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Reader Hardware Review:Return to Accelerate Your Mac!
 
The ACard ARS-2000FW IDE to SCSI Adapter
My Experience With The ACard ARS-2000FW IDE to SCSI Adapter
By: Rick Pepper, 1/15/2001
(Updated 1/16/2001 for Nubus Mac tests
Updated 7/24/2002 for v3.6 Firmware update note)



Update: Rick sent a link to the 3.2 Firmware updater for ACard IDE-SCSI Bridges. Direct download link is http://161.58.88.33/download/mac/driver/scside/update_scside_ver3.2m.sit. (This link may not be valid in the future if they move or update the file.)
*Update* (July 2002) - there's now a v3.6 firmware update at http://www.acard.com/eng/support/mac.html. The acard support page lists the following changes for 3.6m:

    "Update the firmware that the drive can be recognized by "Apple Drive Setup". *Support 160GB HDD"

My years of SCSI snobbery have ended. Bottom line is, they are too blasted expensive for typical consumer purposes. Yes, SCSI is still superior for niche applications - no flames please.

Let me just say it up front, this piece is not for everyone. It is, however, for me. Read on and perhaps it can fit your needs as well.

Thanks to sites like XLR8YourMac, people can be aware of issues like audio stuttering with legacy PCI Macs, before they buy a product like the Sonnet "Tempo" or the ProMax "TurboMax" (which I also own.) For those of you who are not familiar with the issue, I'll give a brief explanation.
Because of some PCI Bus timing problems with pre-G3 PCI Macs - 72/75/76/73/85/95/86/9600's and all clones, drives connected to the TurboMax or the Tempo - in one of the listed machines, cannot be used (successfully) for playing audio or video from (or capturing to.)
The artifacts I've observed sound like skipping - along with a mild tick or pop as it does this.
To make matters worse, not every Mac exhibits the artifact. Mike at XLR8YourMac has attempted to gather enough information to see if a pattern can be detected, but, to date, there doesn't appear to be one.
[Update: Acard released an A/V optimizer that fixes the stuttering audio issue with the Acard ATA/66 and RAID cards as well as the Sonnet Tempo ATA/66 (same card) according to reader reports. See this article for reader feedback and links to the free utility. Sonnet's ATA/100 card ships with a similar utility to solve the issue. Not all PCI IDE card users with older Macs reported this issue, but for those that do see it with an Acard made IDE card, try the free AV optimizer. -Mike]

Cons

  1. The cost per ATA connector is roughly 3X higher for this piece than the Sonnet Tempo ($78 each vs. $25 each.)


  2. You can only connect one drive with this unit, compared to 4 with the Sonnet and ProMax pieces.


  3. This piece requires a drive cavity large enough to accommodate a 1.6" high drive ("half-height".)

    Some mounting bracket kits - like the one in this article at XLR8YourMac are designed for 1" high drives only.
    Unfortunately, this bracket is no longer being manufactured by ProLine, nor is the 3 drive bracket for 86/9600 & G3 MT's.


Pros

  1. Allows the use of inexpensive ATA hard drives on any computer - Mac, Windows, LINUX/UNIX, that has a SCSI bus.


  2. It is not plagued by PCI Bus timing problems because it is not controlled by the PCI bus (I have successfully verified this.) This means that it can be used for audio and video purposes - even on NuBus Macs - like the 8100 or Quadra 950.
    In fact, I am listening to MP3's sourced from a Quantum lct15 30GB ATA drive on my PowerCurve 120 - and encoded with N2MP3 Pro, as I write this.
    Partition size limitations still apply, and to really maximize the $78 investment, you will likely want to use a 30GB or larger drive.
    Consider this: an 18GB Hitachi SCSI drive goes for $239 at OWC, and a 30GB IBM ATA drive can be had from the same source for $155,
    add in $78 for the ARS-2000FW and you're at $233 for nearly twice the space! Both are 7200 RPM, cache on the IBM is 2MB.
    And that doesn't take into account that since ATA drives are more plentiful, you're more likely to find them at "swapfests" and such for dirt,


  3. I paid $50 for my (almost new) lct15 30GB!

  4. ATA drives typically run cooler than SCSI drives.


  5. Supports up to Ultra Wide SCSI 3 for up to 40MB/sec throughput.


  6. This is the only means known to allow the use of an ATA drive on a typical NuBus Macintosh - as I mentioned above the PPC 8100 and Quadra 950.

Let's Take a Look

Box Contents

This is the box and its' contents.
Included are: sled/adapter, a drive Y-power cord, 4 - screws, 4 - standoffs and manual.

Top View

This is a top view of the adapter. The best way to think of it is as a "sled" that the drive sits on.

Bottom View

Bottom view. Notice the label indicating the jumper locations for SCSI ID, Termination enable/disable, Termination power enable/disable and pins for an LED!!! Now how cool is that??!

Standoff

While not rocket science, I was impressed by the common-sense use of these standoffs with a slot for being driven by a standard screwdriver. Because of the tight fit, there would be no other way to tighten them into the bottom of the drive mechanism. This allows you to mount the assembly from the bottom or the sides - just like you'd expect.

Side View

Side view reveals the profile of the standoffs as they pass through the adapter, and the routing of the ATA cable to the drive.
Because of the brief length of the ATA cable - about 3 inches, it is just the standard 40-wire type.

