BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS


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FireWire 800 Optimized


Originally posted 05/30/03 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

These benchmarks further show the advantage the kind of drive used and the number of controllers or channels used with a dual stripe FireWire 800 array:






In the tests featured on these pages, we concentrated on dual drive striped arrays since that's the RAID configuration most of you indicated you will employ. When it comes to optmizing the performance of your new FireWire 800 system, we've learned the following from our testing:

1. The best overall performing drive for FireWire 800 enclosures is the Hitachi-IBM 180GXP drive with 8MB buffer.

2. If you're going to get the most out of your FireWire 800 striped pair (RAID 0), you'll want to give each drive its own channel by dedicating a PCI controller or built-in controller to each drive.

What you really need is a multi-channel FW800 PCI card. Indigita makes it. But it only works in PCI-X slots... like the ones on the new G5 and some Wintel machines.

6/27/03 -- I tested the Indigita FireWire 800 four channel PCI board this week. The test mule was an Xserve and the results were abysmal. (41MB/s with four striped drives.) Indigita assured me, however, that the problem lies with the Intel PCI bridge used in the Xserve. They got the same low numbers in their lab. Apple's answer? It's Intel's fault.

Indigita assures me they got 300MB/s with 8 drives on a Wintel test unit that, by the way, uses a ServerWorks PCI bridge. I will be testing on a Xeon this weekend to see if I get my predicted 200MB/s with 4 drives. Hopefully, when I test on the G5 Power Mac, I will get better performance than experienced on the Xserve. Stay tuned...

3. If you have a "pre-FireWire 800" Power Mac, you won't necessarily give up any speed by using a PCI based FireWire 800 controller for your dual striped array. However, to squeeze out the last bit of umph, connect both cables to the controller instead of daisy chaining them.

If you're only running a single FireWire 800 drive, you'll find that PCI based controllers will typically run about 3MB/s slower on sustained and random write speed. But that's the breaks if you don't have a built-in FireWire 800 controller.

Some strangeness happened when I was switching cables around to come up with different combinations. There were times when the one channel array speed dropped in half. It only happened when I daisy chained to the built-in FireWire 800 port. The PCI connection was consistently fast. Weird. It's almost as if the built-in FireWire 800 controller got confused and decided to run as a FireWire 400 port. If I can duplicate the phenomenon consistently, I'll post additional analysis.




All the currently shipping FireWire 800 products are based on the Oxford 922 chip set. Read more about their bridge chip and bridge board at Oxford's website.

XLR8YourMac has also tested FireWire 800 products.

Check out Bare Feats' articles on FireWire 800 vs USB 2.0 vs Ultra ATA vs Ultra SCSI, FireWire 800 two, three, and four drive RAID, and multi-brand FireWire 800 enclosure shootout.

Storage Technology tested the newest Hitachi-IBM, Maxtor, Seagate, and Western Digital Ultra ATA drives. Although they test on Windows systems using Ultra ATA controllers, the results are instructive, since those are the Hitachi-IBM and Western Digital drives are being shipped in the new FireWire 800 case kits from OWC and LaCie. Be aware that putting the same drives in FireWire 800 cases may produce a different results from Ultra ATA controllers. In my tests, the Hitachi-IBM drive out performed the Western Digital drive.



The test computer was our trusty Apple Power Mac G4/1.42GHz Power Mac running OS X (10.2.6).

The Other World Computing Mercury Elite FireWire 800 Enclosure was used for the Hitachi-IBM 180GXP striped pair. OWC provided the FireWire 800 PCI controller card that ran with their enclosures. Those items can be ordered from OWC directly.

The FWDepot IceCube800 case kits were used for both the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 and Hitachi-IBM 120GXP striped pair. FWDepot provided the FireWire 800 PCI controller card than ran with their case kits. Order from FWDepot directly.

The LaCie drive kits came with the WD2000BB drives installed at the factory, so they were used for the WD2000BB striped pair. LaCie also provided their own FireWire 800 PCI card with 3 external ports. Order from LaCie's online store directly or order through Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

Bare Ultra ATA drives for your empty case kits are available from Check also with

SEE "HOW WE TEST" for details on the tests reflected in the graphs.



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