The Controller Card
Now it's down to the card. One thing about the PCI-Express interface is that it allows for smaller PCB's. HighPoint uses a small as possible PCB while still finding room to pack on all of the features. The RocketRAID 2314 is part of the 2xxx series of cards which support SATA 2.5 specifications. This includes 3Gbps transfer rates, hot swapping capabilities and also the now ratified eSATA specifications. The card interfaces with the computer through a PCI-Express x4 bus. You require a PCI-Express x4, x8 or x16 slot to run this card. It won't fit into an x1 slot unless it's a universal slot, and even then it will only operate at x1 speeds.
HighPoint has not produced any of its own chips for over three years; in fact the last chip that HighPoint produced itself was the HPT374 4 Channel IDE RAID controller which was used as a SATA controller with Marvell PATA to SATA converters on the board. As of late all of HighPoint's controllers use Marvell chipsets. The 2314 uses the latest Marvell 88SX7042 PCI-Express x4 chipset. This chip has PCIe x4 bus support as well as support for four native SATA 3Gbps ports. The unique feature of this controller chip is that it is fully capable of supporting Port Multiplier function.
Before we go any further we want to give a bit of info on what Port Multiplier is and how it works. Serial ATA is a Point-to-Point serial interface that connects your hard drive to the computer through a 7-pin serial cable. Being serial in nature means that it can be duplicated to support more devices on a single port, similar to how USB works. Port Multiplier works in a similar fashion to a USB hub, converting one Serial ATA port into two or more. A four port multiplier is the highest that is currently able to be supported, so one port can be turned into four. This is where the similarities end between USB and SATA port multipliers.
While USB devices on a single port share the bandwidth equally at the same time (i.e. If you have four devices on one USB port, those four devices share the 480Mbps amongst themselves, depending on what needs the most bandwidth), Serial ATA Port Multiplier works by recognising all of the devices attached to it, but only one is accessed at a time. One drive gets all the bandwidth until the other is accessed, and then that drive gets all the bandwidth. This does have the advantage of giving the best possible speeds to the drive being accessed, but if you want to copy from one drive to another on the same port, it will be much slower than if you wanted to copy from drive to drive on different channels due to the switching nature of the Port Multiplier.
In the event you are copying from drive A to drive B on the same port, it will require caching the data to the system memory, switching from drive A to B through the port multiplier and then dumping the data from system memory to drive B. Then you would need to switch back to drive A to copy more data.
Four eSATA ports line the rear of the I/O cover plate. This is how you get access to the ports. eSATA is identical to Serial ATA in its signalling, there is no conversion of signal from SATA to eSATA like there is from PATA to SATA. eSATA uses extra shielding on its ports which allows for the extra length cables.
Lastly, on the back of the card is the HighPoint HPT601 hot swap chip which allows for the drives to be removed and plugged in under an OS without having to restart the system.
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