Lab Tests: PCI Ultra-Wide SCSI Controllers
By Mike Breeden
Published: February 1998
Part 1 of 3 test reports on SCSI controllers, disk drivers and Raid software.
(Part 2 - Dual Drive/Dual Controller Raid Tests - is now available.)
Intro | Cards Tested | ATTO Benchmark | FWB Benchtest | Time Drive | MacBench | Summary Accelerate Labs Tests: Mac PCI Ultra-Wide SCSI Controllers
1999 Update: At the time this article was written, there was a compatibility issue (usually a failure to mount wide SCSI drives) with Adaptec 2940UW/3940UW PCI cards and most G3 upgrade cards (other than Newer Tech) when used most Pre-Apple G3 Mac models. (Narrow SCSI models like the 2930 were compatible in my experience.) This is mentioned specifically in this article. However in 1999, upgrade companies like XLR8, PowerLogix and others resolved this issue with 'virtual firmware' software for their upgrade cards. See www.xlr8.com or www.powerlogix.com to get the latest version of their control software. Be aware the comments in this article (and other 1997-98 era articles) refer to G3 upgrade compatibility issue(s) that are usually solved with the current upgrade card control software. For more info on other issues, see my FAQ. Ask your CPU upgrade card manufacturer if in doubt about hardware and software compatibility.
NOTE: Remember this article was written in early 1998. There are much faster SCSI drives now (often twice as fast or mroe) than those used in this article so consider that when evaluating the performance results.
As part of my continuing effort to provide you with performance upgrade information for all aspects of your PCI based Macintosh, I have completed a three-part series on Macintosh PCI Ultra-Wide SCSI controllers, Raid and disk driver software. This report is one of a series in the Ultimate Mac Project, which details a complete system upgrade (CPU, Video, Ram, SCSI/Disk, etc.) of a PowerTower Pro 180 into the ultimate personal computer (or as close as I can get ;-). Granted that's a moving target, but I think you will see the end result will compare favorably with anything on the market, and you'll learn a lot more following along and doing it yourself. The sense of satisfaction that provides doesn't come in a pre-assembled package.
Part 1 of this series compares the 4 most popular Ultra-Wide SCSI cards and how they performed with two different disk drivers in many different benchmarks. Performance of the stock IBM AV 7200 RPM drive connected to the motherboard SCSI interface is shown for reference.
Part 2 reports on the results of pairs of each card driving a two drive Raid array (one drive per card) using all major Raid array software packages (ATTO Raid, CharisMac Anubis, Conley SoftRaid 2, FWB Raid ToolKit and Remus Lite v1.4). Part three shows performance of the same two drive array connected to a single card and a dual channel card.
As is the case with most of my other reviews (CPUs, Video cards, and L2 Cache), this will be the most detailed and comprehensive review of its kind on the Net or in print. Since most of my writing takes place between midnight and 6am, please bring any typos you find to my attention.
The base system used for test was a refurbished PowerTower Pro 180, purchased for $1380. It was chosen for its expansion potential and low cost, since most of the base components would not be used in the final system (CPU card, ram and video card). The hard disk(s) used in the test were Quantum Atlas II 2.2GB, 7200rpm, 512k cache drives partitioned as a single volume. Due to issues between the current Adaptec 2940UW and the fastest CPU card I've tested, the PowerForce 250 (running reliably at 292mhz with a 1:1 cache), the stock 180mhz 604E processor was used for this comparison. [Update: Powerlogix's 1999 Powerforce control software should resolve this issue by disabling speculative processing.] Keep in mind that performance would increase somewhat with a faster CPU.
The operating system used was OS 7.6.1 with the standard array of Quicktime 2.5 and Quickdraw 3D 1.5.3, PC exchange, Connectix's Speed Doubler 2 and Motorola's LibMoto extensions active. Installed Ram was 384MB, consisting of four 64MB and four 32MB Dimms on loan from MacGurus. Due to large amount of system Ram, a 4MB disk cache was used for the tests (the Raid tests in part 2 were done with a 512k disk cache). The video card used during this test was an ATI Nexus GA.
For a illustrated guide to installing a PCI SCSI card and drive, see my Cheetah Bundle Review.
I welcome comments about this review and/or the products involved.
I'd like to thank the following companies for providing products for test, saving me precious funds - Adaptec, CharisMac, Conley Corporation, Initio, and a special thanks to MacGurus for providing pairs of many of the cards and Raid ToolKit.
If you find this review and site helpful, please let these companies know their efforts are appreciated.
You can follow my preferred path through the report by continuing to the next page, or use the links below to jump to a specific page.
Index of SCSI Controller Comparison Report
Copyright © Mike, 1998.
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