I would like to add a RAID 5 controller card to my workstation, but I'm having trouble finding one that meets the following criteria:
* Hardware based RAID 5, the cpu will be busy doing workstation things and I don't want the drain of a host-based controller.
* At least 4 ports for SATA drives, if it matters drives will be Seagate 1.5TB Barracuda 11's.
* PCI Express format. (x4 or x8, doesn't matter which as my motherboard has an available x16 slot)
* Competitive price, it can't cost more than a new computer.
Can anyone recommend a "value" card that meets my needs? I really can't spend a thousand dollars on a card, if it comes to that I'll just build a dedicated file server.
Well Areca ARC-1210 (4-port) or ARC-1220 (8-port) are decent choices. They have good features and have good (internal) RAID5 performance.
Cheaper would be using Hardware-Assisted controllers, which use your CPU only for the parity calculations, but otherwise process the RAID logic on its own processor. Such a controller is the Highpoint RR23xx series, such as RR2320. Both controllers mentioned have good driver support both for Windows and Linux/BSD.
Aside from this, if you are willing to setup a BSD or OpenSolaris system, you could enjoy using the ZFS filesystem with internal RAID-Z (enhanced RAID-5 with similar security features), using only the onboard chipset SATA connectors. New chipsets deliver 6 SATA ports, but with this kind of software RAID setup, you can easily add a non-RAID controller adding 2 more SATA ports to get total of 8 disks in one RAID5 array; if you wish. This route is cheaper since you don't have the cost of the Hardware RAID controller.