It is not a very frequently occurring thing that the users need a RAID array in their home system, but in some cases it is simply impossible to do without it. Two most common situations when RAID array in a must are: the desire to squeeze the maximum out of your hard disk drives and the need for maximum data security. The simplest and cheapest way of making ATA HDDs work in this mode is to take a mainboard with the integrated RAID controller onboard or to get a PCI add-on RAID controller, which will help you create an array of the desired configuration.
There are a few choices here, and we decided to take a closer look at some of them. For our test session we took four ATA RAID controllers, which are mostly spread in the today’s market. One of them is an external PCI add-on controller card, and the other three are all onboard integrated controllers. This test session is intended to answer the question: how greatly (if at all) integrated RAID controllers fall behind the add-on ones? And of course, the results of this testing will help you make the right choice, if you really need a RAID controller today.
Anyway, this is still a very acute topic for discussion, however, in the future you may never again ask yourself this tricky question, as the RAID function tends to get soon integrated into the mainboard chipsets. But, let’s not rush ahead of time: we still need RAID controllers, so let’s find out which one is the best!
The chip from the Taiwanese VIA Company – VT6410 is a controller supporting two ATA/133 channels. It allows creating RAID 0, 1, 0+1 arrays. This solution is integrated onto mainboards on many manufacturers. In our case we will test this controller as implemented on ASUS P4P800 mainboard.
GigaRAID ITE IT8212F
Trying to significantly enrich the features of their products, Gigabyte integrates GigaRAID ITE IT8212F controller onto some of its mainboards. This controller supports two ATA/133 channels. It allows creating RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD arrays. In our case we used Gigabyte 8SQ800 Ultra mainboard.
Promise FastTrak TX2000
This is an external controller card from Promise supporting two ATA/133 channels. We have already taken a closer look at it in our Promise FastTrak TX2000 Controller Review. It supports the following disk array configurations: RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD.
Promise FastTrak 133Lite
This controller from Promise is implemented in their PDC20276 chip. It supports two ATA/133 channels and can work with RAID 0 and RAID 1 arrays. In our case this controller was integrated onto Albatron PX865Pro II mainboard.
Just in case you do not remember the theory behind RAID arrays of different configurations, I would like to quickly remind you a few basic things. RAID 0 (striping) implies an arrays of a few hard drives, where the data blocks alternate. By distributing the workload among the drives of the array you can increase its reading and writing speed. RAID 1 (mirroring) configuration implies that the HDDs work in pairs, where one HDD duplicates the info stored on the second one in the pair, thus ensuring its higher security. RAID 0+1 array, which is a combination of RAID 0 and RAID 1, ensures both: higher performance and higher data security. When the RAID controller works in JBOD mode (just a bunch of drives), which is also known as spanning, it means that there are one or more HDDs connected to it, which can be accessed as a single array (the data is saved to each HDD until it is full). However, JBOD doesn’t boast any advantages over a single HDD in terms of performance or data security.