The Highpoint RocketRAID 1820A is a rather large card in length but not in height. Highpoint has kept the height down in order for the card to be used in small form factor environments where half height cards are commonly used. The reason for the length is the PCI-X slot used. PCI-X slot uses a standard PCI slot but with an extra part on the back to allow for the 64-bit bus and 133MHz interface to be carried out. This results in a rather long slot that you tend to see on Server and Workstation motherboards. Hopefully PCI Express will put this slot to bed soon as a PCI Express x2 slot would give the exact same bandwidth without the super long slot required.
The component placement is extremely excellent. The 1820A differs from the original 1820 in that the Serial ATA ports are stacked two apiece. This means that only four slot length is needed, the extra four sit atop each other, a great way to minimize space on the card for other components.
On the upper left you can see two rows of jumpers. These aren't actually jumpers but are HDD connectivity and activity LED indicators. The top row indicates when a channel has a drive on it. There are 16 pins, 2-pin connection for each channel, a total of eight. The bottom row is to indicate activity of the drive on each channel, again 16 pins with two pins per, total of eight.
Highpoint has actually gone to a 3rd party chipset when it comes to the 1820A. Surprising for a company whose main exploits are IC RAID chips, however, it shows that Highpoint is looking at the best possible controller available. The Marvell Yukon 88SX5081 PCI-X to Serial ATA host controller chip powers the entire show. The Marvell chip is the first PCI-X to Serial ATA host controller available on the market for commercial use. The 5081 series of the chip is an 8-channel controller chip with support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and JBOD with XOR support. The chip itself is designed to run on a 64-bit bus at either 100MHz or 133MHz, giving it a peak bandwidth of 1.06GB/s along a 133MHz 64-bit PCI-X bus.
Along with this Tagged Command Queuing is supported, since Native Command Queuing has only just come in, however, Tagged Command Queuing does make up a bit in the performance sector. Along with these features comes Hot Swapping. The Marvell chip supports hot swapping drives on the fly as well as hot spare, so if you loose a drive in the redundant array, when a new one is inserted it automatically assigns the drive to the lost array.
As mentioned just a minute ago, this card has support for XOR. The HPT 601 controller chip powers the XOR System along with the new caching algorithm. The 601 chip takes care of cache sorting as well as the XOR function away from the CPU, requiring less CPU cycles, this makes the 1820A card a more peripheral choice for NAS environments where the CPU power is better spent handling the traffic rather than organizing the RAID environment.
The BIOS setup for the Highpoint RocketRAID 1820A resembles the same as all of the Highpoint BIOS products. Actually it is a good thing as it makes integration across the entire product range very simple and easy to use, if you have setup one Highpoint controller card you can do it with the rest.
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