ASRock has been a strong proponent of USB 3.1 ready-motherboards this year, anticipating the connector’s upcoming widespread use. The company has announced a number of Z97 and X99 motherboards featuring USB 3.1 support. One such MOBO is the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer, which has recently been updated to include two USB 3.1 ports. Let’s what it’s all about.
There’s no doubt that USB 3.1 will become the new standard in the upcoming years. As native support for the connector drops, you will see every motherboard manufacturers bundle connectors, as well as hardware makers creating new products from what 3.1 has to offer. ASRock apparently considered that it would be a good idea to cash in to the trend, before there even is one. As such, in the past year, the company has unveiled a number of X99 and Z97 motherboards with included USB 3.1, despite native support not being yet available.
Fatal1ty Z97 Killer is an ATX motherboard that has been released last year, and has seen a recent update to include 3.1 in its package. On paper, the model is no different from its original release last year. It works with 5th generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 (socket 1150), has support for SLI, and AMD’s CrossFire technology (though the second card would perform in x4 mode). It also comes with ASRock’s Killer E2200 Intelligent Networking platform that detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic; 1x SATA-Express 10 Gb/s, 3x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s, and one Ultra M.2 (PCI-Express 3.0 x4 physical-layer); and Purity Sound 2 onboard audio, with a 115dBA SNR DAC, TI NE5532 headphone amplifier, and Nichicon gold-series caps.
At the time of writing, USB 3.1 has not seen widespread adoption. Despite being showcased last year, there are only a number of manufacturers which have dished out 3.1 controllers, namely ASMedia with the ASM1352R & ASM1142 controllers, the latter being the one used by ASRock’s Fatal1ty Z97X. The offering is not included on the mainboard, instead added to a daughterboard that needs a 4X PCI-Express slot to work. Looking at the entire package, it becomes obvious the motherboard manufacturer is interested in offering a taste of what’s to come, and doesn’t go all in with USB 3.1.
There’s a pretty large leap between USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 transfer rates. For example, USB 3 has a theoretical bandwidth of 5GBps, which would mean about 625MB/sec. This means you could have an SSD plugged into a USB 3.0 socket and get the most out of it. However, 3.1 doubles the transfer speed, and has a limit of 10.0GBps, which means you could strap 2x SSDs in RAID and still get enough from your connector. Not only that, but 3.1 also has 3.0 ampere charging, over the 0.9 ampere offered by the current USB 3.0. While the jump is not as dramatic as the one noted between USB 2.0 to 3.0, the difference is still dramatic enough to be noted.
Right now, USB 3.1 comes in two variants, one being type-A, which is backwards compatible with 3.0 and respectively 2.0, while the other type-C features a reversible design allowing the connector to be fitted either way. Being quite small, and promising increased durability, exceptional speeds and better charging, the new USB-C looks like the perfect type of connector to replace micro-USBs, and more. Still, much remains to be seen as the connector slowly makes its presence ubiquitous on PCs, Macs, and Laptops this year.