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Fast and Secure: A Comparison of Eight RAID Controllers

Expansion Cards Better Than Onboard Chips

PC users can more than double system performance by using a RAID system instead of a single hard disk. The fastest IDE RAID controllers in our test achieved an average data transfer rate of over 55 MBytes per second. The leader of the pack was the Highpoint Rocket Raid 404, with 56,800 kBytes per second in RAID-0 mode. Without RAID, the same test system managed only 24,250 kBytes per second.

More and more modern motherboards are being fitted with onboard RAID controllers. The Promise chip supplied with some boards is no more than a 'scaled-down' version. Unlike the full PCI card version, it provides no support for combined RAID level 0 and 1 or a JBOD setup (several different hard disk types configured as a single hard disk). Onboard solutions are also less flexible in the event of a problem. If you are using a PCI card RAID controller to mirror your files and your motherboard develops a fault, you can install the controller and hard disks in another PC and carry on working. If the RAID chip is integrated with your motherboard, however, you will need to find another identical board before you can access your data.

Wide Range Of Cards Under Test

We examined eight IDE RAID controllers in our labs. Five of these were fitted with two channels for connecting four hard disks. The four-channel controllers - 3Ware Escalade 7850, Highpoint Rocket Raid 404, and Megaraid i4 from LSI Logic - let you connect up to eight hard disks. The LSI card, the Adaptec ATA Raid 1200A, and the Dawicontrol DC-100 Raid are equipped with an Ultra-DMA/ 100 interface; the others provide support for Ultra-DMA/ 133. The controllers from Adaptec, Dawicontrol, Highpoint and Promise allow RAID configurations with levels 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks). he least expensive product is our budget category winner, the DC-100 Raid. The RAID-5 controllers Escalade 7850 and Megaraid i4. These are the only two cards with an integrated cache.