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Highpoint Rocket 1511 - Single Channel Serial ATA Host Adapter &
RocketMate 1110 e.SATA SATA Disk Enclosure.

Highpoint SATA Card

Highpoint Rocket 1511 - Single External (eSATA) Channel Serial ATA Host Adapter &
RocketMate 1110 e.SATA (External Serial ATA) to SATA Disk Enclosure.
Site: Highpoint
Date: Nov 2003
Buy UK: Amazon | Currys/PCW | Dabs | eBuyer | John Lewis | Novatech |
Buy Int: Amazon.com | Compsource  Compare prices: Kelkoo
Use: Add SATA features to your current setup.

Thanks to Highpoint for making this review possible.

Serial ATA (SATA) is becoming more and more mainstream now as the speeds and benifits are being added to motherboards and the SATA roadmap for faster speeds begins to be implemented.

Highoint are well known for producing products using the common ATA 100/133 buses and are continuing to expand their knowledge by introducing serveral offerings using the SATA interface.

Highpoint Rocket 1511 - Single External (eSATA) Channel Serial ATA Host Adapter &
RocketMate 1110 e.SATA (External Serial ATA) to SATA Disk Enclosure.

Introduction

As faster interfaces (e.SATA, USB2 and Firewire) become available for external devices more people are looking towards external storage as an affordable solution to be both portable and compatible while keeping transfer rates high. There has always been a solution in the market for external storage. There are SCSI external interfaces available but these are not cheap.

Although the SATA standard supports hot-swapping disks, Windows does not currently support it. As 32bit PCI bus's cap off at 100mb/s, it seems weird that marketing departments go out of there way to advertise new drives that are capable of more than this. Despite all this SATA has one huge advantage over parallel connections, the cables. Since SATA has only 4 data lines the cable are much thinner. The cables can also be considerably longer then there parallel counter-parts. There are definite advantages to implementing SATA for external devices.

Interface Card

Highpoint Rocket 1511 Box

Included:

  • 1x Rocket 1511 card
  • Driver software
  • User's Manual

The Rocket 1511 interface card by highpoint has only one external (e.SATA) port. There are other cards by highpoint which have more ports but most users are only likely to use one. Highpoint have done a good job at looking for better solutions for hardware that currently exists.

Highpoint Rocket 1511 Card

As Firewire and USB2 are both commonly used, e.SATA hopes to persuade users to switch due to the speed increase. With adaptors being available for the use of internal SATA ports to be feed externally via a simple bracket the technology could catch on if it wasn't for the widespread use of USB2 and Firewire ports already implemented by many motherboard manufactures.

The card uses a small and compact external 4-pin port to connect to an external SATA device. The connection is not used to provide power. Only 4 data lines exists which run at high frequency to deliver fast transfer rates. As in all of highpoints devices they have continued to use the same parallel controller chip and then used a SATA to PATA bridge chip (manufactured by Marvel). This method isn't to be sniffed at, as my experience with highpoints cards is that they are very user friendly, reliable and suffer no loss of data transfer.

Sepcifications

Host side interface 32bit 33/66 MHz PCI
Number of IDE channels 1 Channel
Supported Hard drives SATA hard disk drives, IDE hard disk drives (ATA133/100)
Supported OSs Windows 98/ME, Windows NT4.0, Win2000, Windows XP, Linux (Turbo, Caldera, RedHat, SuSE), Free BSD
Maximum Data Throughput 150MB/s
BIOS Function Drive Configuration and Management
Plug and Play Yes
Misc. Functions Large LBA support capacity exceeding 137GB

Drive Caddy

The Box!!!

RocketMate 1110 Boxed

Here you can see the external caddy, power supply and SATA cable. My first impressions are that the external case is compact.

RocketMate 1110 Connectors

The back of the caddy contains on 2 connections (e.SATA, power) and a main power switch. Looking at the unit I'm a little concerned with the heat desperation of such a small enclosure. By removing two screws the internal metal tray can be removed and a SATA drive can be added. The drive is mounted via 4 screw holes on the base of the tray.

RocketMate 1110 Slid Open

The drive fits snuggle inside the external caddy. The back-plate simple extends the interface and powers the drive.

RocketMate 1110 Connected

I'm also little concerned with using the same plug as a Firewire port. The reason is that there will always be someone who accidentally plugs a Firewire cable into the port.

Benchmarks

Sandra 2004

RocketMate 1110 Sandra Benchmark

HDTach 2.61

RocketMate 1110 HDTach Benchmark

I have included these benchmarks, however I do not think this is the true measure of transfer rates from using this card and caddy. The tested system was based on a KT400-VIA-Athlon based system which seemed to suffer from PCI latency and bandwidth problems. It seems obvious that there are problems with the test setup and not particularly with the test items as the transfer rate seem capped at 15MB/s. They should really be at least ~30MB/s. The other point however I would like to make that achieving transfer rates like highpoint claim of 150MB/s is simple unrealistic even at burst rate transfer. The device is capable of more then what's currently available, however current 32bit PCI busses just will not support more then 100MB/s.

Conclusion

The card includes a standard highpoint chip and a Marvell bridge chip to allow an external connection from an internal PCI card to an external SATA hard disk. This setup is similar to most highpoint cards except the connector is rerouted to the external of the case. The card was extremely user friendly and didn't conflict with the onboard highpoint controller. After using the setup for several hours the drive did get extremely hot and I was a little worried about the effects of this on the drives health. While I didn't receive good transfer characteristics I don't believe this to be a problem with highpoints hardware.