The First Test: Sequential Read Speed

The C300 can break 300MB/s in sequential read performance so it’s the perfect test for 6Gbps SATA bandwidth.

Intel’s X58 is actually the best platform here, delivering over 340MB/s from the C300 itself. If anything, we’re bound by the Marvell controller or the C300 itself in this case. AMD’s 890GX follows next at 319MB/s. It’s faster than 3Gbps SATA for sure, but just not quite as fast as the Marvell controller on an Intel X58.

The most surprising is that using the Marvell controller on Intel’s P55 platform, even in a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, only delivers 308MB/s of read bandwidth. The PCIe controller is on the CPU die and should theoretically be lower latency than anything the X58 can muster, but for whatever reason it actually delivers lower bandwidth than the off-die X58 PCIe controller. This is true regardless of whether we use Lynnfield or Clarkdale in the motherboard, or if we’re using a P55, H55 or H57 motherboard. All platform/CPU combinations result in performance right around 310MB/s - a good 30MB/s slower than the X58. Remember that this is Intel’s first on-die PCIe implementation. It’s possible that performance is lower in order to first ensure compatibility. We may see better performance out of Sandy Bridge in 2011.

Using any of the PCIe 1.0 slots delivers absolutely horrid performance. Thanks to encoding and bus overhead, the most we can get out of PCIe 1.0 slot is ~192MB/s with our setup. Intel’s X58 board has a PCIe 1.0 x4 that appears to give us better performance than any other 1.0 slot for some reason despite us only using 1 lane on it.

Using one of the x1 slots on a P55 motherboard limits us to a disappointing 163.8MB/s. In other words, there’s no benefit to even having a 6Gbps drive here. ASUS PLX implementation however fixes that right up - at 336.9MB/s it’s within earshot of Intel’s X58.

It’s also worth noting that you’re better off using your 6Gbps SSD on one of the native 3Gbps SATA ports rather than use a 6Gbps card in a PCIe 1.0 slot. Intel’s native SATA ports read at ~265MB/s - better than the Marvell controller on any PCIe 1.0 slot.

The Test Platforms Random Read Performance is Also Affected
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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. specifically.

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

    what is the CPU usage ?
  • 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.
  • assassin37 - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link


    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
  • 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.]
  • 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! :)
  • 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 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 ;)
  • deviationer - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

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

    The p6x58D premium apparently does not according to this link

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

    Software RAID is definitely no slouch:">
    But this comparison used a very old ICH.

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