BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS


Small Dog is giving away a G4 PowerBook has refurbished towers, laptops, displays, etc., with 12 month warranty.


Dual G5 +

4 Channel FW800 PCI-X Card

= "Nirvana"?

Originally posted 10/14/03 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

It was a reader who tipped me off to the existence of the 4 Channel FireWire 800 PCI controller from Indigita back in May, 2003. I've long been a fan of multi-channel FireWire RAID. This sounded too good to be true!

The first time I tried to test the card, I found out it wouldn't plug into a G4 Power Mac's 33MHz 64 bit PCI slot. It was made for PCI-X 66/100/133MHz PCI slots, like those found on the Xserve and many high end Windows PCs (like the Dual Xeon).

I tested it on an Xserve. Abysmal results. Indigita claimed the PCI-X controller chip on the Xserve is at fault, not the card. Bummer.

When I heard the G5s had PCI-X slots, I was pumped up again. When we took delivery of our Dual G5 in the lab, within 24 hours, I had tested the Indigita QuickFire in it. More bad news, as you will witness below. For perspective, I've posted results from the Dual 2.4GHz Xeon running the same card in its 100MHz PCI-X slot. I also included the results for a "roll your own" dual channel setup by using a FWDepot FW800 PCI card in tandem with the built-in G5 FW800 controller (labeled as "1+1" in the graphs).





"If it's too good to be true, it usually is."

The Indigita QuickFire idt800pci (with the current firmware) has some bizarre "bottlenecking" issues when all four channels are used to drive a 4 drive striped array (RAID 0). That applies to both the G5 and Dual Xeon, but the G5 is worse.

It made no difference what PCI-X slot I used in the G5. By the way, no other PCI cards were present, so we can't blame them.

The QuickFire does better when only 2 channels are used, but why would I want to pay $500 for a 4 channel FW800 controller and only use 2 channels? Why do that when I can pay as little as $50 for a single channel FW800 card to create a 2 channel RAID in concert with the G5's built-in FW800 controller.

There's a slim chance that if someone tweaked the firmware code, the QuickFire would "fire" more quickly (pun intentional). I say "slim" because I received this response from Indigita two days after testing the G5:

"The bridge in the G5 doesn't 'like' other bridges. We realize the performance is lacking now. We were told this would improve on the G5 but it has not, as you have seen. We are trying to work on getting a new driver but it does not exist at this time. The focus of our company is now in a different direction and we still have not gone into production of the QuikFire board... it may be best that you don't recommend this board to your readers at this time. If and when we go into production and we have the driver issues worked out I will let you know..."

There have been other attempts to create 2, 3, and 4 channel FireWire controllers by veru capable engineers. So far, the results have been disappointing and frustrating. I have had much better success with using multiple single channel cards.

BOTTOM LINE: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE INDIGITA QUICKFIRE 4 CHANNEL FW800 PCI-X CARD in its present form. If an improved version is released in the near (or far) future, we'll be the first to try it again and update this recommendation.








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© 2003 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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