I recently purchased an Adaptec 5805 RAID controller, two Samsung PB22-J 128GB SDDs and a spinpoint F3 and thought I would do a quick review of them.
For a while now I've been using onboard RAID, migrating from JBOD to RAID 5 then to RAID 0. After an incident a year ago where I lost an operating system and quite a lot of data in an unfortunate disk failure incident I decided RAID was the way forward. I started out using RAID 5 on my 790i, the transfer rates were diabolical, however I stuck with it. Think around 5MB/s and you're on the money. After migrating to an Intel board, the transfer rates dropped to the 1MB/s level and I gave up any dream of using an onboard solution for data security and shifted to a RAID 0 setup using Acronis true image home as a backup.
Having used onboard I realised that you get what you pay for. Thus off went nearly £400 on the Adaptec 5805, and a further £85 on a BBU (Battery Backup). The BBU is vital for keeping the cache with data in it alive in the event of power failure. With a 512MB cache (DDR2), capacity for 8 attached drives, or many more with extenders, a dual core 1.2GHz processor and an 8xPCIe connection this is true hardware RAID.
The onboard software is really easy to use, although sussing the boot orders isn't. The boot order instructions are living in opposite land so a certain amount of skill is needed to force it to boot the correct disk. But the array creation is easy, the drive management is amazingly in depth but still easy to navigate. In fact the only problem with it seems to be the minute it adds to boot time.
With a pair of spinpoint F3's in RAID 0, the transfer rate is around 215MB/s write, 239MB/s read, naturally transfers less than 400MB tend to happen virtually instantly thanks to the controller's cache. The rates are exceptional even with standard disks, and you realize how much the motherboard bottlenecks the system.
The packaging is fairly basic, with pictures and brief descriptions on the box. The card is contained in a plastic tray similar to high end sound cards and certain motherboards. The accessories included are half height PCI plate, mini SAS to 4 x SATA cables and driver disks. The software included is a manual (PDF only), a set of drivers (with more up to date ones online) and the management software for a variety of operating systems to monitor drives across LAN or from the PC within windows. The software shows smart errors, array configurations and statuses etc.
Now for some negatives: RAID 5 creation takes quite a while, which is to be expected. In addition the controller cannot be operated passively unless you happen to live in an igloo. Trapped between a pair of 280GTX GPUs and a Killer M1 NIC, the poor thing overheats in seconds unless a fan is directed at it. I run a 120mm fan with airflow over the heatsink and that keeps the temperature way down. The boot time is also a pain, because with SSDs I could hit the power button and be online in just under a minute without the controller initiation.
On the other hand, I can hot swap drives, have online hot spares and make the most out of RAID 0 SSDs, which give 450MB/s read speeds. I look at the negatives (price, heat, boot time) then look at the read/write speeds and know that I can wholeheartedly recommend the controller. I cannot say that is the same as go out and buy it though.
If you have a decent PC and want to make the most of your SSDs, need to keep all your hard disks in a decent array or happen to have a server, I definitely say you should buy this card. On the other hand, the money would go an awful long way to a new P55 and i7 combo.
Samsung PB22-J 128GB SSDs:
Now a number of people (two) have told me that the Samsungs are awful. I assume that they have not googled them or used them. These chips are the same as go into the corsair performance series and until recently were OEM only. They are suspiciously cheap (£249 each) so I decided to spring for them.
The packaging is "basic". In fact it was just an anti static bag and a bit of bubble wrap. Still if they can keep the price down I really don't care. The drives are cased in brushed aluminium, which looks nice, and keeps the drives laughably light. As you may have guessed, I run them in RAID 0. The 128MB cache keeps things snappy, while the MLC flash keeps the costs relatively (for an SSD) low. They are 2.5" drives, as is to be expected.
The read rate is around 450MB/s according to HD Tach, much lower according to crystal disk mark (although this is lower than the write so I'm a little sceptical). The access time is 0.2ms and windows often posting 400MB/s file transfers, I'm inclined to trust HD tach. A similar fault occurs with much slower traditional F3's in RAID:
Overall the snappiness of the drives is one of the biggest improvements I've seen since upgrading from single core to quad core. If you have the money, buy SSDs, they are some of the biggest changes to performance I have seen in ages.
Another thing to look at is the application of the SSDs. They speed everything up, boot time, opening up apps, game loading. This is something that you probably use more often than a graphics chip. Granted a fast processor is equally ubiquitous but I would be inclined to get an new SSD over a new GPU particularly if you are running at nearly cutting edge graphics.
So to sum up the SSDs: Great read/write performance, amazing latency and boot times. On the negative, the packaging is rubbish, the write isn't as high as advertised and they are pretty expensive.
I recommend these they are a good deal cheaper than similar performing drives and performance is nothing short of exceptional.