Rear View


Rear view answers the obvious - what exactly do the connections look like?

I took an additional gamble when I bought this piece. I needed to connect it to a standard "narrow" SCSI (50 pin) enclosure.
You'll notice that the adapter has a 68 pin SCSI "wide" connector. There are numerous 50 to 68 pin adapters for this very purpose, what I didn't know was if it would, in fact, work. Waaaay in the back of my mind I began to wonder if there would be a problem attaching it
because of the dual power connector scheme used - one powers the card, the other the drive (hence the included y power adapter.)
Well, I am not proud enough of the hack I had to do to make it fit to show you a photo of the finished install, (I was also too lazy and in too much of a hurry to dig the camera back out), but let's just say it works, should be electrically safe, and I would choose a different 68-50 adapter type if I were to do it again.

Wrong Adapter

This is the style adapter I had laying around - avoid at all costs. This picture actually shows
two of the same units stacked up in order to show you both sides of the adapter. You can see that it is tall, and the two connectors are offset - this is where you get into trouble. The adapter butts up nicely to a SCSI hard drive, but in this case, it's butting up to an adapter, and two power connectors on top of each other. If you're going to do this, get your hands on a flat adapter - the whole unit is laterally inline, there is no vertical offset as with this one.

One may question my judgement in choosing this particular ACard model, as there are others. See below.

I wanted to spring for the hipper version, the ARS-2000IW (below), but was too tight, especially since I was in speculation mode to begin with.

ARS-2000IW
(Image courtesy of ACard)

The ARS-2000IW. I personally think this thing is mod looking! My 4400 RPM lct drive hardly needs fans on it, especially when it's in a case by itself that has a fan, and that I already had a 2 fan "Bay Cooler" in - for the 4GB 'cuda it was displacing. This is essentially the ACard adapter and a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter with fans. This unit is $89 from Microland, and also has a 68 pin wide SCSI connector.

AEC-7720U
(Image courtesy of ACard)

The AEC-7720U, this piece here is all I really needed - for my immediate situation. But, I reasoned that I will hopefully buy one of those monster 75GB IBM drives - or bigger by then I'd imagine, and I may want to connect it to one of my 3 - FWB JackHammer controllers, so I decided to live it up a bit.
Please note: this unit requires a 5.25" bay as it extends beyond the edge of the 3.5" drive mechanism (to the left.) From Microland this unit is $70, compared to $78 for the UW, and sports a 50 pin narrow SCSI connector.

Where To Buy
The only real source, that I know of - and the only one ACard could point me to, is MicroLand USA. [Note: Links have changed twice and may not be valid over time.-Mike]

Enough already! How does it perform??!!
Well, I wasn't after performance, and in my situation, the numbers I do have need to be taken in light of the configuration. Like I said, I am using this adapter on a Quantum lct15 30GB drive. These drives are only 4400 RPM.
To top it off, I have it connected to the external SCSI bus of a PowerCurve 120 with a Sonnet 375/G3 upgrade running OS8.6.
In theory, the max speed of the bus is 5MB/second. I was able to measure the following:
1.8MB/sec (as reported by Speed Doubler) read and write to and from my Viking 4.5GB (narrow) attached to an FWB Ultra SCSI JackHammer.
In that configuration it was able to hold steady playback of 256kbps MP3's - while copying 2GB's to it. I just formatted it with Drive Setup 1.9.1 and it reports itself as a SCSI drive on Bus zero.

Bottom Line:
It works! it's huge, and it was affordable. And I'm gonna fill it up with LAME encoded MP3's of my personal CD collection!

One other note. The info on the website claims it requires ATA/66 or ATA/100 drives. The manual says any 5400 or 7200 RPM ATA/33, ATA/66 or ATA/100 drive. Maybe I'll test an ATA/33 drive at some point, but right now it's 1:40 a.m. and I'm going to bed!


Thanks to Sam Bushell for his most excellent Progressify app, used on most images on this entire site along with; Thorsten Lemke's Graphic Converter, Adobe Photoshop and AppleScript!!
Email me at: sldghamr@mnic.net

Update on NuBus compatibility:

Rick later wrote:

" Mike,
I was able to confirm that this adapter works with both NuBus - and a 68k one (Q950) at that, under OS 7.5.5, and with an ATA/33 drive. Using Speedometer the speed to my Hitachi 7200 RPM drive connected narrow to a JackHammer = 10MB was 2.6, the speed to a 5400 RPM 6.4GB Maxtor on the external = 5MB bus was 2.1 - very relative numbers, but I think they allow me to feel good about saying this is a viable solution for anyone just looking for space. I was also able to capture to it with Sound Designer 2 (!) without trouble. - once I re-formatted it down to 4GB. I would speculate that Acard specs ATA/66 and 100 in order to deliver the throughput with Ultra-wide installs. For low end things like 5MB narrow SCSI, this ATA/33 drive appears to work fine.

In fact, this drive had previously been installed in my PowerCurve and connected to a TurboMax, formatted with Drive Setup 1.9.1 (HFS.) It showed up upon bootup - even reported 5GB in disk, 1GB available.
It works!! Storage Power to the NuBus owners!!!
Rick"


External SCSI to IDE Adapter Case: For a review of the ACARD SCSI to IDE external case version, click here.


Other Storage Related Articles: See our IDE, SCSI or Firewire articles pages.




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