Installation of the HPT 2340
As far as installation of the RocketRAID 2340 goes, it's really quite simple. If you've ever installed any devices into your expansion slots before, this setup is no different. Although, there are a few conditions to take into consideration before installing the card or building a system or server based around it. Listen up.
During our testing, we used Gigabyte's P965-DQ6 motherboard based on the Intel P965 chipset. It has a couple of PCI Express x16 slots but they don't both operate at x16 lanes electronically. When using a single PCI-E graphics card in the top slot (due to the limitations of the P965 chipset), the second slot will only operate at x4 lanes electrically. And while you'd think that would still be enough bandwidth available for everyone to play nicely together, because there are in fact two HPT controller chips on the RocketRAID 2340, performance is actually halved as we proved during testing - RAID 0 burst rate speeds were almost exactly half of what the performance should be when provided the full x8 lanes of bandwidth.
The cure was quite simple - we simply removed the RAID controller and the graphics card and switched them around. Now the HPT 2340 was operating at its full x8 lanes bandwidth in the top slot and the graphics card was kicked back down to x4 lanes in the second slot. Now while this won't be ideal for gamers who demand high frames per second in their games, the RocketRAID 2340 was not designed for gamer systems or these types of users and should not be much of a concern. If you're a gamer and can afford this type of RAID controller, just buy a motherboard which provides x8 lanes of bandwidth to the second or third PCI-E x16 slots and then you're good to go.
Next up and once you've installed the card into your motherboard, it's time for adding your SATA or SATA II drives to the controller card. Grab one of the Mini-SATA to SATA cables and plug into one of the four ports on the card. Then all you need to do is attach the drives required as you would with any regular SATA cable. The Mini-SAS cables shout nothing but quality and they clip securely into the controller card and it's not going to come out even if you pull it very hard - we tried! You can remove the cables by pushing down on the clip and then it is released from the port. Our only dislike about the cable setup is the fact that the part of the SATA cable that plugs into your drives seem to be the old version without any clip to lock the cable in place. Although, the cables seem to be a little different and they do provide a secure connection from cable to drive port - we didn't experience any issues here.
Setting up RAID in the RocketRAID 2340 BIOS is very simple and probably won't even require looking at the manual unless you are a RAID virgin. Hit CTRL + H when you see the blue BIOS screen during POST and then after a couple of seconds, you're into the setup area. After you have initialize the drives, you then choose which drives to use for the RAID array - just select what type of RAID you want to use and the RAID is built very quickly. The only thing I don't like about the BIOS is the amount of time it adds to your system boot-up, it takes almost a full four seconds for the system to pass the HighPoint BIOS screen.
The controller has support for INT13 BIOS booting, so you can select in your motherboard BIOS if you want to boot from one of the RAID arrays on the controller. The drivers include F6 drivers for Windows setup and make sure you have them handy as you will need them if you want to install Windows on drives, partitions or arrays connected to the controller. Otherwise, just load up your OS and then you'll be promoted to install the drivers for the RAID controller. It's really a piece of cake and just requires a single reboot to get things up and running. If you're using Windows, just visit the storage section of Administrative Tools in the Control Panel, initialize the drive, format it and then you are ready to go.
Installation is dead simple and I reckon even my mother could succeed if she really set her mind to it and she's only just mastered MSN Messenger. Server admins will probably find it too easy and eventually will probably be able to do it with their eyes closed. Just keep in mind the issues with bandwidth lanes available on your PCI Express slots (research things before buying!) and you won't have any issues at all. It even already has driver support for Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit and that's something we applaud.
Now that the card is installed, our RAID array is setup and ready to go, let's see how this $500 USD monster performs against other RAID controllers from Intel and Jmicron.