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Test Results For A Power Mac With A FireWire 800 PCI Card and Bridge Board!

by rob-ART, mad scientist
Posted 01/13/03
Big Mahalo to
WiebeTech for giving me an early look at their FireWire 800 products.

The prospect of FireWire 800 in a PowerBook is exciting but the prospect of FireWire 800 in a Power Mac is even more exciting. Here's an early look at the results achieved with an IBM 180GXP connected to a WiebeTech FireWire 800 bridge board which in turn was plugged into a FireWire 800 PCI card which in turn was installed in a Power Mac G4/1000MP (SDRAM) tower. Vroom, vroom!









The READ speed of this FireWire 800 setup was significantly faster than the built-in FireWire 400 of the Power Mac. In fact, it was on par with the READ speed of the same drive on an ATA-133 controller board. The drive itself is probably the limiting factor, not the interface.

However, the WRITE speed was only slightly better than that of built-in FireWire 400 and a lot slower than ATA-133. It may be partly the fault of the PCI subsystem. When I used FireWire 400 PCI cards, the write speeds varied from 16 to 29MB/sec, depending on which brand of board I used. The Wiebetech FireWire 400 PCI card peaked at 27MB/sec so 33MB/sec is at least some improvement.

Inquiring minds want to know...

"How fast does a dual drive striped FireWire 800 RAID go?"

"How does fast does FW 800 go on a Pentium 4 Wintel system?"

(Stay tuned for the answers...)



I'm puzzled by the WRITE speed limitation that seems to exist with all PCI based FireWire solutions. Hmmm. Hopefully both Apple and third parties will find more write speed as the FireWire 800 products mature.

Like you and everyone else, I'm dying to find out how fast the built-in FireWire 800 goes on the new 17" PowerBook.

I'm told by someone who writes drivers for hard drives that READ speed is the more critical than WRITE speed. If you accept that premise, you'll be very pleased with the new FireWire 800 products from WiebeTech and others.

The FireWire 800 bridgeboard by WiebeTech uses the Oxford Semiconductor OXUF922 firewire bridge, which is likely to become the next standard for 800mbit storage enclosures, just as the OXFW911 has been the prevailing market standard for 1394a. The "922" is currently the only bridge available in production volumes.

You'll want to use an ATA-6 drive like the IBM 180GXP to get the most out of FireWire 800. When I tested the ATA-5 drives (like the 120GXP), the gain provided by FireWire 800 was less dramatic.



Test "mule" was a G4/1000MP Power Mac (SDRAM) running OS X (10.2.3) and latest beta FireWire 800 FireWire drivers from Apple.

The FireWire 800 hardware included a "caseless" WiebeTech FireWire 800 bridge board (pulling power off the Power Mac), a WiebeTech FireWire 800 PCI controller card, and a FireWire 800 9pin to 9pin cable. Though these products aren't shipping as of this posting, they were "production compliant prototypes."

The ATA-133 card used was the Sonnet Tempo ATA-133 PCI controller.

The test drive used was an IBM Deskstar 180GXP (186GB, 7200rpm, 8MB buffer).


QuickBench X (version 2) was used to measure Random Read/Write (1M blocks) as well as Sustained Read/Write with 100MB blocks.

REAL WORLD TESTS included...

1. Duplicating a 457MB document on the test drive, forcing it to read and write to itself, simultaneously.

2. Rotating a 45MB document in Adobe Photoshop 7 with application size set to 41MB... thereby creating a low memory condition and forcing Photoshop to write to the scratch disk.

3. Playing back all frames of a 177MB five second QuickTime movie file.



Apple Knowledge Base: FireWire 800 Technology Brief

MacNN's MacWorld SF '03 FireWire 800 Product Roundup

FireWire Networking Without Extra Hardware or Software or try UniBrain's FireNet product.


© 2003 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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(Bare Feats is hosted on a G4 Power Mac server by MacDock.com)