Storage Configuration & Testing
For our testing, the operating system is always installed to a Samsung 970 EVO NVMe based SSD. A second, identical drive is employed for testing RAID0 performance on motherboards that support this functionality natively, without PCIe adapter kits. In cases where this is necessary, an alternative is used as the OS drive. It is either an Intel SSD 750 via U.2 to PCIe adapter or a SATA based Samsung 840 Pro.
Standard SATA III 6Gb/s drive tests were performed using Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX hard drives on all SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 64k block size configurations on all applicable controllers when possible. While not necessarily ideal, AMD controllers can’t use smaller block sizes. For an apples to apples comparison, it is necessary to choose a common block size shared by both vendor’s controllers. Additionally, third party controllers from Marvell and Realtek should support this block size as well if necessary. All drive benchmarks were done using the freely available CrystalDiskMark program, run with both 50MB and 100MB sized test sets. NVMe drives use an additional 1000MB test set.
USB 2.0 Testing
To test the capabilities of the onboard USB 2.0 connections, we used a Sans Digital external eSATA / USB 2.0 drive enclosure, connected via the USB 2.0 port. Installed in the enclosure are dual Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX drives in a RAID0 configuration. In theory, this should always saturate the USB 2.0 connection an isolate the motherboard as the biggest variable in our USB 2.0 performance tests.
USB 3.x Testing
A Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking port which uses a USB 3.x connection with a SATA based Corsair Force GT SSD installed. While not the most modern drive, it is fast enough to test the USB connection.
Motherboard Storage Configuration
The storage configuration of the MSI MEG X570 Unify is very simple. For the most part, the chipset sets the configuration for a motherboard. Motherboard manufacturers do have some options for configuration, but usually, motherboard makers opt for what are believed to be the most popular options. For example, Motherboard manufacturers can split the x4 lanes for NVMe devices that go directly to the CPU into two x2 slots or they can turn these into SATA ports and never do. I have yet to see any motherboard configured with any of these options.
There are four SATA 6Gb/s ports supporting RAID levels 0, 1, and 10. Additionally, there are three M.2 slots located in the PCI-Express expansion slot area. The topmost slot supports devices upwards of 110mm in length while the others only support 80mm length and shorter drives.
USB storage is one area where motherboard makers tend to differ slightly from model to model. MSI chose to configure the USB ports in the following fashion:
- 3x USB 3.2 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 1 Type-C internal connector)
- 4x USB 3.2 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports through the internal USB 3.2 Gen1 connectors
- 6x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports through the internal USB 2.0 connectors)
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen2 (3rd Gen AMD Ryzen™) or USB 3.2 Gen1 (2nd Gen AMD Ryzen™/ Ryzen™ with Radeon™ Vega Graphics and 2nd Gen AMD Ryzen™ with Radeon™ Graphics) ports (1x Type-A & 1x Type-C) on the back panel
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) Type-A ports on the back panel
The configuration allows for a fair amount of flexibility. The amount of headers and ports is adequate. I’d like to have seen a second USB 3.2 Type-C port, but realize that this isn’t going to happen at this price point in most cases.