IntroductionWith the advent of serial transfer technology for the hard disk market, we have finally seen improved transfer speeds when it comes to hard disks. NCQ and 300MB/s data transfer speeds now allow for desktop hard disks to perform faster and more reliably than the older parallel ATA solutions. While this may bode well for the desktop, the server market has still had to deal with parallel technology. SCSI has been the long favourite because of its faster interface speeds along with the ability to daisy chain up to 32 drives per channel. And with SCSI controllers having three or four channels, it was clear that SCSI had its benefits. However, parallel interfacing has gone out the window and we now have a new technology to replace it; this called Serial Attached SCSI or SAS.How SAS works is very similar to SATA; it uses the same seven wires to connect the drive to the host controller. However, instead of sending ATA packets, SCSI data bits are sent along the controller cable to the controller which then decodes them. This means that the drive has no interface chip; similar to parallel SCSI; it's all handled on the controller card itself. Today we have HighPoints Value series SAS controller card, aimed at the mid-range workstation or desktop with high data demands. The RocketRAID 2640X4 today makes its appearance here at TweakTown.
The Package and Controller
HighPoint has gone for a new colour scheme with its SAS series of controllers; rather than blue, white and red, we now have a white, yellow and blue colour scheme. The red has been removed from the theme. On the front of the box we have a full colour photo of the controller card along with some basic specs.
On the back of the box HighPoint has gone to the trouble of placing the same marketing info that appears on the website for the controller; this means you don't have to go looking on the web for any additional info and everything that is on the HighPoint website in regards to the 2640X4 controller is on the back of the box.
Inside the box you get a set of data and power cables. Since SAS drives use a special power/data port compared to SATA, they look almost similar but don't have keys, so a new power/data cable port is included that go on the drives. These then plug into standard 4 pin molex power connectors for HDD power and a standard SATA port on the controller (since they share the same 7-pin design).The Controller
The controller card itself is extremely small in footprint; HighPoint hasn't gone with wasting PCB space here. On the front of the controller you have four SATA ports and the controller chip that runs the SAS/SATA system. One thing about SAS controllers is the fact that they support SAS drives as well as SATA drives, making SAS controllers an extremely versatile controller.
The back of the card is bare apart from the bar code label affixed during manufacturing. The controller interfaces with the motherboard using a x4 PCI Express connector; you can use it in any PCI Express x16, x8, x4 or universal slot.
Powering the controller is Marvell's 88SE6445 PCI Express controller chip. We have seen this chip on other SAS controllers from HighPoint. This chip supports four single channel SAS ports with backwards compatibility for SATA 2.5 specs. One thing missing for this controller is a dedicated cache memory, but since this controller isn't aimed for the server market, it's not required.
Test System Setup HD Tune Pro
Test SystemProcessor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500Motherboard: GIGABYTE X38-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Hard Disk: 4x400GB Seagate Cheetah NS SAS (Supplied by Seagate)Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 (Supplied by GIGABYTE) Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1Drivers: Intel INF 188.8.131.528, Forceware 175.16Thanks to Seagate we have been provided with four Cheetah NS SAS drives to fully test out the controllers ability. The SAS drives are rated for 10,000RPM with 16MB of onboard cache memory. The drives are designed for mid-range to high-end server storage and NAS units; perfect for what we want. Today we are testing the HighPoint RocketRAID in RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 configurations to see just how well the controller scales. Unfortunately we don't have any other SAS controllers for reference, so we will be testing out the unit on its own. Since SAS drives do not work on motherboard SATA controllers, we can't give you a baseline. However, this controller will be our baseline for future reviews.HD TuneVersion and / or Patch Used: 3.10Developer Homepage:http://www.efdsoftware.com/Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com/>
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:- Benchmark: measures the performance - Info: shows detailed information- Health: checks the health status by using SMART - Error Scan: scans the surface for errors - Temperature display HD Tune may also work with other storage devices such as memory cards, USB sticks, iPods, etc.
First off we start with HD Tune Pro. Here we can see that RAID 0 manages to pull the most performance with RAID 10 right behind it. RAID 5 manages to come in third with RAID 1 being the slowest.
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
Here HD Tach shows us just how well the different RAID levels perform.
While we usually use Premiere Elements to test CPU and memory usage by encoding movies from MPEG2 down to DIVX, we also use it for Controllers and HDD's by adding in no less than 50 transitions, effects and various other edits and then save the file to the disk without encoding, this takes a lot out of the storage system as we are dealing with files over 2GB in size and adding in affects takes time and effort. Our results are minutes and seconds and the lowest time is the best result.
Lastly, in the real world situation the RAID 0 level really makes a huge difference to the time it takes to save the project to the disk after all the alterations are made.
Final ThoughtsHighPoint has been in the storage controller industry for over 10 years now and their products just keep getting better and better. From their beginnings of supplying chips for ABITs high-end motherboards, to providing their own controller cards, there is a HighPoint controller for any market. The RocketRAID 2640X4 controller is extremely well designed. While it does require a x4 slot to work, most users who would want this board will have a spare x16 slot or a universal slot. The controller lacks onboard cache, but this would add to the cost of the controller which HighPoint is trying to keep down.
Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:27 pm CDT
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