A Look At The ACard AEC-6712WM PCI Ultra-Wide SCSI Controller
By Rick Pepper
It's nice to see another entrant into the PCI SCSI Controller world - especially a Mac-compatible one
The Acard AEC-6712WM UltraiWide PCI SCSI Controller for Macintosh.
General Product Comparisons & Pricing
The Acard AEC-6712WM can be found at MicroLand USA for $85.
The Adaptec 2930 is the nearest piece Adaptec has, and it goes for $99.99, but it only does up to 20MB/sec - Narrow Ultra SCSI 3.
It goes for $114.10 at Warehouse.
Unfortunately I could not determine from Adaptec's site if the 2930 is bootable or not. [Yes, the 2930 is bootable and an OEM version has been the $49 BTO SCSI card for new Apple systems for some time. Most all popular Mac SCSI cards are usually bootable except for the 2906 and the Iomega JazJet card. Many cards in the past have needed firmware updates for new system compatibility however. The 2930 does not have a flash ROM and therefore requires a ROM chip change for updates. The latest v1.2 2930 update is deep sleep compatible based on reports from 2000 model G4 owners. Many PCI cards however do not support deep sleep mode in G4 macs. OS X driver/firmware support is another issue to consider if you're planning on running OS X in the future. Adaptec has only comitted to providing support for a limited number of cards - see this page for details. Since the 2930 is an OEM card from Apple, it should be supported however, as are previous OEM SCSI cards they supplied as options on previous systems. Retail cards w/o the OEM firmware however may not work reliably without a firmware update from the card mfr.-Mike]
The Atto EPCI-PSC-000 is an Ultra-Wide SCSI 3 card, according to the Techical specs it is bootable,
but there is no specific mention of G3/G4 bootability. It's on special for $179, normally $249.
The Initio INI-9100UW Mac is an Ultra-Wide SCSI 3 card, according to this note, it's G4 bootable and goes for $167.
The Orange Micro Grappler SCSI 940UW is an Ultra-Wide SCSI 3 - 40MB/sec card, it goes for $119 and is bootable.
In searching for other SCSI cards I found a product at Mac Warehouse that I had never heard of before, they have it for $114.10.
This was from Advansys Systems, the ASB3940UW-00 Ultra-Wide PCI SCSI card. [Advansys also made cards for Iomega I believe - their Jaz Jet card as I remember.-Mike]
The SCSI card I have been using is no longer available, and that's the FWB PCI Ultra SCSI JackHammer.
This card does Ultra-Wide SCSI 3 for up to 40MB/sec throughput, and is very similar to the Acard, although it is not G4 bootable,
It is, however, bootable in Beige G3's and legacy PCI Macs - such as my G3 upgraded PowerCurve,
and doesn't have the "audio stuttering" problem.
As you can see, Hammer Storage was bought up by Bell Microproducts, along with Rorke Data, in the spring of 2000. [See the SCSI articles page here for my 1998 tests of the Jackhammer card, part of a 5 Card Mac UW SCSI test. However the drives used in that old article are far slower than those available today. See this
FAQ Note for info on G3/G4 firmware/control panel updates and Jackhammer trade-in info.-Mike]
(1) G4 Bootable - as my test data will later explain.
(2) Less expensive than any other card I was able to find. Competition is typically a good thing for the consumer.
(3) No drivers needed, Flash BIOS upgradeable.
(4) Does not exhibit the "audio stuttering" problem in G4's - see test results for details on other Macs.
(5) Mac & Windows compatible. Though I'm a Mac user, this product is designed for multiple platforms.
(1) Acard is relatively new to the Mac market, and this card did not include a printed manual or any software.
There are firmware updaters available from their site, but documentation is very sparse.
(2) It did exhibit the "audio stuttering" problem when installed in my PowerCurve.
My Viking drive exhibited stuttering as well when connected Narrow to the AEC-6712WM.
(3) As the test data will show, the write performance was strangely distant from the read performance in my PowerCurve.
But tests performed with my FWB card do not show this disparity, the reads and writes track closely with each other.
However, the reads and writes were on-par when I tested it in the G4 system shown in the benchmarks,
and there appeared to be no stuttering with MP3 playback. Could this be the PCI Timing Error cropping up?
The PowerCurve, PowerTower and PowerCenter models suffer from a PCI Bus Timing error that causes various sorts of erratic PCI behavior.
Power Computing issued a fix in the form of a system extension. I have this installed as I had problems with a Belkin USB card as well.
Since I do not have ready access to a 75/85/9500 or 86/9600 I can't say whether or not it is related to the PCI Timing problem or not.
Note: Many UW SCSI cards exibit stuttering QT movie playback, first reported here back in 1998. The fix as reported in the past news and FAQ is to use the SCSI card's utility software to slow the card clock rate to 14MHz or less (i.e. Initio Miles common fix), or disable UltraSCSI mode. This is generally only a problem with pre-G3 macs with their older PCI/Memory controller and may not be present in all systems/configs. It appears very often in systems like the PowerCenter Pro which are catalyst motherboard based and even the PCI timing update is not a sure fix for it.-Mike]
What You Get
The PCI card itself, a 30 inch 68 pin 2 device SCSI ribbon cable (wide), and a 30 inch 50 pin 2 device SCSI ribbon cable (narrow.)
