Basically, what I've done here is quite simple. I used 3M insulation displacement connectors
to tap the +5, +12 and both ground wires leading to the SATA power
connectors. In my case, these were available from a nearby Wal-Mart
store. Other auto parts retailers probably carry them as well. The
extra wiring and "Molex" connector came from a Y adapter upon my
realizing that I either did not have or could not find a defunct PC
power supply from which I could steal some wiring and a connector.
Obviously this approach isn't for everyone, but it will work if you
need to be up and running right now. As always, be sure to make voltage
meter measurements before connecting this to something valuable. A
wiring error could blow up the expansion card and quite possibly your
motherboard as well. (And of course, I take no responsibility if you
manage to blow up your computer or harm yourself while doing this.)
So, How Well Does It Work?
I'm pleased to say that the card itself appears to work very well once
the drivers are installed. Initial driver installation was a little
less than straightfoward. After I'd pointed a fully updated
installation of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit to the drivers, it
configured the host adapter and immediately failed to configure the
root ports on the card. A quick trip through the Device Manager once
again rectified this. Of course, the card didn't work until I'd
connected power (see above), but once that was done, everything seemed
to work fine. I tested a number of USB 1.x peripherals (a floppy drive,
numeric keypad, two USB to PS/2 adapters and an old digital camera),
some USB 2.0 peripherals (a newer Sony flash memory camcorder, a
Sandisk multi-card reader from about ten years ago, an Amazon Kindle
and a waterproof Kodak digital camcorder). The only USB 3.0 peripheral
I own is a Seagate 2.5" portable hard disk, and it worked just fine.
I'm not big on trying to benchmark things, nor do I imagine that I'm
patient enough. I did run a few tests, starting with a backup made
using the built in Windows 7 backup utility. Backing up around 55GB of
data including the operating system took about 20 minutes. Crunching
the numbers on this gives a roughly 45 megabyte per second transfer
rate. Copying a large (17 gigabyte) file from the system's internal
hard drive to the Seagate drive gave a 115 megabyte per second transfer
rate that soon ramped down to about 94MB/sec on average. The Windows
backup result is much slower due to the increased overhead created by
having to find, open and copy many smaller files. If your work involves
many smaller files, you will see a similar reduction in speed.
Reading the same 17GB test file back to the computer started at a speed
of some 160MB/second, quickly tapering off to about 95MB/second as with
the writing test. This suggests that both hard drives are the limiting
factor and that more I/O bandwidth is available for devices that can
make use of it, such as a solid-state drive. I don't own any solid
state drives at this time.
Copying the whole of the computer's Program Files directory to the
external hard drive gave a result of between 3-5MB/second, emphasizing
once again the performance hit that having to deal with many smaller
files will introduce.
Connecting the Seagate external hard drive over USB 2.0 on the same
test machine gave very different results in some cases. For example,
the large file copy from the internal hard disk to the external disk
started off around 50MB/sec and tapered down to an even 31MB/sec or so
until the copy operation concluded. Writing the file back out to the
external hard drive averaged a speed of around 30MB/sec, with a few
slight moves upward to a ceiling of 35MB/sec or so. (I would take this
to be an indication of the drive emptying its cache while it waits on
more data to come in from the USB 2.0 bus.) 30-35MB per second is about
the best you can expect USB 2.0 to deliver after protocol overhead and
this drive apparently gets pretty close.
Copying the Program Files directory once again with the drive connected
over USB 2.0 resulted in exactly the same performance when it was
connected to USB 3.0...between 3-5MB/second.
I had plans to test the adapter under Linux. As usual, Linux had
ideas when it smartly placed my cheap-o 17" LCD panel into a mode it
support. (Windows 7 did this as well during setup, but it was easier to
recover from. I'm sure this is really the cheap-o display's fault. It's
probably reporting the wrong data to the graphics driver.) I never got
around to resolving this problem under
Linux. Perhaps I will try again in future.
Highpoint's RocketU is probably the cheapest USB 3.0 expansion card
you're going to find if you stick with conventional retail and online
outlets. If you're willing to venture out to the land of eBay, you can
find cheaper options with more ports and different chipsets from more
well known and longtime players in the USB host adapter market, such as
NEC. Random sellers on eBay, especially high volume sellers located
overseas, are not that likely to offer any sort of meaningful warranty
coverage on their products. How much that matters is something that
only you can decide. I have read and been told that Highpoint
Technology is particularly unresponsive to technical support and
warranty requests, so you may well end up just replacing the adapter
yourself if it quits working.
The ASMedia chip upon which this adapter is based might be a "black
box" in terms of support from its maker but it seems to work well (as
least as far as Windows is concerned). Other people who have
benchmarked things in more detail than I have found it compares
reasonably well to USB 3.0 solutions from other vendors. At this time I
don't have any other USB 3.0 host adapters to compare it with.
The power connection issue is the only potential show stopper I've seen
in my adventures with this adapter. It's a minor irritation and I find
it baffling that the need to connect it was left out of the
installation manual. If you have a PC that does not include any "Molex"
power connectors, plan to purchase an adapter when you buy this
expansion card or be ready to splice into your PC's power supply wiring.
I'm unavoidably biased in that I paid a dollar for mine and got lucky.
Even so, I'd generally recommend this card to anyone who is looking to
enter the world of USB 3.0 and its greater speed.
Copyright © 2013 William R. Walsh. All Rights Reserved.
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are illegal, dangerous or derogatory. Created 10/09/2013.