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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

Sonnet Technologies
Tango Express 800 PCIe Card

Originally posted November 16th, 2007, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Apple continues to produce Macs with FireWire 800 ports, but they always share the same single data channel/controller with the FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 ports. Why is that an issue? For one thing, we've experienced some strange slowdowns in FireWire 800 devices when FireWire 400 devices are added to the mix. And they continue to run slowly until you disconnect the FireWire 400 device and Restart the Mac Pro.

Since Apple appears unwilling or unable to put FireWire 800 on a separate controller and/or data channel, we (and many readers) have been hoping some third party would offer a FireWire 800 PCIe card for the Mac Pro.

Our encounter a year ago with the first attempt by a third party PCIe FireWire 800 host adapter was disappointing. The write speed topped out at 25MB/s. The company rep blamed it on the Texas Instruments chip. Sonnet Technology has obviously found a way to break through the write speed barrier even though they are also using a TI chip. We present to you test results from the Tango Express 800 PCIe host adapter featuring two FireWire 800 ports and two USB 2.0 ports.

Two Channel = dual drive software RAID 0 with one drive connected to internal FW800 port and one connected to the Tango Express 800 PCIe host adapter
Two Built-in = dual drive software RAID 0 with both drives daisychained to built-in FW800 port
Two Tango = dual drive software RAID 0 with each drive plugged into one of the two FW800 ports of the Tango Express 800 PCIe host adapter
One Built-in = one drive connected to the Mac Pro's built-in FW800 port
One Tango = one drive connected to the Tango Express 800 PCIe host adapter

Both drives tested were WD Raptor 150GB 10K SATA drives in FW800 enclosures.
The Tango Express 800 PCIe host adapter was installed in an 8-core Mac Pro running OS X Leopard 10.5.
QuickBench 4.0 is a benchmarking tool included in the SpeedTools Utilities

1. It provides a second FireWire 800 data channel.
As you can see from the graphs, by connecting one drive to the Tango Express 800 and one to the Mac Pro's built-in FW800 port, our two drive RAID 0 array almost doubled in read speed compared to daisy chaining them on one built-in port. That illustrates the "power" of multiple channels feeding FireWire 800 RAID systems.

If you are capturing SD video from a videocam and storing it on a FW800 storage device, it helps to have each device on a different data channel. The Tango Express 800 gives your Mac Pro that second channel.

2. It works with bus powered storage. We connected the LaCie Big Little Disk (two notebook drives in single enclosure set to HW RAID 0) to the Tango Express 800. It mounted and ran very well without the need of a power supply. In the past, FW800 PCI and PCIe host adapters did NOT supply bus power to connected devices.

3. Your Mac Pro can still sleep. If you are running Leopard, the Tango Expres 800 will still allow the Mac Pro to go into Sleep mode. In the past, FireWire 800 PCI cards prevented the Mac towers from going into Sleep mode. It is suspiciously OS related since we still can't get the Mac Pro to Sleep when running Tiger with the Tango Express 800 is installed.

1. The write speed is still below that of the built-in FireWire 800 port.

2. How about a four lane or eight lane FireWire 800 PCIe card with two or four data channels?

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