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


    Wesley did you spend any time at all on this link, I consider this to be a serious issue

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


    When I set up my MSI board I cannot get surround sound out of the optical digital cable except for DVDs. I verified this on a few web sites. Not why there is conflicting information but mine is real world experience with current drivers (did not use packaged CDs)
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #28, 31 and 32...
    The onboard Creative Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit samples at 192 KHz instead of 96 KHz (like Realtek's ALC880/880D and 850) and features full support for Creative's EAX HD technology. Additionally, the soundcard has also passed Dolby certification for Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital EX and has an integrated Dolby interactive content encoder!
    Snip from PCStats review:
    http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleid=1...

    Dice Dice baby.. (couldn't resist)
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #41 I've got a TT WS0049 PS, so I should be good with the -5v.

    #43 I've already cancled my DFI SLI DR board. MSI here I come ($238 cdn... so it's cheaper too) :D

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #42 - The on-board nF4 LAN requires a PHY (Physical Layer) gigabit LAN to function properly, but is specified as PCIe. All 4 SLI boards implement PCI Express Gigabit LAN with the PHY chips (Vitesse or Marvel). If you check all 4 manuals you will see Gigabit PCIe LAN specified by all 4 for the on-chip LAN.

    #40 - From the MSI manual Audio specifications:
    "Dolby Digital Encoder. 24-bit/96-192kHz audio quality. Up to 100db SNR. 7.1 channel H/W audio."
    Reply
  • ChineseDemocracyGNR - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Wesley,
    "all 4 SLI boards implement PCIe on Gigabit #1"

    I don't think the onboard LAN on the nForce4 chipset uses the PCI-E bus, are you sure about this?

    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Here's the address for a MSI forum note concerning the problem with the Creative onboard sound and power supplies without a -5 volt connection.

    http://diamondclub.msi.com.tw/eng/forum/viewthread...

    And, if you take a look at the ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide, you can see that the lack of a -5 volt connection on many current power supplies should not have come as a surprise to MSI.

    http://www.formfactors.org/developer/specs/ATX12V%...

    Space
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    WOW! This is looking good...
    Manual available here:
    http://www.msi.com.tw/program/support/manual/mnu/s...

    Page 5-1 of the MS 7100 manual (At MSI)
    CA0106
    Brand new Azalia Spec
    8 Channel & SPDIF audio effect

    Page 5-8
    After installing teh creative audio driver, you are able to use teh 2-,4-,6- or 8- channel and the SPDIF audio featre now..

    Page 5-11
    Decoder shows SPDIF Passthrough option!!!

    I am not familiar with the old Creative Live 24 hardware or menu settings, but is this new?
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    BTW: If this is the case, I am canceling my DFI preorder (I've been waiting almost 1 month for this board to become available....)

    Good things may indeed come to those who wait! There is no better way to hook up to my Z5500's if the encode is supported!
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #28, #31, I'd really like to know as well...

    #32, I guess this is brought up, because of this statement in the roundup (on the first MSI Page)
    "The Audio also fully supports Dolby Digital encoding, which will matter a great deal to some users."


    Anand, is this some sort of typo, or can the onboard solution in facte ENCODE dolby digital audio. The ENCODE assumes that it can take .wav audio and encode it to dolby digital and place it on any (analog/SPDIF Coax/Toslink) output (ala IntelHD and SoundStorm)

    Let us know :D
    Reply

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