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Reader Review of Acard ATA/133 RAID PCI ControllerReturn to News Page

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Acard ATA 133 RAID Card Review:
(Installed in Quicksilver 867 and G3/550mhz Blue and White)

By Rick Stephens
Published: 10/11/2001
Last Updated: 10/31/2001 for OS X comments

I just received an Acard hardware raid ATA133 host card. I used two IBM 60GXP 60gig hard drives for the test. I had one of the drives oem in my Quicksilver 867 and matched it with an identical drive with identical firmware. I spent a total cost of less than $350 to accomplish this. (hard drive and raid card)

Supplied with the card was;

  • 2 two device IDE cables.
    [He later noted they were listed as "ATA/133" by Acard-Mike]
  • 1 power splitter for running 2 drives off 1 power connector
  • 2 plastic slide in drive brackets, such as found in the 8500/9500 era computers.
  • 2 sets of screws long enough for the plastic brackets, but too long for metal brackets. Manual

Installation in Quicksilver 867 was straight forward. One drive installed in top stackable mount, second drive in middle mount. I have a 20gig Barracuda in the bottom mount and a Cheetah in the front most mounting bracket. The Cheetah is attached to a SCSI host card.

The only problem came with attempting to route all four cables to their drives (fold,spindle and mutilate). The ATA Raid card almost has to be in the bottom PCI slot, the motherboard ATA100 cable is directly under that card. It's a close fit for card and cables when the case is closed. Cables had to be folded into place with hinge-able slack that would fold up on closing the door.

One other worry is all that cabling blocking airflow to the drives. Neatness would be critical here.

The Acard ATA133 Raid card has 2 40 pin connectors on 2 channels. The card also has a small switch on it to switch the card from an ATA133 host to RAID0 host. With the 2 switches in the off position the card acts as if it's just a 2 channel ATA card. However, the card does not use both sides of the PCI bus so 32 bit is the maximum bandwidth with this card. With switch 2 in the on position the 2 channels are in striped raid mode. Having matched hard drives is recommended. Even matching the firmware on the drives could be important.

2 hard drives can be installed on each channel, a master and a slave. When using only 2 drives set up each as a master and install one on each channel with its own cable.

I then booted and initialized/installed drivers on each drive while not in RAID mode. Results from benchtesting with ATTOs SCSI Benchtest program are as follows. I only show the results from 1 drive because the results differed insignificantly from drive to drive.


Acard ATA133 HardRaid 
IBM 60GXP 60 gig ATA100 
Test is run at 8mb transfer size. 

Peak Read                  Peak Write 
97.38 mb/s                   87.61 mb/s 

Sustained Read    Sustained Write 
39.34 mb/s                  31.17 mb/s 


I then shutdown and flipped switch #2 to the ON position, restarted the computer. The volume now has to be reinitialized. I used Drive Setup to do that and installed the driver. I now have a 120gig striped volume.

I then benchtested the volume with ATTO SCSI Benchtest.

Acard ATA133 HardRaid 
2 by IBM 60GXP 60gig ATA100 
120gigabyte RAID0 Volume. 
Test is run at 8mb transfer size. 


Peak Read                  Peak Write 
124.55 mb/s                   114.09 mb/s 

Sustained Read    Sustained Write 
75.65 mb/s                   68.98 mb/s 


I had partitioned the drives into identical 2 partitions before testing them in non raid mode. Those partitions disappeared when the raid was turned on. Partitioning was unavailable with Drive Setup. In fact, all options were unavailable, default was mac os extended.

I then installed in the Blue and White. The B&W has a XLR8 500 mhz zif overclocked to 550. The procedure was identical to that of the Quicksilver except I didn't bother to partition. Results displayed with same conditions, single mode drives were again insignificantly different in results.

Acard ATA133 HardRaid 
IBM 60GXP 60 gig ATA100 
Test is run at 8mb transfer size. 

