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FirmTek's eSATA Host Adapters
and Dual Bay Enclosure
for Mac Pro and MacBook Pro

Posted December 13th, 2006, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

FirmTek has fine tuned their drivers and enclosures for the new Intel Macs. We tested the two bay SATA enclosure using both the ExpressCard/34 host adapter on our MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo and using the PCI Express host adapter on our Mac Pro. Drives tested included two 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10s, two 500GB Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500s (7H500F0), and two 500GB Hitachi Deskstar T7K500s (3G mode).

Above is a picture of FirmTek's two port ExpressCard/34 (SeriTek/2SM2-E) which pairs up nicely with their dual bay enclosure (SeriTek/2EN2). The drives plug directly into the backplane of all their enclosures with no hidden cables going between the backplane and the external eSATA ports. The enclosure is no larger than it has to be. It can be stacked or mounted on its side.

The trays are made with thin metal with large "breathing"holes, which should enhance the dissipation of heat off the drives as the air is pulled through the enclosure. The same trays are used in the 1EN2 and 2eEN4 enclosures. So if you have more than one FirmTek SATA enclosure or want to upgrade, you can use the existing trays to switch drives around without having to unscrew them from the trays.

They also have a two port PCIe SATA host adapter (SeriTek/2SE2-E) that works on both the Mac Pro and the dual-core G5 Power Macs. Their PCIe SATA host adapter also works under Windows OS when you use Boot Camp to create double boot scenario, as well as on "regular" Windows PCs. The same is true of the ExpressCard adapter (2SM2-E).

At the present time, all Intel based Macs require a driver to be installed, which loads at boot time. Consequently, you *CAN'T* boot OS X from any drive or RAID set connected externally. The main purpose of adding these adapters to your Mac Pro or MacBook Pro is to increase the "slave" storage capacity and/or speed.

The Power Mac versions of FirmTek's PCIe and PCI-X SATA host adapters *CAN* boot OS X -- and industry exclusive. And FirmTek is working on a way to get their Intel Mac adapters to do the same thing.

Sea750 = Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB 7200rpm SATA 3Gbit/s drive(s) (
3.AAE + 2F00 firmware)
Max500 = Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500 500GB 7200rpm SATA 3Gbit/s drive(s)
Hit500 = Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 500GB 7200rpm SATA 3Gbit/s drive(s)

Solo = Single drive; Dual = Two drives striped (RAID 0)

DiskTester 2 = a benchmarking tool by Lloyd Chambers that we use to simulate the larger transfers typical of video capture/playback. We typically use the area test and a 4GB test sample to measure the transfer speeds of the beginning and ending of of the volume.
QuickBench 3 = a benchmarking tool by Intech USA that we use to measure small random transfers. We average five runs at 64K through 1024K size blocks.

Firmtek's SeriTek line of eSATA enclosures are among our favorites because of the compact design, direct drive-to-backplane connection (copied now by the Mac Pro), and super silent cooling fan. And, as their company name implies, their forte is their expertise in custom implementation of the drivers and firmware for their host adapters to produce maximum performance as well as maximum compatibility with Mac systems.

(Email FirmTek Support for a copy of the latest drivers for any SeriTek product. In our testing, we used version 5.2.0.)

As you can see from the graphs, the Seagate 750GB posted the best times in large block sustained transfers but was beaten soundly by the Maxtor 500GB when doing small random reads. (The Maxtor beat the Hitachi drives, too, in random read speed.) Though some pro applications use large sustained transfers, we found out from at least one audio producer that small random transfer speed is important, too. It's also important if you are using a certain model of drive for booting OS X. So unless you really need the 750GB capacity, the "overall performance" award goes to the Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500 (aka DiamondMax 11).

(Seagate engineers assured us they are working to fix the random read issue on the Barracuda 7200.10. Our Seagate drives were marked with firmware version 3.AAE + 2F00.)

Examples of similar 2 tray eSATA enclosures and related adapters include...

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. We haven't tested their host adapters yet but they offer both an ExpressCard/34 host adapter for MacBook Pros and a two port PCIe host adapter for Mac Pros and dual-core G5 Power Macs.

CalDigit's S2VR Duo two bay SATA enclosure has a single port for the two drives called "SuperLane" (aka Port Multiplication at the box level). 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"). CalDigit offers an ExpressCard/34 SATA host adapter (one port) for the MacBook Pro. They offer both two and four port PCIe SATA host adapters for the Mac Pro.

NOTE: We tested RAID 0 at the box level in the Wiebetech and CalDigit two bay eSATA enclosures. The write speeds for large sustained transfers (two drives striped) topped out at 90MB/s (or significantly slower than the software based RAID 0 config used with the FirmTek two bay).

Apple Online Store

You can order FirmTek enclosures and host adapters direct from their online store. (Email FirmTek Support for a copy of the latest drivers for any SeriTek product.)

FirmTek eSATA adapters and enclosures are also available from FWDepot.

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


Other World Computing

Small Dog Electronics

Trans International

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2006 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist