BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

How Fast Is The New Acard ATA-100+ RAID PCI Card?

July 16th, 2001
by rob ART morgan, Bare Feats Mad Scientist

Finally, we now have ATA/100 cards for the Mac. Acard will be showing two models at the New York MacWorld Expo 2001 (booth 2224). I asked to test the Hardware RAID version or what I like to call the "AHARD 100."

I set it up with two IBM 60GXP's (the fastest ATA/100 drives) and switched on the dual drive hardware RAID 0 (striped) mode. I compared it to the ACARD AHARD/66 (a.k.a. Sonnet Tempo RAID 66), dual channel FireWire RAID, and dual channel Ultra160 SCSI RAID (Adaptec 39160 and two Cheetah 15K's).

FIRST 'REAL WORLD' TESTS

 

NOTE: The Photoshop graph is total seconds, not megabytes per second. It shows how long it takes to Rotate a 27MB document when Photoshop is forced to write to its disk cache.

 

Want to see MORE RESULTS?

BENCHMARKS are on PAGE TWO.

 

OBSERVATIONS

The Acard ATA/100+ RAID PCI card is no faster than the ATA/66 version of the same card.

A single ATA/100 drive on an ATA/100 PCI card will NOT go faster than a single ATA/100 drive on an ATA/66 PCI card (or internal ATA/66 interface).

The Ultra160 SCSI setup did NOT smoke the ATA/100 card except on the Photoshop test. And in the "Duplicate Lotz of Documents" test, it was the SLOWEST by far. This is shocking when you consider the Ultra160 setup was using 15,000 rpm Cheetah drives and the Adaptec 39160 controller!

The FireWire setup, though much faster in the last year's "crop," is still slower than Ultra ATA and Ultra160 SCSI.

 

CONCLUSIONS

If you are looking to see a speed increase in a single ATA/100 drive by switching from ATA/66 to ATA/100, you will be disappointed. I believe it is NOT the ATA/100 card's fault. The disk drives just can't go any faster. Unless you can find a single ATA/100 drive that does sustained read/write at over 66MB/sec, upgrading to an ATA/100 card will not buy you any more speed. Even if you create a dual drive array, the ATA/100 has no advantage over ATA/66.

Why then should I buy the ATA/100 PCI card over the cheaper ATA/66 model?
1. Future bandwidth. As newer, faster hard drives are made, you'll be ready to take advantage of the speed.
2. What ATA/100 card makers do claim that the ATA/100 has better firmware code that improves support for Digital Video and older Power Macs. I haven't tested these attributes in this session but when I do, I'll add a comment and/or link to this page.

By the way, I created a hybrid four drive array using both the ATA/100 card and the ATA/66 cards. It was a bit unstable but I saw over 100MB/sec sustained read and write! Now if someone would just do a dual channel version of the ATA/100. Hi ho Silver!

 

TEST NOTES

Chart Name

Description

Ultra160 RAID

Adaptec 39160 controller with dual Seagate Cheetah 18GB 15000 rpm drives and SoftRAID 2.2.2 software to create dual striped array

Ahard 100 RAID

Acard ATA/100+ RAID PCI card with dual 40GB 7200 rpm IBM Deskstar 60GXP drives and switch 2 in up position to create dual striped array

Ahard 66 RAID

Acard AHARD66 PCI card with dual IBM 60gxp 40GB 7200rpm drives and switch 2 in up position to create dual striped array

FireWire RAID

FWDepot PCI controller + built-in FireWire connected to two IBM 60gxp 40GB drives and FWD HD Toolkit 4.5 to create dual striped array

FireWire solo

Built-in FireWire connected to one IBM 60gxp 40GB drive and Apple generic FireWire 2.8.2 driver

Ultra160 solo

Adaptec 39160 controller with single Seagate Cheetah 18GB 15000 rpm drive

Ahard 100 solo

Acard ATA/100+ RAID PCI card with single IBM 60gxp 40GB 7200rpm drive and switch 2 in down position for non RAID

Ahard 66 solo

Acard AHARD66 PCI card with single IBM 60gxp 40GB 7200rpm drive and switch 2 in down position for non RAID

Test "mule": Apple Power Mac Dual G4/533 running Mac OS 9.1. Disk cache was set to 512K. Virtual Memory was OFF, AppleTalk was OFF.

WHERE TO BUY

You should be able to order the Acard ATA/100+ RAID PCI card direct from Acard's web site.

As of 7/18/2001, Sonnet Technology has announced an ATA/100 PCI card but this time it is NOT an Acard with a Sonnet label. This one is based on the Promise ATA/100 card with special Macintosh firmware by FirmTek. It has a utility that optimizes it for digital audio and video.

For other products mentioned in the test, see my HOT DEALS page for sources.

 

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