Promise 150 TX2plus & Promise 150 TX4 FastTrak SATA Products
Date: Nov 2003
Price: 150TX2 £65 | 150TX4 £88 @ the time of writing.
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Use: Add SATA features to your current setup.
The new Serial interface technology (SATA) has arrived and there are plenty of interface controllers and disk drives using the technology. There are advantages in the form of thinner cables and faster transfer rates of 150mb/s (although this depends heavily on motherboard that is used). This will be increased when the second and third generations of SATA are brought out.
Promise has kindly sent PCHardware.co.uk two of there SATA cards to review.
First off there's the basic PATA/SATA interface card, the TX2. With 1 PATA port and 2 SATA ports this Interface card has a clear place in the market. This is to allow users to migrate there disk interfaces. The second product was the TX4 150 SATA interface card. This model allows 4 SATA devices to be attached for various RAID and single disk configurations.
Promise 150 TX2plus
The TX2 from promise is based on there PDC20375 interface chip. The card allows users to slowly change to the new SATA technology by including a PATA/UltraATA connecter. The BIOS of the card auto configures the devices attached.
Promise 150 TX4 FastTrak
The 4-channel big brother of the TX2 uses a Promise PDC20318 controller chip. With most motherboards being fitted with 2 SATA ports the TX4 interface card is ideal for users who want to run 4 disks in various array configurations.
Both of the cards are compact and Promise has added small heat-sink to the TX4 to help dissipate the heat.
ATTO - TX2 Single Disk
ATTO - TX4 Single Disk
ATTO - TX4 RAID0
ATTO - TX4 RAID1
From the results yielded by ATTO it can be seen that the transfer rates are not impressive but they are acceptable.
AIDA32 - TX2 Single Disk
AIDA32 - TX4 Single Disk
AIDA32 - TX4 RAID0
AIDA32 has shown the difference in sustained transfer rates from striping the disks.
AIDA Weblink [here]
During the testing of this card several problems were encountered. The first being that Microsoft Windows set-up (2000/XP) would not detect the disks even though they appeared correct and functional in the TX4's BIOS. This was solved with a BIOS upgrade available here.
The second problem was that our main test board (ASUS A7V8X KT400) had an onboard promise controller, which couldn't be turned off. After emailing Asus, the answer we got from technical support was that it is not possible to turn the promise chip off (The BIOS was no longer installed but the card still appeared in Windows). As Promise devices are not true plug & play this completely dashed any hopes of getting the card to run on the normal test machine.
I should mention that we tried everything to bypass/solve the conflict, although it was futile and the controllers conflicted with drastic effects. We then supplemented a KT400 DFI motherboard and tested the cards without a hitch.
The performances of the cards are good (considering the poor VIA KT400 PCI sanctioning) and the TX4 RAID0 turns out some decent sustained transfer characteristics. The TX2 and TX4 were about on par for single disk configuration. This is really to be expected.
I suggest that anyone thinking of buying a SATA internal card checks that any other onboard RAID controllers can be disabled as this can cause problems such as conflicting. Most boards allow for these to be disabled either via the BIOS or via a jumber on the board itself. The promise cards don't seem to mind being in a system where other on-system-board controllers exist and are functional, which could be a good thing if you have a large or already tweaked setup.
The TX2 compatibility is an excellent feature and I think many people will and should purchase this card if you want a solution to simple upgrade to SATA. The TX4 is currently running in my server and the performance is good, I just wish I didn't have so many problems to start off with. Overall these cards are well performing and compact, and come reccomended.