RAID – On-Board or PCI card?

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PCI Card RAID

As noted at the beginning, I used a Promise FastTrak 100 TX2 PCI controller installed in a Soyo K7VTA Pro. My first question was whether it would be any more difficult to setup. No, not really. I did try a number of different slot combinations for the FastTrak and other cards and only had one that resulted in any problems. But you might run into that same issue with the on-board Promise, as I may not have tried every possible combination.

So what other differences are there between using the PCI card and on-board? Well first, the on-board is called a ‘Lite’ version and there is a reason. Not in performance (you’ll see that below), but in options and how many drives can be connected in the different modes. The ‘Lite’ version doesn’t support RAID 1+0 and it only allows two drives set as masters on each port in an array, whereas the full version allows you to not only set up RAID 1+0, but also allows you to have an array of up to 4 drives. The PCI card also support disk ‘spanning’, which allows up to 4 individual drives to be treated as one (once one is filled it starts using the next), and Hot Swapping of a spare drive on a Mirrored array (RAID 1). Note that you can use up to 4 drives on the ‘Lite’ version, though they have to be set up as 4 individual RAID 1 arrays (essentially 4 normal drives).

Not a whole lot of difference, but buyers should look at their needs before deciding which to use. Since I noticed no real difference in setup between the two, and no compatibility issues were identified, let’s see if there is any performance difference. First let’s look at RAID 1, on-board vs. PCI card:

mainboard

MSI K7 Turbo R

Soyo K7VTA Pro

BIOS

ver 2.7

2AA3

Promise Driver

1.3

2

Drive

2x WD 200BB – Raid 1

2x WD 200BB – Raid 1

Disk Blaster 128MB file size, MB/s

21.363

21.308

Winbench 99

Bus Disk KB/s

10800

10800

High Disk KB/s

21600

22200

Disk Transfer Rate

Beginning K Byte/ Sec

33500

33400

Access time – ms

11.7

11.7

CPU Utilization – %

0.817

0.864

Winstone 2001

Business

46.5

46.8

Content Creation

49.9

51.3

No real difference at all, which indicates that as far as performance is concerned they are the same. Will RAID 0 be the same?

mainboard

MSI K7 Turbo R

Soyo K7VTA Pro

BIOS

ver 2.7

2AA3

Promise Driver

1.3

2

Drive

2x WD 200BB – RAID 0, Desktop

2x WD 200BB – RAID 0, Desktop

Disk Blaster 128MB file size, MB/s

25.522

25.572

Winbench 99

Bus Disk KB/s

11600

11700

High Disk KB/s

27300

28800

Disk Transfer Rate

Beginning K Byte/ Sec

56500

55500

Access time – ms

10.1

14.4

CPU Utilization – %

0.894

0.928

Winstone 2001

Business

48.5

48.4

Content Creation

50.2

51.3

Interesting. Even though the transfer rates and scores are pretty much the same, the access time and CPU utilization are a bit higher with the PCI card vs. the on-board. But overall I’d say they are identical in performance, no difference.


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