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Ratoc Ultra-Wide SCSI PCMCIA Controller Card Review:

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Review: Ratoc Ultra-Wide SCSI PCMCIA Controller Card
By Mark Jay Mirsky
Published 5/8/2001

Several months ago you requested a review of the Ratoc Ultra Wide Card with an Ultra Wide Hard Disk when I mentioned that I was buying one to use with a Wallstreet Powerbook G-3. (266MHz with 192K of ram).

I have the card regularly hitched to an Orb drive and it performs very well indeed with that giving me sustained read and write speeds of above l0 MB/sec (when Write Verify has been turned off in the Orb settings and Audio Video has been specified). The Ratoc Ultra Wide is significantly faster with the Orb than my Fast Scsi connection on an S-900 and it's a pleasure to work with it, particularly since the latest Ratoc driver solves the sleep problem and one can happily walk away from the desk for awhile after putting the machine to sleep. I like to set it to Audio Video on the Orb with sleep after five minutes for the drive and that gives me a fast and noiseless Orb.

Of course the real test is what the Ratoc does in the realm within which it is unique, i.e.., ultra wide SCSI (via a PCMCIA card). I bought a Quantum 36.4 Gigabyte Atlas, 10K LVD with a 2 MB cache for $359 from Hyper Micro, a company I first found through your site. They put it in an external box with cables, terminator, fan (a heavy fan that really keeps it cool) for another $130. The terrific thing about the Ratoc is that it comes with two cables so that one connect to a fifty pin on the Orb or the sixty eight pin on the Quantum. I bought the Ratoc from J&R when the price dropped to $200.

The results with the Quantum according to the Atto Tests were good at least according to my lights. The Firewire drives forthcoming at some future date may catch up to these speeds but not for now. (In the S-900 the Quantum hooked to a Miles Card gave me superfast burn speeds to my Plextor using Toast 4.1 and I didnít experience any of the problems that some readers have reported.) I don't quite understand how the Ratoc Ultra Wide registered its amazing Peak read and Write scores on the 512k with the cache enabled (something like this happened on the SCSI 2 with a Syquest EZflyer, but as with the Orb only at 512k with cache enabled. It disappears without the cache, and it doesnít appear on 2meg transfers.) . The Ratoc is only supposed to go up to 40 MB/s, not to mention the EZflyer. It is the sustained Peak read and Write, which are after all what count take us back down into the realm of the credible.

I had previously hooked the Orb up to a standard SCSI on the Powerbook and I had very disappointing write scores. When I first hooked up the Ultra Wide in September, with Normal Write and Verify, I queried Ratoc about this. One of their technicians told me that this was the fault of the chip in the Wallstreet Power Book G-3 and that I should not have expected much improvement from the Ultra Wide connection. This can't be so. The Powerbook as both the Quantum and the Orb results show, does quite well on its writing, even exceeding read speeds with cache enabled, when connected through the Ratoc.

Here are the charts. I have included both the results with and without System Cache, which seems to do little for the sustained read and write speeds, though there is that impressive burst in peak reads and writes. The cache seem to pull the read speeds down but write speeds are accelerated. I ran a second test on the cacheless 512k and 2meg transfers. They showed a slight improvement up from 32.72 sustained read on the 512k to 33.01 and from 19.66 to 19.76. On the 2 meg, it was up from 27.16 to 29.75 on sustained read but down from 22.48 to 22.45, a negligible amount.

[I asked Mark to test at 8MB IO size setting, since lower settings like 512K or even 2MB are often within the size of the hard drive's (onboard) cache. The graphs below are all with the 8MB I/O setting.-Mike]

All of these tests on the Orb were conducted with Audio Video mode enabled rather than write/verify which slows the write function down to a crawl. I haven't noticed any problems using the Orb in AV mode.

To give you some sense of how the Ratoc compares with the Intio Milies LVD2 card I installed in my S-900, I have included those results as well.
[Note: The huge spike in read rates up to about 1.5MB I/O size is likely from the HD's cache.-Mike]

Phil Lefebre I know was not a fan of the earlier Ultra Ratoc card, but the Ultra Wide, at least when hooked up to a single external drive, in my eyes is a champion. I have been using it since September 2000 without problems. It coexists with a Ez-Flyer 230 connected to the external SCSI-2 channel and the VST expansion Zip--no conflicts.
I would be curious about how it functioned in the new G-4 powerbook.
-Mark Jay Mirsky

(I'm going to ask Mark if he can run some real-world tests comparing the onboard PB drive to the Ratoc connected SCSI drives in file copy, DV, etc.-Mike)

Outpost.com has the Ratoc Ultra-Wide SCSI PCcard for Powerbooks listed for $229.95. ( It's their item number 82987.)

Related Links:

See the SCSI, IDE and Firewire pages for other storage related reviews, articles and installation guides.

See the Systems page for other PowerBook related reviews and articles.

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