Gigabyte adds UASP support to its USB 3.0 motherboards

USB Attached SCSI Protocol

IF YOU THINK USB 3.0 is fast, think again, Gigabyte has announced that it’s delivering support for UASP or USB Attached SCSI Protocol which is set to boost the data transfer rate for compatible UASP devices by as much as 20 percent over the current USB Mass Storage specification that has been the standard so far.

The problem with the current USB Mass Storage specification is that it wasn’t designed for the kind of speeds that USB 3.0 offers and it has quite high overheads. On top of that most storage device controllers don’t offer support for more advanced features such as NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. which are supported by standard hard drive protocols such as SATA and SCSI. The USB Mass Storage specification is also quite dated by now, as it became a standard over a decade ago, although there have been a few developments over the years.

The new UASP standard on the other hand uses SCSI commands to handle the data transfer to and from USB 3.0 storage devices. SCSI is a proven standard that can handle large amounts of data and the good news is that UASP is also meant to bring improved performance to USB 2.0 storage devices thanks to the change to SCSI commands over Bulk Only Transfer which most USB storage devices use today. Some older USB storage devices also use SCSI signalling, but until the UASP standard was rectified, it was down to the device controller manufacturers to decided if they wanted to implement this or not.

A 20 percent performance increase in data throughput sounds impressive on what is already a very fast interface for external storage devices, but there’s a catch. Not only does the host controller in your PC need to support it, but the storage device controller also needs to have support for UASP. From some quick research we’ve managed to dig out some UASP supporting device controllers, although it might be hard to know exactly what controller is inside your storage device.

What we found is that the LucidPort USB 300 and USB302, Symwave SW6315, Texas Instruments TUSB9260 and the VLI VL700 controllers all support UASP, while as far as we could find, the ASMedia ASM1051 and ASM1051E as well as the Fujitsu MB86C30A doesn’t. It’s possible that some of these device controllers can be upgraded via a Firmware update, but this is just speculation from our side at the moment.

So is UASP going to matter? Well, it’s another tick box on the spec sheet for now, but it’s likely to replace the USB Mass Storage specification and Bulk Only Transfer protocol long term. This is a good thing, as UASP brings with it not only performance enhancements, but thanks to the SCSI protocol it should also bring with it improved reliability when it comes to using USB devices for backup. The reason for this is simple, the SCSI protocol has very good parity and error checking, something the USB Mass Storage specification doesn’t.

We’ll most likely see other motherboard manufacturers follow in Gigabyte’s footsteps; although it’s possible that Gigabyte has a time limited exclusive deal with Renesas who supplies USB 3.0 host controllers to Gigabyte. As UASP is a standard defined by the USB-IF, all USB 3.0 host controller and storage controller manufacturers can implement it in their solutions and with a bit of luck it will become the de facto standard for USB 3.0 storage devices sooner rather than later.S|A

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