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EARLY RESULTS:
FWDepot's Cardbus SATA Adapter

Posted September 20th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Up until now, the fastest external storage for PowerBooks was FireWire 800. FWDepot is now offering a faster alternative. You now have a way to connect those fast, high capacity Serial ATA drives to your G4 PowerBook using their soon to be shipping 2 Port Serial ATA Cardbus PC Card.

We used QuickBench to get a quick hack of things. We tested a Maxtor DiamondMax 100 PATA drive using the three built-in interfaces (FW400, FW800, USB2) and compared those results to a Maxtor DiamondMax 10 SATA drive using the FWDepot SATA Cardbus interface.

ANALYSIS
Knowing Cardbus is 32 bit and 33MHz, I was skeptical. But I am impressed at the performance of a single SATA drive using the
2 Port Serial ATA Cardbus PC Card on our lab's G4 PowerBook. And the price is right at $59.

MORE WORK TO DO
Our pre-production version had a two shortcomings:
1. When we mounted two independent drives, and both drives were busy, the write speed dropped way down. We tested this by starting a QuickBench run on one while duplicating a large file on the other. When the Duplicate began, the QuickBench sustained write speed dropped from 70+MB/s to 18MB/s.

In a striped RAID 0, the sustained WRITE speed was only 32MB/s. We were expecting 100+.

Hopefully this can be addressed by tweaking the driver and is not due to bus contention. In the meantime, if you buy this card, plan on using it with only one drive for the time being.

2. The Cardbus SATA PC card doesn't support HOT-SWAP. That's an important feature since most users don't want to Restart their PowerBook just to mount an external drive. FireWire has spoiled us to expect external drives to mount on the fly.

NOTE: As of November 2nd, 2005, the hot-swap feature is functioning A-OK. So check that off the "oops" list.

Keep in mind that we were using a beta driver, so hopefully these limitations aren't necessarily permanent. Even in its current form, I want one these cards in my PowerBook "tool" bag.

OTHER FASCINATING PRODUCTS FROM FWDEPOT
Various SATA enclosures

Hardware RAID enclosure with clustering

FireWire 800 CardBus PC Card

FireWire 800 Optical Repeaters

Coming soon to FWDepot: notebook size SATA enclosures -- perfect for those new 160GB 2.5" SATA drives from Fujitsu.

CONVERT YOUR PARALLEL ATA-100 DRIVE TO SERIAL ATA
Did you know you can take a Parallel ATA (aka IDE) drive and connect it to a Serial ATA interface? Our fastest PATA drives were not doing sustained WRITES at their full potential when we had them in a FireWire 400/800 enclosure. By moving them to a PATA to SATA enclosure and connecting them to a SATA PCI host adapter (or the FWDepot Cardbus SATA), we saw a big increase in sustained WRITE speed. We stumbled upon the PPA "Metal Gear Box" PATA to SATA enclosure at the local Frys Electronics, but it's also sold by NewEgg for $41.

TEST HARDWARE
Testing was done with an Apple G4/1.5GHz PowerBook (2GB of RAM, Toshiba 80GB 5400rpm 2.5" boot drive, Mac OS X Panther 10.3.9.)

The SATA version of the Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB (16MB cache) drive installed in a FirmTek SeriTek/1EN2 enclosure and connected to the PowerBook via the 2 Port Serial ATA Cardbus PC Card.

The PATA version of the Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB (16MB cache) drive was installed in a Wiebetech Super DriveDock+. We tested it using the FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and USB 2.0 port of the PowerBook.

WHERE TO BUY SERIAL ATA PRODUCTS FOR YOUR POWERBOOK

FirmTek (enclosures, and cables)

Granite Digital (enclosures and cables)

Kano Technologies (enclosures)
Use "BAREFEATS" coupon code to get 10% off the X-SPAND or 5% off everything else

MacGurus (enclosures, bare drives, coolers, PATA to SATA converters)

MaxUpgrades (internal drive kits for G5)

Other World Computing (enclosures, bare drives, and host adapters)

Small Dog Electronics (enclosures and host adapters)

TransIntl.com (enclosures, bare drives, and host adapters)

Wiebetech (enclosures and host adapters)

LaCie (enclosures and host adapters)

Sonnet Technology (host adapters, enclosures, and cables)

FWDepot (host adapters, enclosures)

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist