If you were bummed like most of us that Intel’s shiny new P55 chipset didn’t include USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 support, Asus's new U3S6 should make you happy.
For a mere 30 smackers, the U3S6 card gives you two USB 3.0 ports and two SATA 6.0 ports in a PCI-E card. The card has three primary components: an NEC D720200F1 USB 3.0 controller, a Marvell 88SE9123 SATA 6.0 controller, and a PLX PEX8613. The PLX part is the same chip the company uses on its SATA6 boards to helps ameliorate a problem with the P55 chipset.
As you likely know, the LGA1156 CPUs moved PCI-E express controls directly into the CPU. In addition to the x16 PCIE-2.0 in the CPU, another 8 x1 PCI-E lanes are in the P55 chipset itself. On its motherboards, Asus said the PEX8613 chip gets plumbed into a x4 PCI-E in order to offer enough bandwidth for today’s drives. Running the Marvell chip directly into a PCI-E x1 would effectively cap any devices at 250MB/s. On the U3S6 card, bottlenecks are alleviated by running the card in a x4 PCI-E mode.
We gave the U3S6 card a whirl by firing it up in Windows 7 Ultimate. We unfortunately, did not have any USB 3.0 devices but the card performed on par with the USB 2.0 ports in the P55 board we tested. Likewise, we didn’t have a SATA6 drive available for testing at the moment but soon will.
Asus said the card is expected to available “soon” for about $30.
The NEC USB 3.0 Controller
The Marvell chip controls the two SATA6 ports