought their board not only first its great features but also for its OC capabilities...I hope Gigabyte can address this with a new BIOS Reply
  • giz02 - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    I feel DUPED by that PCSTATS review. I've asked the reviewer for why he indicated that the board can DICE (either how to do it, or who told him it was possible).

    The board is .... OK...

    I'da rather had the DFI (if DICE is not possible!)
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    #89 - looks like we'll both still wait for the next SoundStorm. Maybe the next gen of PCI-E sound cards will have DDL? Reply
  • bob661 - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    #89
    Thanks for the test.
    Reply
  • giz02 - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    So far, It's a negative on the DICE :(

    I have a single coax cable connected from the onboard card to my Z-5500's and they are not recieving Dolby on the speaker tests. Left and Right channels come through but that is is... 96-24 is working as well, but zilch on the 5.1 :(
    Reply
  • 1955mm - Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - link

    #87: AMD has NOT made it clear that ECC is an Opteron only feature. Read the document from the link I posted. As for ASUS not supporting ECC, download the manual and look at pages 4-21 and 4-22. In the screenshot for DRAM configuration there is an item for ECC enablement. The ASUS K8N-E deluxe (socket 754) also supports ECC. If you still have doubts that the Athlon 64 supports ECC, go to crucial.com and see what memory is supported by the ASUS K8N-E deluxe and A8N-SLI deluxe. I think that you might be confusing registered memory with ECC. If you write code work with critical data ECC is worth having. I have had bad memory in the past that corrupted data without crashing the machine. Considering misinformation that is sometimes provided by motherboard manufacturers and your obvious confusion about the Athlon 64, I think that ECC deserves some mention by motherboard reviewers. I myself would like to understand why the A8N-SLI apparently supports 4 256MB ECC memory modules but not 2 512MB ECC memory modules (page 2-12 in manual), Wesley? Reply

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