ASRock and ECS first with two USB 3.0 host controllers

Different implementations, slightly different results

ONE FLAW WITH USB 3.0 is that you’re stuck with only a pair of ports around the back on your motherboard, but it seems like the motherboard manufacturers are getting ready to solve that problem for you. As we reported a couple of days ago, ASRock and ECS are using an internal pin-header, but both of the boards in question also feature two USB 3.0 host controllers.

ASRock’s board is the upcoming P55 Extreme3 which comes with the front mounted USB 3.0 accessory we showed you in the previous story. However, having only a pair of USB 3.0 ports around the front might not suit everyone’s needs, so in addition to the Renesas controller to which the pin-header goes, ASRock kitted out the board with a Fresco Logic controller as well.

The downside of this solution is that you only get a single rear USB 3.0 port which is limited to PCI Express 1.0 speeds. Then again, it doesn’t appear as if ASRock created a special solution to add more bandwidth to the Renesas controller either and if that’s connected to the P55 chipset, it has the same bandwidth limitations, although in this case shared between two ports.

ECS went with a different solution on its P55H-AK board, which is another unreleased product. ECS has fitted a PLX bridge chip to its board in a similar manner to what Asus has done on some of its models with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps. However, ECS has gone with two Renesas chips for a full four ports – two around the back and two via either a bracket or a front mounted accessory.

For whatever reason, ECS has also added a second SATA 6Gbps controller but used it for a pair of eSATA ports, just to make sure that its board has the fastest external ports available. We don’t know if the PLX bridge is connected directly to the PCI Express bus from the CPU or if it goes via the P55 chipset, but if it’s the latter, then this board is also going to run into some serious bandwidth issues if you use all of the controllers connected to the bridge chip.

Neither solution is what we’d call great when it comes to available bandwidth, but this isn’t a fault of the motherboard makers, but instead the fault lies with Intel who underestimated the need for PCI Express bandwidth when the P55 chipset and the LGA-1156 processors were designed. Sadly it doesn’t appear as if Intel’s P67 chipset and LGA-1155 processors will make much progress in solving these problems, but hopefully Intel will surprise us all in the end.S|A

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