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Please recommend a RAID controller card...

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a b G Storage
September 24, 2007 2:56:44 AM

I plan on building a new HTPC next year with a RAID 1 setup using two 1TB hard drives. Although the motherboard I'm gonna stick in it is RAID capable (MSI 975X Platinum), I want a dedicated controller card for better read/write performance.

For about $150 - $175 (I wouldn't mind spending less though), which controller card(s) provides the best performance? Also, will that card be able to support two RAID 1 array? I don't want to do RAID 0+1, 1+0 or 10 when I decide to add another pair of 1TB drives.

Thanx
September 24, 2007 4:54:45 AM

I believe your best option would be to stick with the motherboard RAID in this instance, as with a RAID-1 with 2 drives i dont think you would notice the improvment with a dedicated card. Although if you have your mind set on one i will give you some options.

Highpoint Rocket Raid 4 port PCI-E SATA II Controller Card RAID 0/1/5/10 JBOD $149.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816115027
a little cheap and nasty but it will get the job done. i believe this card is software.

Adaptec 4 port PCI-E RAID levels 0, 1, 1E, 5, 5EE, 6, 10, 50, 60, JBOD 50 60 $359.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816103085
A bit over the top maybe but hardware with XOR processor and onboard RAM

Promise 4 port PCI-E RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD $319
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816102089&Tpk=EX4350
Maybe over the top again but proper hardware with XOR and onboard RAM

Promise 4 Port PCI RAID 0/1/5/10 JBOD $129.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816102080
Hardware on PCI with less fetures

Adaptec 4 Port PCI RAID 0/1/5/10 JBOD $224.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816103034
A little less featured but closer to your mark. Still Quality controller.

Adaptec 4 port PCI-E RAID 0/1/10 JBOD $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816103058&Tpk=1430SA
Cheap entry level.

Stick with a known brand. Adaptec, Promise, 3ware and Areca.. Highpoint is meant to be ok also.
a b G Storage
September 24, 2007 5:18:19 AM

Based on some preliminary research dedicated cards generally offers better performance than an integrated solution especially if it is a PCI-e controller card.

Unfortunately, so far I haven't seen any benchmarks so it's kinda like going into unknown territory without a map. I prefer a dedicated card 'cause the integrated solution is software based and not as reliable as a hardware solution.

I suppose I could use the onboard raid controller first and then drop in a dedicated card later and compare the performance difference. But I prefer not to do that since the initialization protocols may not be the compatible, thus I would need to rebuild the RAID 1 array. Not too much of a big deal since it would only take time. However, were I to have a RAID 0, RAID 5, etc then that would be a problem since incompatible initialization protocols would mean a loss of data.

Oh well, I have time for more researching since I'm not going to build a new HTPC until Penryn is released.
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September 24, 2007 10:04:54 PM

Not so fast! Dedicated controllers are very nice but, (and this is a big but) you are better served building a system around them, especially higher end cards. This will save you hours and days of frustration by going to the manufacturer's web site and looking at the controller's compatibility list for both motherboards and hard drives. To make sure you look before you leap.
a b G Storage
September 25, 2007 1:17:05 AM

Yes, yes I know. I as I stated before I am not going to buy one until Penryn comes out next year.

I'm not one to blindly purchase hardware. I spent 3 month researching PSUs before I decided on the Seasonic S12 500 a couple of years ago, and 8 month rearching LCD monitors before finally deciding on purchasing either the Planar PX2611w or the NEC LCD2690WUXi-BK (both 26" LCDs).
September 25, 2007 2:58:54 AM

Just to let you know... Ive actually go a 2Tb RAID 5 running beautifully at home atm, after a bit of research i also did as mscog suggested and built the system around the raid controller.

Adaptec 3805 (8 port PCI-e 4x)
Asus P5K-E/Wifi
Q6600
Patriot 2x1gb 1066Mhz
5x500Gb SATAII WD
7300gs (just to get a picture)

This runs on Windows Server 2003 Standard 64bit as a file server. WSUS server and mega bittorrent d/ling box.
a b G Storage
September 25, 2007 3:19:29 AM

Well, my build is going to have to be very specific. The controller card has to be compatible with the MSI 975X Platinum v2 mobo because when I upgrade my current PC to Penryn I will move that mobo into a new HTPC case.

On top of that it will need to be compatible with the new Samsung Spinpoint F 1TB hard drives that are yet to be released. They will use the new 334GB platters.
September 26, 2007 5:19:49 AM

If you buy a decent controller... which by the looks is what your gunna need. They will have BIOS updates that will make the newer drives compatible, even if they arent to start with these BIOS updates will resolve that.

As for being compatible with Motherboards i didnt know of any that had issues like this. As long as the board supports the correct slot that the controller goes in you should be ok
a b G Storage
September 26, 2007 6:46:03 AM

For the moment the Promise controller for $319 and the Adaptec controller for $225 seems to be good starting point. They cost a bit more than I originally budgeted, but my current build is several hundred dollars over the original build cost so what's a couple of hundred more?

The new Samsung Spinpoint drives are slated to be released in late October. I don't expect to build the HTPC until February 2008 which is when I think Penryn will be released. Hopefully by then updated BIOSes will be released to support the new Samsungs.

If not then I can use the integrated RAID controller and buy a dedicated RAID card later once the new drives are supported. I figure the worse thing that can happen is that Intel's ICH7's RAID initialization protocols will be incompatible with whichever RAID card I decide to go with. Therefore, the RAID 1 array will have to be rebuilt which is not a big deal since only two drives will be involved initially.
October 3, 2007 12:13:35 AM

Keep in mind that if you go with the integrated card now and upgrade later to a dedicated one -- you will have to rebuild your array. This means backing up that 1TB of data someplace while you install the new controller.

Its probably a better idea to just buy the dedicated controller from the start.
a b G Storage
October 3, 2007 1:32:14 AM

Since it is just a RAID 1 array, I will not loss any data. I will just lose time to rebuild the array in the worse case scenario.

Using the integrated RAID controller is the last resort. By doing my research this early I should be able to find a suitable dedicated RAID card that fits my budget by the time I am ready to build my HTPC.
October 3, 2007 2:42:30 AM

A simple raid1 card will only give you about 50-70 MB/sec in terms of write speed. This is usually good enough for a HTPC. A typical HDTV stream is usually less than 9Gb/hr or less than 3 MB/sec. Even recording 4 HD streams should be well within the capabilties of just about any setup.

The real question is what are you planning to do with you HTPC and what OS/software you are planning to run. This would affect your card choice and performance requirements...


http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/07/02/raid_scaling_charts/page10.html#write_transfer_rates
a b G Storage
October 3, 2007 3:15:55 AM

I will be using Win XP Pro or Vista Home Ultimate; not sure when I will be upgrading to Vista.

The HTPC will generally be used to record TV programs, play back movie and music.

I will be encoding my DVD using H.264 when I upgrade my current rig to Penryn next year. Therefore, I be transferring several GBs at a time between my primary PC and HTPC via a gigabit connection.

I also intend on encoding my music to FLAC and then transferring them to the HTPC as well. But audio files will not be a large a video files, naturally.
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