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StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card Print E-mail
Written by Vikram Chand   
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Rated 4.5 out of 5 Stars 4.5 out of 5 Stars
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StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card

Small form factor with explosive speed!

USB 2.0 has been around for a very long time but it's about time we switch to a much faster and more efficient specification. In recent years, we have seen a lot of new technologies taking advantage of the USB 2.0 specification but the need for something faster is now. We are dealing with larger files as home videos can now be recorded in high definition (HD) and still images have a lot more mega pixels resulting.

Transferring these files from one media or drive to another can be very time consuming and tedious. This is where USB 3.0 comes in to play; it is supposed to be ten times faster than USB 2.0. Where USB 2.0 maxes out at around 480Mbps (megabits per second), USB 3.0 on the other hand can handle up to 5Gbps (gigabits per second). There are other alternatives such as Firewire or eSATA that are good but are limited to data only. USB 3.0 also known as "SuperSpeed" is supposed to replace USB 2.0 soon. So let's see if it really is a replacement or not!

 

WHAT IS USB 3.0?

We first saw USB 3.0 in consumer products starting January 2010 thought it was announced in November of 2008. Basically the major new feature is the "SuperSpeed" bus that can provide up to 5 Gbit/s data transfer rate, but it is normal to achieve around 3.2 Gbit/s. You can read more about it here.

 

CLOSER LOOK

The front of the box tell you everything about the card and has a nice picture of the card itself. The back of the box is mostly advertising other product offerings from StarTech. They do have a wide range of products so feel free to check out their website. Inside the box you will find the user guide, an installation CD, the card itself and a half-height mounting bracket. The half-height mounting bracket can be used to install the card in smaller cases (think micro). There are two USB 3.0 ports on the card and you will also notice a single 4-pin Molex power connector on the rear of the card. This is used to provide power to devices that need them (900mA per port I believe). The card itself does not come with a USB 3.0 cable, but that is expected as USB 3.0 devices usually do come with one.

StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card StarTech PCIe USB 3.0  Controller Card
StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card StarTech PCIe USB 3.0  Controller Card
StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card
(click image to enlarge)


 

INSTALLATION

Installation was a very simple. All you have to do is install the card in a PCI Express x1 or x16 slot (I installed it on a x1 slot as we didn't have a x16 slot available) and plug in a 4-pin Molex power connector. One thing to keep in mind while plugging in the power connector is to not push it in too hard as it has tendency to get un-clipped from the PCB (hold on to it when plugging the power connector). Then power up your computer and use the included CD to install the drivers. But I had issues when installing drivers from the CD on Windows 7. So went to StarTech's website and download the latest drivers that worked fine. You can download the drivers here along with the user manual (if needed).

StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card
StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card
(click image to enlarge)

 

TEST SYSTEM

Motherboard : Asus M2N-E
CPU : AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ dual core
Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise 32-bit
Graphics Card : PNY GeForce Verto GTS 250 1GB
Optical Drive : Sony DVD-RW drive
Case : Thermaltake Element G
External Cases : Sunbeam Tech USB3.0 Airbox and EagleTech ET-CSTSU3-BK Enclosures
Hard Drive : Samsung HD501IJ 500GB SATA 3.0GBps 8MB

 

TEST METHOD

I will use a Samsung HD501IJ 500GB SATA hard drive in two different hard drive enclosures and test the data transfer rates using HD Tune Pro 3.5. I will also use the same hard drive on the Thermaltake BlacX Duet eSATA/USB docking station to get eSATA and USB 2.0 transfer rates. Then I will compare all of the results to see how much faster USB 3.0 really is (for us anyways).


 

RESULTS

As you can see from the results below that USB 3.0 is clearly faster than both eSATA and USB 2.0 as expected. Looking at the chart, USB 2.0 uses the most CPU when transferring data and eSATA uses the least, but USB 3.0 cpu usage is a huge improvement overall. I saw average transfer rates of 25.25 MB/s (maxed out at 26.9 MB/s) with USB 2.0, 29.38 MB/s (maxed out at 37.57 MB/s) with eSATA and 64.4 MB/s (maxed out at 82.75 MB/s) with USB 3.0. So with some of these real world test we can see what USB 3.0 has in store for us. We will not be disappointed at all. I have a feel we will start seeing more and more USB 3.0 devices in the market soon, so keep an eye out.

StarTech PCIe USB 3.0 Controller Card
(click image to enlarge)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have used this USB 3.0 PCIe adapter card for a few weeks now and it does not disappoint at all. Now all I need to do is test with some motherboards that have USB 3.0 controller built-in to compare the differences. And you can bet on the fact that we will test them out. This card is inexpensive for the performance it delivers; you can probably find it for less than $30 online (check out the Price Comparison button above). I would assume it that it would deliver to the fullest of it's abilities if you install it in a x16 PCIe slot. The installation is fairly easy and simple once you download the latest drivers. USB 3.0 will definitely not disappoint at all and it will be around for a decade if not more (just like USB 2.0). I would rate this card 4.5 out of 5 and present it with our Best Buy and Highly Recommended awards.
 

Best Buy Award Highly Recommended Award

 

Pros
Easy to install and setup, fast and inexpensive.
Cons
4-pin Molex connector a little lose!
Bottom Line
A very affordable USB 3.0 PCIe adapter that gets the job done!


 

DETAILS AND SPECIFICATIONS :

Manufacturer :   StarTech
Website :   www.startech.com
Model # :   PEXUSB3S2
Bus Type :   PCI Express
Chipset :   NEC Electronics - uPD720200
Card Type :   Low / Standard Profile
Type and Rate :   USB 3.0 - 5 Gbit/s
MTBF :   11914 hours
Ports :   2 x USB A 3.0 Female
Compatible OS's :   Windows XP(32/64bit)
Windows Vista (32/64bit)
Windows 7 (32/64bit)
Windows Server 2003(32/64bit)
Windows Server 2008 R2
Temperatures :   Operating : -20oC to 60oC or -4oF to 140oF
Storage : -0oC to 50oC or 32oF to 122oF
Dimensions :   4.76" (L) x 2.99" (W) x 0.75" (H)
Weight :   2.12 oz or 60 grams
Warranty :   Lifetime Warranty
Description :  
Providing speeds up to 10x faster than that of USB 2.0, this PCI Express USB 3.0 card enables you to access your data and transfer files much faster than USB 2.0, by adding two USB 3.0 ports to your PCI Express capable PC. Featuring a native NEC PCI Express host controller chipset, the new USB 3.0 standard supports transfer rates of up to 5Gbps, while still providing connectivity and support for the older USB 2.0 (480Mbps) and 1.1 (12Mbps) devices. In addition to providing a much faster transfer rate the PEXUSB3S2 USB 3.0 card also supplies 900mA of power per USB port, allowing more and more external devices to operate without the need of an additional power source.


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 June 2010