Serial ATA's introduction into the storage world was greeted with enthusiasm as well as scepticism. Was it any better? Was it faster than current technology? Would it be another RAMBUS blunder being a serial technology?
First brought to the market by Intel on the ICH5 series southbridge, its inclusion was simply to introduce the technology. Only sporting two SATA ports with RAID on the ICH5R, it was in no way able to take the place of Parallel ATA, especially since ICH5's SATA controller did not support any ATAPI SATA devices (like DVD drives) which would be a requirement to get rid of Parallel ATA altogether.
The ICH6 series of southbridges started to see the demise of the IDE interface, as Intel stripped off one of the two IDE channels and also added two extra SATA ports, all of which supported ATAPI devices, though only first generation SATA speeds.
ICH7 saw the introduction of 3Gbps SATA to Intel desktops. Intel fell behind the likes of Nvidia who introduced SATA-II months before Intel released the ICH7. In terms of features, ICH7 only saw SATA-II added, no extra SATA or IDE ports were added or removed.
ICH8 saw the introduction of six SATA ports supporting SATA 2.5 specs, this including hot swap and eSATA support. Unfortunately though, Intel was mistaken in removing IDE altogether from the ICH8 series, making it the first Intel chipset to be SATA only. Most boards with ICH8 use an IDE chip running off the PCI-Express bus to keep everyone happy.
ICH9 is Intel's latest update to the southbridge, sporting six SATA ports with the ability to use port multipliers if motherboard vendors wish to. This is especially helpful if you want to run eSATA and internal SATA off the existing six ports. While southbridge SATA controllers have advanced, we can't forget add-on cards. When you run out of ports on your board, it's time to slap in an extra card with SATA, and one of the biggest players is HighPoint.
HighPoint has been on the front of the peripherals storage add-on for the last five years. HighPoint was rather slow to start adopting native SATA chips, but rather used its own IDE chips with PATA to SATA bridges. This was okay for generation one drives, but gen two drives supporting 3Gbps and NCQ simply won't cut it on a bridge chip.
Today we are looking at HighPoint's dedicated PCI-Express eSATA controller card. What does it do and how does it stack up? Let's take a look!