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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Apple Pro RAID Card
for Nehalem Mac Pro
versus Third Party Alternative

Posted Monday, June 15th, 2009, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The 2009 Apple Pro RAID card for the Nehalem Mac Pro is ingeniously designed to trigger takeover of the four internal drive bays without the use of a mini-SAS cable connection. Cool technology but it effectively locked out the use of third party SAS and SATA host adapters with internal mini-SAS or SATA ports -- until now.

MaxUpgrades has come up with a "bypass" solution that makes it possible to connect third party internal RAID adapters to the internal drive bays. We used it to test three different versions of HighPoint RocketRAID SAS and/or SATA host adapter with both SSDs and SAS HDDs mounted in the internal Mac Pro Nehalem drive bays. MaxUpgrades calls the kit the "SAS/SATA Backplane Attachment." (See bottom of this article for more info and photos.)

We used the DiskTester 2.0 "area test" to measure the transfer speed when the volume was empty and at filled to 90% capacity. (Test size = 4GB, Chunk size = 256M, Iterations = 5)

QB sus read

QB sus write

Note that at 90% capacity, some storage solutions slow down considerably while others remain at the same speed.

QB sus write

QB sus write

QuickBench has a Random Standard Test that uses small blocks (from 4K to 1024K) to measure random transfer rate. We average 5 runs.

QB sus write

QB sus write

DiskTester's "run-random" test measures how many 4K transfers can be made per second in random locations across the whole volume.

QB sus write

QB sus write

LEGEND OF GRAPHS
RED bar indicates fastest performer for a given test
R3510 SSD = HighPoint RocketRAID 3510 in 8x (slot 2) connected to Four OCZ Vertex 120G SSDs (OCZSSD2-1VTX120G) in a RAID 0 set (with the help of the MaxUpgrades Backplane Attachment)
R4320 SAS b = HighPoint RocketRAID 4320 in 8x (Slot 2) connected to Four Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 SAS HDDs (450G) in a RAID 0 set (with the help of the Backplane Attachment)
R4320 SAS a = HighPoint RocketRAID 4320 in 4x (Slot 4) connected to Four Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 SAS HDDs (450G) in a RAID 0 set (with the help of the Backplane Attachment) -- Also ran with three drive set
Apple Pro SAS = 2009 Apple Pro RAID card in 4x (Slot 4) connected to Four Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 SAS HDDs (450G) in a RAID 0 set -- also ran with three drive set
R2680 SAS = HighPoint RocketRAID 2680 in 4x (Slot 4) connected to Four Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 SAS HDDs (450G) in a RAID 0 set (with the help of the Backplane Attachment)

INSIGHTS
1. We were able to demonstrate an inconvenient truth: The Apple Pro RAID card is not as fast as the alternatives. It's not that the 2009 Apple Pro RAID card for the Nehalem Mac Pro isn't a quality crafted host adapter, but for $700 I expect it to exceed 553MB/s with four very fast drives in RAID 0 mode.

All three HighPoint RocketRAID host adapters we tested handled large sustained transfers faster than the Apple Pro RAID card. The Apple Pro RAID card was also beat on small random transfers with the exception of the low end RocketRAID 2680. The RocketRAID 4320 (and sister 4322) is a powerful RAID card. Connected to eight 15K SAS drives in previous tests, it peaked at 1200MB/s.

2. SSDs, as expected, are faster than the 15K SAS HDDs. The Apple Pro RAID card didn't accept the OCZ Vertex SSDs installed in the factory bays. We're not sure why but, again, they would have been limited to 553MB/s max.

3. The Apple Pro RAID card disables write caching (default) until the battery was fully charged (12 hours). The 2009 model now gives you the option to write at full speed while the battery charges. The RocketRAID 4320/4322 has a battery backup option rather than making it standard equipment. If you have a good UPS, you don't need it.

4. The MaxUpgrades "bypass" sleds (aka Backplane Attachment) are a clever workaround to the Nehalem Mac Pro's lack of an internal mini-SAS connector. Without this kit, you only have one choice for internal hardware RAID: the speed limited Apple Pro RAID. The photos below show the custom sleds with the bypass adapter and show how they connect to a third party RAID host adapter.

Not knowing there was a workaround, HighPoint removed the RocketRAID 4320, 3520, 3510, and 2680 from the Mac Pro product list on their website. We're hoping to persuade HighPoint to put them back on the product list now that MaxUpgrades has a solution.

Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY APPLE PRO RAID CARD:
If you order the Apple Pro RAID card, please CLICK THIS LINK and search on "pro raid" using the store search box. It's a great way to support Bare Feats. since we earn a commission on each click-through that results in a sale.

WHERE TO BUY HIGHPOINT ROCKETRAID SAS/SATA HOST ADAPTERS:
Order from Other World Computing. If they don't have it in stock I'm sure they will special order it.

WHERE TO BUY THE MAXUPGRADES BYPASS KIT:
Order the "
SAS/SATA Backplane Attachment" direct from MaxUpgrades.

WHERE TO BUY HARD DRIVES and SOLID STATE DRIVES:

WHERE TO BUY VARIOUS APPLE PRODUCTS:
When you purchase Apple USA products, please CLICK THIS LINK. It's a great way to support Bare Feats. since we earn a commission on each click-through that results in a sale.

DON'T LIVE in the USA? Please use the links below in support of Bare Feats:
Apple Store - Canada
Apple Store - France
Apple Store - Germany
Apple Store - Italy
Apple Store - UK

APPLE RESELLERS

IF YOU NEED MEMORY FOR YOUR MAC PRO, we recommend...

LOOKING FOR ADOBE SOFTWARE?
Order your copy of Adobe Photoshop CS4 (or the Creative Suite CS4) direct from Adobe USA. Or click these links to Adobe France, Adobe Germany, Adobe Sweden, or Adobe UK. (Clicking our links helps us earn a commission.)

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copyright 2009 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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