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Help Find Cheap SAS/SATA Controller

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April 20, 2012 9:08:30 PM

Hi, my first post on Tom's Hardware and I was hoping the community here could give advice on a SATA or SAS controller. I'm building a file server with about 12-15 hard drives. I'm pretty sure I need at least 1 controller because the most SATA ports I found on an LGA1155 motherboard under $200 was 10. I figure it'd be cheaper to just buy a mobo with more ports than buy an additional controller.

So for the controller I'm looking for something relatively cheap and efficient. Ideally PCIe x8 would be great but x4 would probably be ok. I don't need or plan to use Raid so prefer a card without many Raid features since that seems to increase the price. Around 4-ports would be good, unless it was cheaper to buy 2 2-port cards. I have available PCIe slots so that's not a problem.

Any input would be appreciated.
a c 289 G Storage
April 23, 2012 1:24:22 PM

I'm afraid that "cheap" and "efficient" are mutually exclusive in this business. There are lots of cheap controllers, but they tend to be PCI-E x1. Not what you want. You also have to be careful about "I have available PCIe slots;" check the manual to see how many lanes they have and if the number of lanes goes down if all of the slots are populated. Same as if it were a graphics card: If you put one in the second slot, the number of lanes to the first slot may be reduced.


A very experienced user, firewire2, recently linked to this sub-$2000 product: http://www.datoptic.com/scalable-forty-40-drive-raid-sy... . I suspect that it's way beyond your needs; I only included it to point out that this is not a cheap business.

I'm looking for more (no personal experience). I will edit this if I find a good reference in the forums, or just a likely candidate on Newegg. EDIT: The cheapest I found with PCI-E x4 was about $112: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E... . At four ports, that's $28 per port.

This one, http://www.compuvest.com/Desc.jsp?iid=1591688 , should support up to 20 drives, but you will need a "port multiplier" for each group of 5. At $104, it's a great deal if you need to add a lot of drives externally, but I have no idea how reliable it is. The Highpoint Rocketraid's are widely used. I don't think much of them as RAID cards, but they are perfectly fine as controllers.

A "port multiplier" is a device that lets one SATA port control up to five SATA drives. It MUST be an SATA port that supports port multipliers; most do not. The disadvantage is that the aggregate throughput of all five drives is throttled to the SATA II limit. And, you will need an external enclosure with a port multiplier for each batch of drives. And that particular part has internal ports, so you would need space in your case for all of the drives.

How much are you willing to spend? That can narrow down the choices.
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