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SATA 3 Very Disappointing

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  • SATA
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  • Storage
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August 5, 2011 2:35:41 PM

Can someone explain what is wrong and how to fix my issue?

Background: I recently upgraded my PC from a fairly fast 2 year old system. I'll leave model numbers out of this post to keep it simple. My old computer has:

- Asus Motherboard
- 4 GB Corsair RAM
- Core 2 Quad proc
- LSI Logic 8-port SATA 2 controller (PCIx)
- Pair of Seagate 1.5 TB SATA 2 HDD
- Win 7 ultimate 32-bit
- highest model sound and graphics card (2 years ago)

My new computer has:


- Asus Motherboard (z68 chipset). Has onboard SATA 3 support. 
- 16 GB Corsair RAM
- Core i7 3.4 GB proc (socket 1155)
- Pair of Seagate 2 TB SATA 3 HDD
- Win 7 ultimate 64-bit
- Highest model Creative Labs sound and AMD graphics card (Present day)

Both computers have a RAID 1 array. After booting my new computer, I was under-impressed with the speed. It seemed no faster than my old computer. I then noticed the Windows experience assigned 5.9 to data transfer (old computer was 6.0). I then measured both computers with SiSoft Sandra. The new computer blew away the old in all categories except data transfer. 

- Old computer (SATA 2): 122 MB/s average
- New computer (SATA 3):  43 MB/s average
- I later tried a pair of WD SATA 3 drives and SiSoft measured them at 119 MB/s. 

I realize the HDD mechanics will slow down data transfer, but it should be a factor across all drives. IMO, SATA 3 should be faster; one of the drives specs is 138 MB/s sustained transfer rate. Everything is verified as configured properly (drive type, cables, SATA 3 ports, driver,etc), so why is SATA 3 slower than SATA 2?  Further, why does Seagate measure 64% slower than WD? How do I fix this issue?  

Thanks in advance.

More about : sata disappointing

a c 324 G Storage
August 5, 2011 4:22:27 PM

Very short answer: Since the drives cannot saturate the SATA II interface, you would expect to gain nothing by attaching them to SATA III ports. My bicycle isn't going to go any faster in a 65 MPH zone than in a 55 MPH zone, although my Ferrari will.

As to the other, I can't explain your very, very strange results. You might look at your controller settings (IDE vs AHCI), and try benching a single drive to see if it's a drive problem or a RAID problem.
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August 5, 2011 8:44:39 PM

To be clear, my RAID 1 controller is the Intel Z68 chipset. both drives I tried, WD and Seagate, are SATA 3 but perform slower than my old SATA 2 based computer. The BIOS supports the following modes: IDE, AHCI and RAID. It is currently set to RAID -- which I need for data redundancy purposes.

In fairness, my old computer has a LSI Logic MegaRaid 300-8x controller. Perhaps the Z68 chipset doesn't do RAID well? I don't want to spend another $700 on a server class RAID controller. I hope it isn't the Z68 chipset. Asus is abaolutely no help.
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August 5, 2011 9:58:19 PM

Quote:
In fairness, my old computer has a LSI Logic MegaRaid 300-8x controller. Perhaps the Z68 chipset doesn't do RAID well?


I don't think you'll find this to be the problem. RAID1 (and RAID0 and the combined RAID10 as well) doesn't do any of the heavy-lifting needed by RAID5 or 6, since there are no parity calculations required (one of the main reasons for getting a server-class RAID card).

The results you're seeing are definitely not good. I suggest you try the other poster's suggestion and test the drives individually on the same connectors.
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August 6, 2011 2:41:42 AM

There have been instances of drives that perform at the top of the list when in individual-drive configurations, but you put them in a RAID array and the transfer rates go down the toilet. Perhaps this is what is happening to you.
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August 8, 2011 2:30:35 PM

A few posters on other forums asked for my specific configuration, so here it is:

Old Computer: Asus P5E3 WS Pro Motherboard with a LSI Logic MegaRaid 300-8x controller (PCIx) configured with two Seagate ST31500341AS SATA 2 drives in a RAID 1 configuration. The system has a Core 2 Quad Q9450 (2.66 GHz) and 4 GB Corsair TwinX DDR3 RAM. OS is Win 7 Ultimate 32-bit. Omitting video and sound since they are irrelevant to my issue. The SiSoft Sandra drive score is 121 MB/s. Windows Experience is 6.0.



New Computer: Asus P8Z68 Deluxe Motherboard (Sandy Bridge) has two embedded SATA 3 controllers: Intel Z68 Express and Marvell PCIe 9128. The Intel supports RAID modes 0, 1, 5, 10 and the Marvell supports RAID mode 0, 1. The computer 16 GB Corsair Vengeance 1600 RAM (DDR3) and an Intel Core I7-2600K (3.4 GHz) processor. Not over-clocking at the moment. Omitting video and sound since they are irrelevant to my issue. Various drive configurations shown below with test results.


Spent all yesterday testing different drive configurations. Note: all tests included a full Windows installation with all drivers and patches. Benchmarks are from SiSoft Sandra (ran multiple times). My reference point is the older computer with a SiSoft score of 121 MB/s.



REFERENCE


Old computer. MegaRaid 300-8X controller. RAID 1
  • (2) Seagate ST31500341AS SATA 2: 122 MB/s average.



    TEST CONFIGURATIONS

    
    New computer Intel Express Z68 controller RAID 1
  • (2) Seagate ST32000641A SATA 3: 43 MB/s average.


    New computer Intel Express Z68 controller RAID 1
  • (2) WDC WD1502FAEX Black SATA 3: 122 MB/s average.


    New computer Marvell PCIe 9128 controller RAID 1
  • (2) Seagate ST32000641A SATA 3: 99 MB/s average.


    New computer Marvell PCIe 9128 controller RAID 1
  • (2) WDC WD1502FAEX Black SATA 3: 124.6 MB/s average.


    New computer, single drive, AHCI mode
  • (2) Seagate ST32000641A SATA 3: 86 MB/s average.

    What I conclude from this test:
  • Single Seagate drive is faster than RAID 1.
  • Marvell 9128 controller is insignificantly faster than the Intel Express Z68.



    Unimportant Info:
  • The Intel controller is more flexible than the Marvel controller.
  • Seagate drives are near silent. The two WD drives are quite noisy (can hear heads seek).







    Any suggestions?
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    August 8, 2011 5:05:22 PM

    Well ... looks like those new Seagates don't like RAID. You can check Seagate's site to see if there's a firmware update available to fix the issue. If it's within 30 days, you can return the drives for refund and get different ones. Otherwise you're screwed. If that's the case, put the RAID-1 on the Marvell controller where at least it's faster than a single drive.

    Note 1: Put a SATA3 SSD on there, and the Intel controller will truly shine. Marvell 912x controllers suck for those, as they are limited by their x1 PCIe connection.

    Note 2: With the new versions of Windows, no platter drive can get higher than 5.9 WEI score -- not even RAID arrays. Only SSDs can get higher than that. Microsoft made it that way with one of their updates.
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    August 8, 2011 8:17:17 PM

    What is the typical application for SSD drives? I can't imagine it would do well as the boot drive, since I would have to redefine most of the OS hieararchy to another drive (program files, libraries, page file, etc.).

    I'm building the WD RAID array (again). The OS is installed but no drivers or patches and barely a user profile. Consumed HDD space is currently 36 GB -- which will grow as I continue.

    Oh, the Seagates have been RMA'd :) 
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    August 9, 2011 9:58:38 AM

    SSDs as boot drives are the primary application. You put Windows and a few of your most-used programs on the SSD, and the rest is installed on the secondary platter drive. You move your user folders over to the secondary drive, just like you said.

    Windows and those programs you use most often will be accelerated, but the others will run at normal hard drive speeds because they are installed on the secondary drive.

    My Windows install plus Office 2010 Pro Plus, EVE Online, Acrobat Reader, and other essential plug-ins and such amounts to 33GB or so. I have a 96GB SSD, so I have plenty left for other games/programs that I might use on a regular basis. Oh, and I defined a custom swap file (only 2GB, as I have 12GB of RAM) on my SSD.

    The space taken on the SSD will indeed grow, but very slowly. If you're smart about it, by the time you fill up an SSD drive it'll be time for a new Windows install anyway.
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    August 12, 2011 12:50:39 PM

    Leaps-from-Shadows said:
    SSDs as boot drives are the primary application. You put Windows and a few of your most-used programs on the SSD, and the rest is installed on the secondary platter drive. You move your user folders over to the secondary drive, just like you said.

    Windows and those programs you use most often will be accelerated, but the others will run at normal hard drive speeds because they are installed on the secondary drive.

    My Windows install plus Office 2010 Pro Plus, EVE Online, Acrobat Reader, and other essential plug-ins and such amounts to 33GB or so. I have a 96GB SSD, so I have plenty left for other games/programs that I might use on a regular basis. Oh, and I defined a custom swap file (only 2GB, as I have 12GB of RAM) on my SSD.

    The space taken on the SSD will indeed grow, but very slowly. If you're smart about it, by the time you fill up an SSD drive it'll be time for a new Windows install anyway.



    I spent the last few days reading various opinion about how to safely move "Program Files and Program Files x86" away from the system drive (assuming SSD). It seems there is no clean way without registry hacks, policy edits, etc. I question the real value of SSD drives. Present day they are too small, forcing the user to re-arrange the native OS environment . Yes, they are fast but where's the real benefit? ...Faster boot time? For example, my computer is built for the stresses of HD file conversion. The various mastering programs I use would max out the SSD drive should they not allow an alternate installation path. But, let's assume they do. Is transcoding video on the SSD (in lieu of HDD) the real ROI here? I assume it will be faster, but how much faster?

    Beyond that, I can get a SATA II SSD at a local store vs. ordering a SATA 3 SSD online. If I believe drive specs, the SATA 3 drive would be faster, however I though the same with my SATA III hard drives and they are slower than SATA 2. I also read posts where people expressed disappointment with SATA 3 SSD speed over SATA 2 SSD.

    I said a lot. Feel free to comment on any part. I haven't installed programs on my new computer yet, so now is the time to add a SSD drive if there's a measureable ROI. Otherwise, it may make sense to wait for prices to come down and capacity to rise.
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    a c 137 G Storage
    August 12, 2011 1:46:32 PM

    The actual data interface will do nothing for the speed between sata 2 and sata 3, the only difference would be in the chipset and controller firmware of the drive, and the hardware used (speed of the data storage). It's like saying 2 doors cars are faster than 4 door, too generalized. A sata 3 drive that is poorly done will be slower than a sata 2 drive that has good components.
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    August 14, 2011 6:11:42 PM

    I just purchased a 120 GB SATA 2 SSD drive. Quick question: is it better to configure it as the boot drive or as a separate hard drive? My primary PC work is converting HD home videos to MKV/h.264 (LAN streaming).

    Part of the SSD will be used as temp space for the rendering process.
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    August 14, 2011 8:59:24 PM

    flyingvguitarist said:
    I just purchased a 120 GB SATA 2 SSD drive. Quick question: is it better to configure it as the boot drive or as a separate hard drive? My primary PC work is converting HD home videos to MKV/h.264 (LAN streaming).

    Part of the SSD will be used as temp space for the rendering process.


    I use my SSDs for OS + Apps + source-code. My workload is very I/O heavy (lots of small files, and tons of 8K reads/writes for SQL server), so I'm getting big benefit from the reduced latency in those tasks. You will see improved boot-time, improved app load-time, and potentially better load-times if you do much editing, but I don't think you'll see much for simple conversion.

    I also do a fair bit of video transcoding with Handbrake, and I've noticed that it's almost completely CPU bound (completely so on my c2q 6600 w/8GB, and still 95+% on my i7-2630QM w/16GB). I see very little difference in encoding time if I use the SSD for source, destination, or both, compared to using a 7200RPM drive. You may notice different results with different software, but I believe you'll face the same minimal improvement by using an SSD (due to being CPU-bound, instead of I/O bound).

    To get better h.264 performance, look into upgrading your CPU.

    Good luck.
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    August 15, 2011 1:16:13 AM

    Shadamus: I just finished a fair amount of comparative testing between the SSD and HDD array. The SSD transfer speeds are about 1½ times faster than the hard drives. That said, the performance enhancement doesn't help with my application. I too render video using Handbrake. My computer has a 2nd generation Core i7 hyperthreaded CPU and 16 GB RAM. The moment I start rendering to h.264, all 8 cores jump to ~99%. Committed RAM, page file and Disk I/O are minimal; as you said, it's all CPU.

    Boot and app load times are not important to me as the new computer is fairly quick across the board. I tested it against my older Core 2 Quad machine. Rendering time is more than half with the new computer, so I'm happy. Was hoping the SSD drive would reduce rendering further. Need more CPU cycles :) . I have 45 days to return the SSD drive. Will test against other apps -- like Pinnacle Studio HD -- to justify my decision.

    Thanks to all who answered my question. It will be tough to choose a best answer....I would give that honor to all of you. I am certainly wiser coming out of this. Thanks again!
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    August 15, 2011 4:25:39 AM

    As far as moving Program Files and Program Files (x86), the answer is ... you don't. The user folders (My Documents, My Music, Downloads, etc) get moved (and the process is very easy), but not those. What I did is create a Programs folder and a Games folder on my secondary data drive, and then make sure to install all games and programs to those two folders if at all possible. As I said in my other post, I do have some programs/games installed on the SSD, but only my most-used ones.
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