Best setup for video production?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by macuser453787, May 19, 2012.

  1. macuser453787, May 19, 2012
    Last edited: May 19, 2012

    macuser453787 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Greetings to all of you! I'm a newly registered member and am looking for some advice about the best setup for video production on a Mac Pro. Since this particular forum is for Mac Pros, I thought it best to post a thread here. :)

    I'm currently a graphic designer by trade, but am highly interested in shifting to video production and have been considering options for a long time now. Please note that this is all academic for me at this point, which is to say I'm not ready to make a purchase yet. But any advice/feedback would be sincerely appreciated.

    I'm considering two main options:

    1) This option assumes that Apple will release a refresh for the Mac Pro line, and for the sake of discussion please make that assent with me, at least based on the parameters put forth. :)

    With that in mind, it seems logical to me that a refresh would include an upgrade to SATA III for the HD bays. If so, I considered using OWC's Mercury Extreme Pro 6Ghttp://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Mercury_6G/ to go in all (assuming 4) bays - 1 as boot drive, 2 as RAID 0 (for 2TB file storage), and 1 as a scratch disk. Then for backup of the striped SSDs, an external Enterprise class drive such as Hitachi's Ultrastar 7k3000 http://eshop.macsales.com/item/HGST/0F12456/

    2) This option assumes that Apple will not release a MP refresh, and that the current model will therefore be the one to choose. Since I'm interested in maximum possible IO for this (and since the current MP is SATA II), all of a sudden the OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI Express SSDhttp://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/PCIe/OWC/Mercury_Accelsior/RAID looks more appealing for the striped 2TB. This option would still possibly use Option 1's SSD for boot and scratch, and the Hitachi (or equivalent/better) for backup.

    But this is where I'm asking you for help. Either way I would be looking to max the RAM (or at least 64gb, though OWC does have a 96gb config for the current MP :D), but I'd like some help understanding this from an IO standpoint re: drive setup. Would the Accelsior present a significant advantage with either option (that is, over and above the Extreme Pro 6G)? And if so, would it be enough of a difference to make it worth the extra expense of the Accelsior?

    Either way (and just FYI), am considering purchasing FCPX for the software, though I welcome input in this area too. Thing is, up to this point I've only used FC Express on my current Mac and I don't know if it would be better to go with FCPX or Premiere. Just haven't read up on it enough, though I do recall that prior to FCPX's release, the previous FC Studio (not Premiere et al) seemed to be industry-standard for the most part based on the threads I came across.

    What are the best options in your opinion? And please let me know if I left any blanks that need to be filled in. :)
     
  2. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #2
    Option 1

    I think you should read up on putting SSDs in RAID and using them for scratch. I've heard bad things about both of these uses, but have not used SSDs that way myself. Putting that aside, I wonder how long you'll be satisfied with such a small amount of storage space. Video editing can use a lot of data, but if you're only doing small / short projects, then maybe you can get by with less.

    Option 2

    Once again, I think this is a very small amount of storage. For the price of the Accelsior, you're getting into the range of a proper hardware RAID card / array. With eight or more HDDs in a RAID, you can get even better I/O speeds with many times more storage. Disk prices have been adversely impacted by the floods and such, but they're getting reasonable again as far as I've noticed.

    FCP X vs. other tools... I prefer Adobe's offerings. I have FCP X, and I just don't like it, but since you've been using Final Cut Express, I would think you might love it. Having said that, if you did choose Adobe, I'd actually suggest building a PC tuned just for Adobe. You get a lot more bang for your buck that way. I realize this may be off the table for you, but once in the software, they are identical in PC and Mac versions, except for the fact that the Mac versions have had some effects and tools removed, believe it or not.
     
  3. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #3
    You mentioned 2TB in a stripe with the Accelsior option. So, over $4000 for that, right?

    Consider something like an Areca RAID card for $800-900, an external box for $400 or so, and eight enterprise HDDs for $200 apiece. (Newegg has refurbished RE-4 disks for $190 each!) With cabling and whatnot, you've got less than $3000 spent on an array that will give you 1100MB/second in a RAID-0 stripe, or as is the case for my system, 816MB/sec writes and 714MB/sec reads in RAID-6, where any two drives can fail without losing any data. (I've tested this personally, and it's very nice to see it work so well.)

    16TB (stripe) or 12TB (RAID-6) for under $3000, or 2TB in a stripe for $4000... which makes more sense, really?
     
