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REVIEW:
LaCie 4 Port PCIe SATA adapter
with Two Big and Biggest enclosures

Posted February 9th, 2007, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
March 19th, 2007 - correction on Two Big -- drives are removable, sort of.

LaCie's four port SATA II 3Gbits/s PCI-Express Card 4E host adapter is based on the Silicon Image 3124 chipset. This 8 lane card enables Mac Pro and Quad-Core G5 users to make maximum use of the 3Gbit/s bandwidth per data channel. It's a perfect companion to the five bay LaCie S2S enclosure (and other Port Multiplier enclosures). It can also be used with various other SATA enclosures. Of course, it must be pointed out that a Port Multiplier enclosures' actual speed has a practical limit of 235MB/s.

Though the 4E is priced at $249, keep in mind that lower priced 2 port PCIe SATA host adapters are typically single lane cards and transfer data to multi-bay PM enclosures at half the speeds of the 4 port models.

LaCie also makes a PCI-X version of the 4E for those of you with G5 Power Macs with PCI-X slots.

We used the PCIe 4E host adapter in conjunction with LaCie's new Two Big dual disk HW RAID enclosure which can be configured using a switch to run in FAST (RAID 0), SAFE (RAID 1), JBOD (just a bunch of disks), and BIG (concatenation) modes. Our test unit was equipped with two Seagate 7200.10 500GB drives which configured in FAST (RAID 0) mode.

The Two Big comes with an external power supply (less heat near the drives) and features a quiet cooling fan to insure that the drives run cool.

If you unscrew the back plate, you can remove the drives and replace one or both of them. It's not quite the same as having levered trays but they are easier to get to than some "non-tray" enclosures.

We also tested the PCIe 4E host adapter with the LaCie Biggest S2S five bay PM enclosure. PM or Port Multiplication enables one SATA 3G port to transfer data to/from all five drives in the enclosure. Though the "empty" write speed (in our tests) peaked at 213MB/s, the fact that we had five drives capable of a combined speed of over 300MB/s, we were still cranking along at that same speed when we "filled" the volume.

What does that mean? It means you can capture and playback uncompressed HD video beyond the typical 167MB/s target speed no matter how much data you have stored on the RAID volume.

Though the S2S comes with drives already installed (up to 2.5TB), we received permission to remove them and replace them with five Seagate Barracuda 750GB drives to form a 3.75TB RAID volume (or 3.4GB formatted). Eeehah.

We used DiskTester to sample the large block transfer speeds of the two enclosures at the "start" (empty) and "end" (90% full).

CONCLUSION
LaCie's
SATA II 3Gbits/s PCI-Express Card 4E host adapter enables the Mac Pro and Quad-Core G5 Power Mac users to tap the full potential of their external SATA storage units.

The Two Big dual disk SATA RAID enclosure is another example of LaCie's well designed, attractive enclosures.


MEET THE COMPETITION
Examples of competing 4 port SATA 3G PCI-Express host adapters:
CalDigit offers the FASTA-4e (similar in looks to the LaCie's card and based on the same chipset).
Sonnet Technology offers the Tempo SATA E4P.

Examples of competing two bay eSATA enclosures:
Wiebetech's dual bay SilverSATA enclosure which does RAID 0 or 1 in the box. It is set up using an LCD panel and buttons on the enclosure. It also has an internal power supply.
CalDigit's S2VR Duo. You can stripe the two drives at the box level (true hardware RAID). The configuration is controlled via the CalDigit S2VR Manager. You can configure the enclosure to be JBOD, RAID 0 ("Performance") or RAID 1 ("Protected").
FirmTek's SeriTek/2EN2 is a standard two bay enclosure. Though it supports only software RAID, the write speeds are much higher than the others due to the fact that a data channel is dedicated to each drive.

Examples of competing five bay Port Multiplication enclosures:
Sonnet Technology offers the Fusion 500P.
Wiebetech offers the SilverSATA V.
CalDigit offers the S2VR HD.


Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY LACIE SATA PRODUCTS
You can order LaCie products directly from their online store or purchase them from various resellers including Small Dog and Other World Computing.

"Bare" SATA hard drives for your Mac can be purchased from the following Mac friendly sources:

MacGurus

Other World Computing

Small Dog Electronics

Trans International

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2007 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist