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 asset up 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 (412.4961MB). After copying this file to our RAM disk, we measured the time for writing 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 & Storage Performance

ATI uses the commonly available and good performing VIA Firewire 400 chip. Firewire 800 is 40 to 55% faster than a drive connected to Firewire 400, but it is still rare to find Firewire 800 integrated into motherboards.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in our testing was the poor performance of USB 2.0 on the ATI Crossfire AMD. ATI had promised improvement in USB performance in the SB450 compared to the earlier SB400, but we could see little improvement in our USB 2.0 tests. ATI responded that our USB 2.0 tests measured sustained throughput, which is relevant in USB operations only with applications like the USB 2.0 hard drive that we use for this test. ATI claims that burst USB 2.0 throughput has been improved in the SB450 to near the same levels of competitive USB 2.0 peak performance. We could not confirm these claims with any test procedures. Perhaps more important, ATI is aware of the issues with USB 2.0 performance and these will be fully corrected – sustained and peak performance – in the SB600 south bridge. It appears that this issue of USB performance may also be corrected by combining the ATI RD480 northbridge with the just released ULi M1575 Southbridge.

Since our ramdisk/apptimer File Copy is measuring sustained throughput, we also compared performance of ATI IDE/SATA/Sil SATA2 using this same test procedure. The performance of ATI IDE remains excellent, but SATA and SATA 2 performance are very competitive, but not standout as in the iPeak storage benchmarks of the same controllers.

Disk Controller Performance Ethernet Performance
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  • Starcraftfreak - Friday, September 30, 2005 - link

    So you are saying, the Board supports the dividers for DDR500 also on a Revision C core? I can remember when you published an article explaining it's a new feature of Revision E. Please clarify. Reply
  • SLI - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    Everything I have seen thus far on the ATI chipset points to the FSB dropping to DDR333 *IF* you populate all 4 DIMM slots (with DDR400 RAM) This was an issue at the CPU level with AMD Athalon on board memory controller (at first) but has been addressed with the newer steppings. VIA and Nvidia chipsets have support for DDR400 with all 4 slots populated. This is a very important aspect to me and it needs to be addressed. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    It was addressed in tRAS and Memory Stress Tests in the review - p.5. We had no trouble with 4 dimms at DDR400, though we did have to drop to 2T with 4 dimms as we do on every other AMD chipset. This is more a function of the on-CPU memory controller. Reply
  • sxr7171 - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    I don't get it. We switched to SATA to get worse performance? SATA performed worse than IDE in every single benchmark. Reply
  • Scarceas - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    I'd like to know what happens when you try two 6800s in a crossfire motherboard...

    I'm also curious about what happens why you try crossfire graphics cards on an NF4 SLI motherboard...

    Early on I heard rumors that the motherboard implementation would be similar between the two and that mixing motherboard/graphics manufacturers *might* be possible...

    Now the hardware is showing up and no one has tried it?
    Reply
  • vailr - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    Check: page 11 "Ethernet Performance" has format errors:
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    Copied & pasted:
    It will almost always be <em>much</em> lower than what we have measured.<br /> <br /> </span> </div> <div class="adcontainer"></div> <table border="0" width="100%"> <tr> <td align="right" colspan="2"> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <td><strong><a href="showdoc.aspx?i=2542&amp;p=12" class="smalllink">Audio
    Reply
  • tanekaha - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    Ethernet page has same problem as b4 here
    I`m using firefox latest beta and the browser considers the page done after this line.

    Ntttcpr - m 4,0,


    I guess u use a template for these reviews I had exactly the same prob with ( and commented similarly ) with I think the asrock dual article.
    I guess not many others are getting this prob but I`m glad 2 see some! else has a prob and not just me.
    What browser are u using ?
    Wesley have u tried 2 view the article with firefox beta ? or even firefox ?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, September 29, 2005 - link

    Articles are created in a document engine by our Web Editor, from basic information layouts we send the Web Editor. The engine generates HTML code. We don't individually generate the code for articles. Any problems with viewing the pages should be emailed to our webmaster Jason.Clark@anandtech.com Reply
  • tanekaha - Thursday, September 29, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the replies gents
    I am not using any blockers or extentions .. apart from FF default pop up blocker.
    I will mail jason with the facts (as I see them)
    I`ll also send the info to the FF team
    THX again
    tanekaha
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    If you're using any extensions to block ads or other content, you might want to try disabling those. I've been using Firefox for over a year now, and I don't have any issues with the pages. (Some pages render improperly the first time and I need to hit refresh, but that's generally only on long pages, and it seems more of a FF bug than anything.) Reply

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