The stir around SerialATA interface has reached its peak this summer: a lot of freshly released hard disk drives and controllers with SerialATA support occupied our minds (and testbeds) for a long time. However, I found a way out of this “vicious” circle (for a short while) and returned to reviewed of more popular ATA RAID controllers. Why I said more popular? I said so because ATA drives are still much cheaper than SATA ones and do not yield that much in performance to the newcomers.
We will start our new tour of RAID controller investigations with Promise FastTRAK TX 4000. According to its features, this controller is positioned inbetween the dual-channel FastTRAK TX2000 and a powerful four-channel SX4000. Even though you can also connect four HDDs to the TX2000 controller, our experience shows that four-channel controllers are always faster than their dual-channel counterparts when working with RAID arrays of three or four hard disk drives (see our article called Four-Channel ATA RAID Controllers Comparison for more details). The SX4000 controller with its four channels belongs to a different weight category compared with TX4000, because SX4000 features a XOR processor onboard and hence can support hardware RAID 5 arrays.
TX4000 controller should replace a very fast but, unfortunately, pretty conflicting FastTRAK100 TX4 controller (see our Promise FastTrak100 TX4 IDE RAID Controller Review). The bridge layout used on this controller (two PDC20270 ATA chips connected via the PCI-PCI bridge from Intel) allowed to avoid the situations when there is only one cable for two HDDs, because each HDD could be connected to a separate ATA-channel. However, the users have been facing the incompatibility problem between their mainboards and the controller cards they were using. As far as I understand, the problems were caused by the Intel PCI-PCI bridge. To be fair I should say that this controller was developed by DEC engineers and Intel got it only after the merger. However, this is the have-been things already…
So, Promise launched a four-channel single-chip ATA/133 RAID controller chip aka PDC20619 and a corresponding TX4000 controller card based on it. The set of supported RAID arrays is pretty standard: RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, JBOD. Due to controller’s ability to work in a 66MHz PCI 2.3 slot, the maximum theoretical bandwidth it can provide makes 266MB/sec.
In the lower right corner of the controller PCB we see a BIOS chip and connectors for LEDs.