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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

SHOOTOUT:
HighPoint RocketRAID 2640X4
versus Apple Pro RAID card

Originally posted July 16th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

If the $800 Apple Pro RAID card has you in sticker shock, wait until you measure the performance. It's not a slouch but if you are running in RAID 0 mode with four internal SATA or SAS drives, you may want to consider some third party alternatives. One third party host adapter that got our attention was the "under $200" HighPoint RocketRAID 2640X4. It supports four internal SAS or SATA drives (just like the Apple Pro RAID) as well as card level RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5 (just like the Apple Pro RAID).

TEST SCENARIO
We used the Kona System Test for empty RAID 0 and RAID 5 sets. We used Disktester to simulate a RAID 0 and 5 set that was almost filled (90%) to show how transfer speed slows when near capacity. This second test is what you need to consider when deciding how many drives you need to maintain your target transfer rate no matter how much data you've stored.

GRAPH LEGEND
RR2640 = HighPoint RocketRAID 2640X4
Apple = Apple Pro RAID
SAS = Seagate Barracuda 7K 1TB ES.2 Serial Attached SCSI
SATA = Seagate Barracuda 7K 1TB 7200.11 Serial ATA
R0 = RAID 0 (four drives)
R5 = RAID 5 (four drives)

ANALYSIS and COMMENTS
The HighPoint RocketRAID 2640X4's maximum transfer rate is much higher than the Apple Pro RAID, though the gap shrinks as you fill up the RAID set. The kicker is that the Apple Pro RAID costs 4 times as much ($800 vs $200). We have to say that the RocketRAID 2640X4 sets a new standard for price versus performance.

Another speed advantage is the initialization of RAID 5 arrays. The Apple Pro RAID card took 14 hours to complete initialization. The RocketRAID 2640X4 took a matter of seconds.

Though the RR2640X4 handles both SATA and SAS drives, it does require that you use a mini-SAS to SATA cable adapter (which we obtained from MaxUpgrades).

The RR2640X4 does not offer a battery backup which comes standard on the Apple Pro RAID card.

I think Apple needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a RAID card with bandwidth that supports the speed four SATA or SAS drives are capable of producing. If I'm going to pay $800, I should be able to squeeze out all the speed of my drives.

SAS versus SATA
We purposely used SAS and SATA drives that were comparable mechanically to show that SAS is only slightly faster than SATA, all things being equal.

HOW ABOUT 15K SAS?
We had an opportunity to test two Seagate 15K.6 Cheetah 450GB SAS drives with the RR2640X4. Though we would have loved to have four to test, we can extrapolate that they have the potential of attaining 660 MB/s in a RAID 0 set of four. Again, Apple has work to do to tap the full potential of these new, hot drives with their RAID card -- which currently hits the wall at 320MB/s.

We were able to test four 15K Fujitsu 73GB drives on the RocketRAID 2640X4. They measured 470MB/s+ READ/WRITE when empty. (We have no figures for the Apple Pro RAID card but, once again, 320MB/s is the max you will see.)

Stay tuned for a report on dual drive RAID sets comparing the new Cheetah with the Velociraptor and the fastest 7K SATA and SAS drives. Also, stay tuned for a review of the CalDigit RAID card which supports up to 16 SATA drives.

Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY THE HighPoint ROCKETRAID 2640X4
Check with these Mac aware resellers: Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

See also HighPoint's list of Online Resellers.

WHERE TO BUY THE mini-SAS to SATA cable adapter

MaxUpgrades sells the MaxConnect SAS/SATA link (adapter/extender) that we used. They also sell the MaxConnect kit that enables you to mount up to two drives in the lower optical bay which you can use for boot or scratch drives if you wish to dedicate the four factory sleds of the Mac Pro to the RAID card for data only.

WHERE TO BUY OTHER SAS ADAPTERS and CABLES
PC PitStop has all the SAS cables and adapters you can imagine. We used a particular one to convert an internal SAS host adapter to external. See their decision matrix for SFF-8087, SFF-8088 and SFF-8470.

WHERE TO BUY SATA 3G DRIVES

MacGurus (host adapters, enclosures, drives, cables)

Other World Computing (host adapters, enclosures, drives)

Small Dog Electronics (host adapters, enclosures, drives)

TransIntl (host enclosures, drives, internal mounting kits, host adapters)

NewEgg (bare drives at bargain prices)

WHERE TO BUY A MAC PRO
When ordering products from Apple Store USA, please click THIS TEXT LINK or any Apple display ad as your "portal" to the online store. In so doing, you help to support Bare Feats.

(DON'T LIVE in the USA? See links for Apple online stores in other countries.)

Also check with Small Dog Electronics and Power Max. (Power Max takes trade-ins.)

And visit the site of our newest advertiser, Silverado Systems, who offers the Velociraptor as a CTO option on their custom built Mac Pros.

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster