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Serial ATA RAID Controllers - Promise, Silicon Image, Highpoint and nVidia

By: Shawn Baker | RAID/HBA in Storage | Posted: May 7, 2004 4:00 am



nVidia has hit the nail on the head with their native solution - it is fast and combined with the fastest Serial ATA drives on the market you are going to have one very fast computer in the hard drive performance area. The other controllers here aren't bad, it's just that they are let down by the lack of bandwidth available through the aging PCI bus.


Some people may wonder why the score in 3DMark didn't go up at all since the drives on the native controller were so much faster in all other tests. Extra hard drive speed isn't going to give you an increased frame rate. Where it does help is loading times as you could see in our boot time test. Games are going to load faster, things are going to be slightly more responsive but you aren't going to see another 2000 marks in 3DMark. If you're looking at buying two of the same hard drives so your games run faster, it's not worth it. If you're looking at doing it because you want things loading quicker and to be generally more responsive, then you should go for it. Just make sure your choice of drives is done with some research.


If you are setting up a network server in a small office, the nForce 3 250 should also be considered for each system if PCI-X solutions are out of the question. Thanks to its native Serial ATA and Gigabit Networking, you can get the absolute most out of your working environment without having to go out and buy expensive branded servers.


The Western Digital controller is nothing more then a Promise FastTrak S150. This isn't a bad thing as in the future it gives Western Digital the ability to bundle in a controller with two hard drives to help keep cost down.


The Adaptec controller was slightly quicker then the Western Digital and offers all the same features. When it comes to looking at its results compared to nVidia though, you really want to try and avoid a PCI solution and save your dollars for an Athlon 64 setup or wait for solutions from your favorite chipset maker.


It was interesting to find that the Highpoint was slower across the board in all tests - on average around 20% slower then the competition. This controller does offer more then the other two but this is thanks to the extra ports provided which will come at a higher cost than the others.


Native is the way of the future. It's only going to become more and more popular and with the introduction of PCI Express around the corner we are going to start seeing a high jump in performance figures over the next 12 months.


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