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Highpoint Rocket 1520 RocketRAID Controller

Highpoint Rocket 1520 RocketRAID Controller

Highpoint Rocket 1520 RocketRAID Controller
Site: Highpoint
Date: Nov 2003
Compare prices: Kelkoo
Buy UK: Amazon | Currys/PCW | Dabs | eBuyer | John Lewis | Novatech |
Buy Int: Amazon.com | Compsource  
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.

The backwards compatibility for SATA is important and adaptors are available to connect parallel drives to the new equipment. While being a slight hit on performance the technology is at least compatible and allows users to upgrade.

The interface card can handle several RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations. This is a technique where x amount of drives are employed to gain an increase in speed or improve reliability. A few years back this would have only been implemented on server systems with SCSI disk configurations but times have changed and the demand for power computing has grown. This change has seen PCI and system board controllers developed allowing users to improve disk transfer rates or mirror the data so in the event of disk failure the data is backed up.

Test Setup

The card was tested in the following system:

  • Asus A7v8x Motherboard
  • Athlon XP2000 CPU
  • Corsair DDR3200 Memory
  • Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disks.
  • HEC 350watt PSU
  • Coolermaster ATC201
  • Geforce 4200ti 128mb

RocketRAID Controller

The card arrived well presented in the box pictured below.

The box arrived and was neatly packed with the following contents;

  • RocketRAID 1520 controller card
  • Two Serial ATA cables
  • Driver Software
  • Raid Management Software
  • User Manual

Note . The power adapters are again not provided. Neither the disk, interface card or motherboard manufactures seem to be taking note that the power connecter need to be provided.

Large Picture of Highpoint Interface Card

The interface card is compact and utilizes highpoints HPT372A interface chip. There are two bridging chips manufactured by Marvell on the card to allow the serial data to be converted into parallel data for the main 327A chip to process. This card can perform RAID Levels 0(striping), 1(mirroring) and JBOD (Spanning).

Performance and User Experience

Installing the card was reasonably straightforward and it recognized the drives without a hitch. There was no booting conflict. The observation I will make is that the drive recognition part of the controller booting did take considerable longer then other cards and onboard interfaces that I have worked with.

Single Disk

A single disk configuration was tried to check the transfer rates.

Raid 0

Two seagate disks were striped together.

JBOD

A "Just a buch of disks" array was created.

Raid 1

Mirrored disk array set.

Conclusion

The card was easy to setup and the BIOS well laid out. Create, repairing and deleting arrays was straight forward. From the benchmark results the transfer rates should be higher in RAID0. Different drivers, firmware, PCI timings and positions were tried in order to solve the problem. This is not to say the performance isn't as expected from a different motherboard chipset or hard disk/s (as I believe this to be a PCI bandwidth problem more then being the interface card). The addition of JBOD (just a bunch of disks) in this category is a good idea allowing the user to create 1 volume, although this wasnt to any speed increase.

I would recommend this card out of the sheer ease of use, compatibility and throughput, well done highpoint.

Links:

About SATA (http://www.serialata.org/about/)
Highpoints SATA (http://www.highpoint-tech.com/)