|Solid State Drive (SSD) Benchmark Performance Testing|
|Articles - Featured Guides|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 22 December 2008|
Page 3 of 12
JMicron JMB322 SATA HBC
EDITOR'S NOTE: ATTO Disk Benchmark offers basic bandwidth speed results at a low queue depth, and more recent versions now offers broader test settings. ATTO Disk Benchmark uses buffered spot samples, therefore NAND wear conditions on segments tested may impact performance results.
Oh my, where to I begin. The JMicron host-based controller (HBC) has been loathed, loved, and hated by me; and all inside of only two short years. As a result of Intel's decision to no longer support PATA connections in their ICH (which ended with ICH7), I experienced my first taste of despise for the JMicron add-in controller.
The early JMicron chips were first used to drive the PATA IDE channels on Intel-based motherboards beginning with the i965P (ICH8) series back in early 2007. The complaints of stuttering and failure filled support forums, and were enough to convince ASUS and MSI to switch their loyalty and use Marvell chips. In retrospect, this might have been the smartest decision they've ever made, as manufacturers such as Abit, ECS, and Foxconn would lose major market-share as a result.
So how did JMicron survive long enough to see the P35, X38, P45, X48, and now X58 platforms? Improving the drivers was a major factor, as were the refinements in follow-up chips. But in the end, it ultimately came down to an affordable licensing and low implementation cost for manufacturers. It also helped that some manufacturers disguise the chip as their own, such as the JMB363 controller on the Gigabyte P35 through X48 series for example. This HBC was concealed and marketed as 'Gigabyte SATA 2', which was also stamped on the controller chip itself beside a small JM symbol.
The lack of clear specifications sure makes tracking down drivers a little more difficult; which is very important considering how outdated the support portion of their website is. Ultimately JMicron decided to publish a public FTP with their latest JMB3xx Windows drivers (ftp://driver.jmicron.com.tw/jmb36x/), which now receives frequent updates. But as most gamers know, newer doesn't always mean better, as the JMicron controller has been plagued with integration issues from start to finish.
Those early JMicron controllers were painfully problematic, but even the most recent chips come with their own 'baggage'. Take for example the Gigabyte GA-EX58-EXTREME X58 motherboard which we now used for testing. This product comes with six SATA ports that use an Intel ICH10R Southbridge, and four more 'Gigabyte SATA 2' ports which is revealed to be a JMicron JMB322 chip (and to further confuse consumers, the JMB322 controller uses the JMB36x driver package). Problems get worse if you don't specifically designate this as a JMicron controller, because otherwise it receives a generic Microsoft driver from 2001.
So how much difference could drivers really make? Well, the benchmark results below were taken with the current and previous versions of JMicron'sJMB36x driver after a fresh install of Windows XP Professional SP3. Testing with version 1.17.43.05 dated 11/03/2008 produced the first set of results below, yielding a final bandwidth of 88.9 MBps write-to, and 136.8 MBps read-from score.
On another freshly installed O/S, driver version 1.17.45.01 dated 12/16/2008 produced the results seen below only a few minutes later. Same hardware all-around, same SSD used for testing, but roughly one month difference between drivers and the results become incomparable. All alone, most testers would dismiss this as an erroneous reading. From my perspective however, the JMicron drivers offer nearly no perceivable write-to changes, but the newer driver loses nearly 26 MBps read bandwidth.
My conclusion on JMicron products, at least in regard to drivers, is that they've got a long way to go before the bugs have been ironed out. They're getting better, no doubt, but by the end of this article you'll be scratching your head and wondering which way to go.
But wait, it gets better. JMicron is a relative new-comer to the industry, which will leave us wondering how Intel can still get it wrong. In our next few sections, Benchmark Reviews will compare the test performance between chips and drives.