Intel, NVIDIA and AMD have all moved software RAID into their Southbridge chipsets. In many cases the onboard RAID controllers are attached to the system via the PCI-E protocol or a form of PCI-E (Hyper Transport). The Southbridge also carries out other functions such as accessing the audio chipset, PCI ports and other various things like legacy ports. Because of this, software RAID on the motherboards controller typically results in poor performance. The chipset companies have in recent years done a very good job providing a large amount of SATA ports for users to add a large amount of hard drives. Back when HighPoint was winning designs for their onboard controllers, a typical chipset had two PATA connections that made four PATA ports available for HDDs and CD-ROMs. Today motherboards have eight, 10 and 12 SATA ports on the motherboard, so the expansion possibilities are actually much greater than what most users typically need.
Is there really a need for a low cost add-on SATA RAID controller these days with motherboard makers giving users so many SATA ports onboard? That is really the question that haunts the HighPoint RocketRAID 2310. The 2310's performance isn't much better than chipset makers' onboard controllers and the configuration options are nearly identical.
There are a few scenarios that are working in the favor of the 2310. The best one I can think of is for users that rotate through motherboards often. You can pull the 2310 out of one system and move it to another without losing your data and needing to reconfigure your arrays. The process is simply pulling the drives and card and placing them inside another machine, loading the drivers and everything should remain intact. Another plus is adding more ports to a system; that is if you have already used the large amount of ports that were provided by the motherboard maker.
When it comes to performance the HighPoint RocketRAID 2310 is void of cache, so RAID 5 performance is pretty lackluster. Even RAID 0 and RAID 10 performance is fairly low with our Seagate 7200.11 test drives. All things considered, I was disappointed with the performance of the controller, especially the 4 drive RAID 0 performance where the tests should have shown a solid 3.5X increase over a single drive.
Linux users will get the greatest benefit from the RocketRAID 2310 since most onboard RAID chipsets lack high performance drivers or the driver support is weak. HighPoint has done a good job giving Linux users access to the drivers needed to not only get the card up and running, but providing the source code will allow the Linux community to tweak the card in ways that Windows users could only dream of.