The Halloween Release of 1.39 Firmware Makes
Acard AHARD RAID 66 card
a "demon" of an ATA controller.

Posted 11/3/2000

(FLASH: Since posting this page, Sonnet Technologies has announced they will offer this product under a joint venture with Acard. They call it the Tempo RAID66 and offer in-depth documentation and installation guide. )
© 2000 Rob Art Morgan, publisher of BARE FEATS
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the SUSTAINED WRITE speed of the AHARD with the new 1.39 firmware. So I excitedly reran all my "real world" speed tests using both a dual drive/single card configuration and a quad drive/dual card configuration. Here are the numbers along with a comparison to two Ultra160 SCSI arrays.

The idea is to get a large Photoshop document (27MB) and edit it with minimal Photoshop app size (23MB). This forces Photoshop to pound away on the Scratch Disk as virtual memory. I specified each test drive as the Scratch Disk using Photoshop Preferences. Then quit and relaunched.

(The "No Scratch Disk" entry is a test run with Photoshop Application Size of 223MB instead of 23MB in all the other cases. It shows why nothing beats gobs of RAM when it comes to optimizing Photoshop performance! See my SPEED TIPS AND TRICKS page for more suggestions on optimizing Photoshop performance.)


I duplicate 3 copies of the 27MB Photoshop document at the same time. It forces the drive to read and write to itself simultaneously. The result is expressed in megabytes per second. (Note that real world data transfers produce significantly slower transfer rates than benchmarks like ExpressPro Tools or SpeedBench. )


One reader wrote, "Try duplicating a bunch of smaller files. That will show how SCSI drives are superior to IDE drives." Okay. Lets see if that's true...

So much for that theory.


This is a relatively new test where I play all frames of a 5.5 second, full screen, uncompressed QuickTime movie (176.7MB document). None of the drive arrays could play it in "real time" (32MB/sec) but the comparative results are very interesting.


Since many readers enjoy seeing the ATTO ExpressPRO Tools sustained READ/WRITE results, I'm posting. They represent the maximum in potential sustained performance.



These are exciting times for Macintosh "speed freaks." Think about it. An Ultra ATA card with a striped pair of Ultra ATA/66+ IBM 75GXP drives that rivals the performance of the SCSI Ultra 160 Cheetah 15K RAID! If you can spare the two PCI ports, how about an array of four (4) Ultra ATA drives and dual (2) controllers that matches the speed of the dual Cheetah 15K array at a half the cost!

The makers of these cards are just getting warmed up. I expect to see ATA/100 cards (hopefully dual channel) for the Mac within 6 to 12 months that will squeeze even more speed out of the fast, quiet IBM 75GXP's (or the faster ones to follow). Couple that with the low noise, low heat, low power requirements, and low cost of ATA hardware and you have a bonanza for you, the consumer.

For all the sneering and sniveling by those who think that all other drives stink but SCSI drives, my test results show that the bargain priced Ultra ATA arrays and controllers can "run with the big dogs."

This test was conducted on a G4 Sawtooth. You can expect similar results on a Yosemite and the Beige G3's (assuming you use fast controllers like the Ultra160 and Ultra ATA/66 models I used).

The early PCI Power Macs like the 7500 or 9600 will run SCSI and ATA drives significantly slower. (Want to see comparison tests? Take a look at THIS and THIS.) I've read that some readers have experienced dropping of video frames or losing of audio sync when trying to use Ultra ATA drives with their "legacy" Power Mac. Before you panic and return the drives, make sure you read Apple's Tech Note on the "16 Most Likely Causes of Frame Dropping." Of the 16, only 2 are drive related!



AHARD RAID 66 creates a striped array at the flip of a micro switch and is available direct from for $199. Since posting this page, Sonnet Technologies has announced they will offer this product under a joint venture with Acard. They call it the Tempo RAID66 and offer in-depth documentation and installation guide.

The UltraTek/66 is available from SmartDisk/VST Technology direct for a special price of $170. But Buy.Com has it for $155. It's also listed on Check also with Other World Computing and Small Dog. I think the UltraTek/66 is a great value because the price includes a copy of SoftRAID (worth $150) and dual cables. It's like you're buying SoftRAID and getting the card for FREE!! Use SoftRAID to create a striped array using two or more drives.