Peak Read                  Peak Write 
88.68 mb/s                  46.01 mb/s 

Sustained Read    Sustained Write 
37.98 mb/s                   37.95 mb/s 


Acard ATA133 HardRaid 
2 by IBM 60GXP 60gig ATA100 
120gigabyte RAID0 Volume. 
Test is run at 8mb transfer size. 


Peak Read                  Peak Write 
90.11 mb/s                   48.07 mb/s 

Sustained Read    Sustained Write 
70.30 mb/s                   48.00 mb/s 


These performance figures are a real improvement over the ATA33 bus that's installed on the motherboard of the B&W.

I then installed OS 9.2.1 on the raid. It installed and booted normally. From a purely subjective viewpoint the computer boots much faster on the raid than from the ATA33 factory bus.

I tried several times to install OS10.0.4 on the raid volume. Every time I got a freeze, the last two times with kernel panics. I was however able to partition the raid into 2 volumes, more partitions were available via the OSX Drive Setup Utility.

The partitions survived rebooting into OS9.

After running tests all day with this card and moving it between the Quicksilver and the B&W I have some observations.

I don't get a feeling of reliability with this card that would allow me to trust it with valuable data yet. I had benchtest results drop off to half their former numbers and after trying everything else I had to reinitialize the drives to restore them to full performance. I had the drives disappear from OSXs installer program, unavailable until I reinitialized the drives again. Having to initialize to reacquire the drives would mean a total loss of data, not a good real world scenario.

A hardware raid card has to be rock-solid to satisfy me for any use. Of course, raid0 striping should be the last choice if you need to protect your data, mirroring or stripe/mirroring would always make better sense for those wanting the protections of redundancy of your data. A hardware raid0 card that lost one drive would leave you with no data unless you pay out the bucks for one of the recovery services.

I much prefer the options available with SCSI over the few choices you have in ATA Hardraid, the only choices you have with ATA are:

  • How big ie What drives you use.
  • Whether it's on or not.(off it's just an expensive ATA host card)
  • Supposed compatibility with OS9.x and OS10.
  • 2 or 4 drives max (and matched drives at that)
  • Limited partitioning

The one big bonus is Bootability. [All Mac IDE PCI Cards I've seen are bootable, even RAID cards - but for some Macs SCSI RAID may not be bootable based on some past Apple/Softraid issues.-Mike]
If the card was more stable that would stand out more. This card is a great bonus to the B&W. It performed great under OS 9.2 and boosted my throughput to 3+times the internal bus. As a low cost alternative to the much more expensive SCSI raid this card is a good buy if the reliability can be proven. I want to see some credible successes from a lot of people before I'll feel confident with valuable data on this cards raid.
-Rick Stephens

he later wrote:

Acard ATA/133 IDE RAID Performance.
OSX Update.

After difficulties continued with OSX installing on the ATA133 Raid in the B&W, I noticed that most of the failures were 'kernel panics'. The short of it is I reduced my processor speed back to the XLR8 factory rated 500mhz and I haven't had a problem since. I have been running OS 10.1 for most of the week without a single failure. I had no previous problems with the 550 overclock and 9.2.

I set up the RAID with 2 volumes. One volume for OS9 and one for OSX. Testing in OSX with ATTO Bench showed an incompatability with the test program and the classic enviroment, read scores showed way high and write scores were way low. Subjectivly, the Acard RAID is awesome. Everything goes faster. Loading a 400mb Photoshop picture from disk had taken 1 minute and 45 seconds from the ATA33 bus, that was down to 52 seconds from the RAID. Everything runs that much faster with the RAID on.

I will continue using this card/hard drive combo on the B&W and will post an update on it's reliability.

For more info on the card, see Acard's web site.

Other IDE Related Articles: See the IDE topics page for full reviews of other drives/controllers, etc. (including graphs of benchmarks and real-world tests). However I do not have an Acard ATA/133 RAID card to test at this time.

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