Performance & Compatibility
The main test machine was my PowerCurve, configuration is as follows:
Sonnet G3/375/512K cpu upgrade, OS 8.6, 256MB, Virtual Memory OFF, Disk Cache 1024Kb, Speed Doubler 8.
Boot drive is a Quantum Viking 4.5GB attached narrow to the JackHammer (10MB/sec, same as 75/85/95/76/74/86/9600.)
Cards: ATI Mach64 video card, FWB Ultra PCI SCSI JackHammer and the Acard AEC-6712WM.
The Acard card occupied the slot my Belkin BusPort USB card normally occupies. I zapped the PRAM after swapping cards.
All test were performed using Atto Technology's free ExpressPro-Tools benchmarking and formatting utility, with a sample size of 2.
Thanks to Zach Smestad I was able to gather additional compatibility and performance data using his G4/450MP.
Configuration data: OS 9.1, 128MB, Virtual Memory ON, Disk Cache 4096Kb, 30GB Quantum FireBall Plus.
All drives were formatted with Drive Setup 1.9.1 (G4 was updated with HDT 4.1), and AppleTalk was OFF on both Macs.
Drives involved in this test were as follows:
(Referred to as IBM) - IBM DTLA-307020 - 20GB, ATA/100, 7200 RPM, 2MB cache (main test drive), ran on the first (of 8) 2GB partition
(Referred to as LCT) - Quantum lct15 - 30GB, ATA/66, 4400RPM, 512Kb cache, formatted as 28GB
(Referred to as FBP) - Quantum Fireball Plus LM - 30GB, ATA/66, 7200 RPM, 512Kb cache (stock G4 drive) (3 partitions)
(Referred to as VIK) - Quantum Viking - 4.5GB narrow Ultra SCSI, 7200 RPM, 512Kb cache (my boot drive)
(Referred to as MAX) - Maxtor - 6.4GB, ATA/33, 5200 RPM, 256Kb cache (for variety)
The IBM, Maxtor and Quantum LCT15 drives were always connected to the various SCSI interfaces
via the Acard ARS-2000FW, which I reviewed on 1/13/01.
The SCSI interfaces referenced in this test include: the stock external (25 pin) SCSI on my PowerCurve (5MB/sec),
the internal narrow connector on an FWB Ultra PCI JackHammer (20MB/sec), the external wide connector on the JackHammer (40MB/sec),
the internal narrow connector on the AEC-6712WM (20MB/sec), and the external wide connector on the AEC-6712WM (40MB/sec.)
The only non-SCSI interface used, was purely for comparison, and that was the stock ATA/66 drive in the G4.
All read and write measurements are in Megabytes per second, rankings were determined by total throughput - Read + Write
And if you would like to see ALL the benchmarks I ran, that include the Maxtor ATA/33 drive, click here
32Kb w/cache Transfer Size Tests
512Kb w/cache Transfer Size Tests
2MB w/cache Transfer Size Tests
8MB w/cache Transfer Size Tests
32Kb wo/cache Transfer Size Tests
512Kb wo/cache Transfer Size Tests
2MB wo/cache Transfer Size Tests
8MB wo/cache Transfer Size Tests
32Kb Max Transfer Size With System Cache
512Kb Max Transfer Size With System Cache
2MB Max Transfer Size With System Cache
8MB Max Transfer Size With System Cache
32Kb Max Transfer Size Without System Cache
512Kb Max Transfer Size Without System Cache
2MB Max Transfer Size Without System Cache
8MB Max Transfer Size Without System Cache
Real World Tests
I must admit I fell down on the job here. The first of two tests that I ran was to copy a 68MB file,
from the first partition of the IBM to the second, with it connected wide to the AEC-6712WM.
According to Speed Doubler, it reached 12MB/sec during that copy. Given that my tests showed a write
related issue with my PowerCurve, this is probably responsible for the relatively low transfer rate.
And, of course I'm reading and writing from the same mechanism, and from from the 8MB cache test,
with the Write speed being 13.61 MB/sec, this isn't that far off.
I apologize I did not run the same test on the JackHammer, and in the G4. Only so many hours in a day.
The second test was to copy a folder of 75 - 900k files from my Quantum lct15, connected wide to the AEC-6712WM,
to my 4.5GB Viking connected Narrow to my FWB. Speed Doubler reported 4.5MB/sec in the transfer.
There are many types of tests I did not perform. From the ones I did perform - which included some A/V application considerations,
and G4 bootability, I have to conclude that the AEC-6712WM is a viable SCSI solution. It's a no-frills purchase, there is no software,
and no manual - at least not in the one I was sent by Acard.
I am still investigating what the support landscape is since Acard has no direct representation in the U.S., yet, that I was able to ascertain.
However, some of the first ATA PCI Controllers for the Mac were (and are) Acard OEMs. The Sonnet Tempo is an Acard piece,
and the ProMax TurboMax is an Acard piece.
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!!
And special thanks to Tim Ray of Computer Bay in Mankato for the loaner IBM hard drive
Email me at: email@example.com
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