The IBM 75GXP Ultra ATA/66+ drives used are available in sizes up to 75GB's from Other World Computing ,, and at reasonable prices. These are the fastest Ultra ATA drives you can buy. Yes. Faster than the fastest Maxtors.

The PCI controller I used on all Ultra160 drives was the Adaptec 39160 Power Domain ($455). Although not included in the charts, I also tested the ATTO ExpressPCI Dual-Channel Ultra3 card ($550). The write speed of the ATTO was 20% slower. Both Ultra160 controllers are available from Other World Computing and MacGurus.

The Seagate Ultra160 Cheetah 15K (18GB) is available for as little as $450 at your favorite "e-seller." Ditto for the Seagate Ultra160 Barracudas. Try going to Buy.Com or and do a search on "cheetah" or "barracuda." Or visit MacGurus since they ship free in the continental U.S. if you mention Bare Feats. Try also OWC.

If you are really stuck on Ultra160 SCSI but don't want to spend an arm and a leg, you can get a 9GB Quantum Atlas V ($200) and the Initio Miles Ultra2 card ($200). Believe it or not, I got very decent performance for this configuration. When I used the Miles Ultra2 to create a striped array, it measured sustained reads at 64MB/sec and sustained writes at 53MB/sec.



The TEST machine: An Apple G4/400 Sawtooth with MacSelect G4/500 daughtercard upgrade and 512MB of "222" PC-100 memory. Mac OS 9.04, VM off, ATALK off, clock display off, minimal extensions.

The Ultra SCSI controllers:
Adaptec 39160 Power Domain (courtesy of Adaptec)

The Ultra160 SCSI drives:
Seagate Cheetah 15K ST318451LW - (courtesy of Seagate Technology )
Quantum Atlas V's - (courtesy of Other World Computing who sells them at bargain prices.)

The Ultra ATA controller:
UltraTek/66 Includes two cables and SoftRAID. (Courtesy of SmartDisk/VST)
AHARD RAID 66 (Courtesy of Acard ) which turns any pair of IDE drives formatted by Apple's driver into a striped array with a flip of the switch and reboot. Switch settings can be used to do mirroring or standard HFS. For the 4 drive array, I used two cards. Each had a pair of drives striped via hardware. Then I used SoftRAID to stripe the two pairs. Since posting this page, Sonnet Technologies has announced they will offer this product under a joint venture with Acard. They call it the Tempo RAID66 and offer in-depth documentation and installation guide.

The Ultra ATA drives were:
IBM Deskstar 75GXP 45GB 7200 RPM Ultra ATA/66+ with 2MB cache.

This is a new one suggested by Charles McConathy, President of
ProMAX, home of the TurboMAX. The idea is to get a very large Photoshop document (27MB) and edit it with minimal Photoshop app size (23MB). This forces Photoshop to bang away at the Scratch Disk as virtual memory. You define the Scratch Disk using Preferences in Photoshop. You have to quit and re-launch for the change to take effect.

For the DUPLICATE THREE BIG DOCS test, I copied a 27MB
Adobe Photoshop document onto each drive and made three copies. Then I timed how long it took to duplicate the THREE copies of the photo (81MB total) on the same drive. That's a simultaneous read/write of 3 large files.

For the DUPLICATE 265 DOCUMENTS, I copied the Unreal Tournament 425a folder (101MB) onto the drive and duplicated it. The "megabytes per second" was calculated using the formula M=size/time * 2.

Thanks to a reader named Alex, I was able to use a 5.5 second segment of a full screen, uncompressed QuickTime movie he created. I set it to play all frames as fast as possible. Using a stopwatch, the playback is timed to the nearest tenth of a second. Since I know the exact size of the document, I calculated the "megs per second" playback rate.

The ATTO disk benchmark was run using
Express-Pro Tools 2.3.2 benchmark test with 8MB maximum file size and system disk cache disabled. Sustained Rate is displayed in the charts. Peak rates can be impressive but do not reflect typical drive performance.


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© 2000 Rob Art Morgan, publisher of BARE FEATS
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