  4. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #4
    Not to mention that there's a reasonably good chance of destroying those ssds in a raid:p.
     
  5. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Good point, and one I perhaps haven't fully considered. One thing I forgot to mention is that I planned on using either Apple's software RAID via Disk Utility or the third-party SoftRAID. I will certainly look into the SSD RAID/scratch ramifications as you've suggested. And capacity probably won't be a factor. 2TB striped (if found to be reliable) should be fine for my initial purposes. :)

    I'd rather try to keep the RAID via software if advisable. Have been reading some other posts about pros and cons of soft vs. hard and taking that at face value, it seems that no significant advantage would be gained by using a controller card vs. software setup for my initial purposes. That aside, I wonder whether or not Accelsior offers a significant enough performance advantage over the MEP 6G (since it's via PCI Express instead of SATA II or a hypothetical SATA III).

    Curious: How would I get even better IO using a RAID card with 8 or more drives vs. Accelsior's 780 mb/s (according to OWC)? It seems you're assuming an external drive setup of some kind, yes? If so, what did you have in mind? Standard HDDs? SSDs? Surely not with standard HDDs, right?

    Yeah, not sure about migrating to PC. I'm comfortable working on them and I know by using them at my job that the CS's are the same cross-platform (at least with InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator). I might seriously consider PC in the event of a no-go on the MP refresh but would really prefer to side with the current MP release just because I truly enjoy the Mac experience (as I'm sure we all do) and have been a dedicated Mac user ever since I first worked on the Mac Plus's/SE's back in high school. I would be reluctant for those reasons to switch (I don't wanna!!!! :)) but would consider it.

    I will look into Premiere. Seems that some are switching over because of the FCPX fiasco I've been reading about in the threads. What about FCP7? Would it be too outdated do you think? Or might there be an OS compatibility issue?
     
  6. JMG macrumors 6502a

    JMG

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    #6
    Apple is all but excising FCP from the professional market. There is just no money in it for them for such a small niche crowd. Having said that, if you are hovering around the needs of a consumer/prosumer then FCX is fine. However, if you are thinking of moving into the professional world in the future, you might as well get familiar with the software. Adobe Premiere is non-existent in the professional world of TV and film. It's dominated by Avid and FCP as a minority for smaller/cheaper project (with the exception of some big films). With the nerfing of FCPX, the future is unclear. I would look into the educational discount for Avid.

    http://www.avid.com/US/specialoffers/special-offers-Student-Pricing

    It's a fairly huge discount for a professional program. Ironically, with the setup you are proposing, you would be running a more powerful Mac Pro than most motion pictures and big TV shows.
     
  7. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Seriously? 1100 mb/s? I didn't even realize that was even remotely possible with a standard HDD. I thought SSD was necessary for that kind of speed. SATA 3, right? Wow, that's news to me. I would seriously consider that and it would bring the price way down as I wouldn't need to come close to 16 TB initially. Just don't want lag time. Performance, performance, performance!

    ----------

    Are SSDs still not that reliable for this kind of work? What is it about RAID that disagrees with them? Please clarify. Am wondering why at this point that OWC would advertise them as RAID-supported if there are serious problems with SSDs and RAID configurations.

    ----------

    Thanks for the tip! I'll look into Avid as well. I like FCE's interface but am not necessarily tied to it - it's just what I know up to this point.

    "More powerful Mac Pro" - that's encouraging in more ways than I can tell you. Thank you! I believe it's good to give my best and to use the best to do it. :)
     
  8. nuckinfutz macrumors 603

    nuckinfutz

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    #8

    Final Cut Pro X is chump change at $299. Let's face it you want return on your investment and that means competing for work in many cases. In the end it's about the finished work and it's relative quality. Funny thing is all these people that constantly ready to jump ship when a curve ball is thrown at them are the ones you need to beat with speed and a better finished product.

    Final Cut Pro X didn't launch well but since then we've got Multicam, better XML, Video out. Rumor is better multitrack editing and more.

    Adobe's done good work by Premiere but in the end a single platform app is going to perform better so long as proper attention is being given. You'll notice that there aren't as many boo birds slagging FCPX off now. A guy I respect Alex Lindsay said in a recent Macbreak podcast that after a couple of projects he can't imagine going back to FCP 7 because he's grown accustomed to the new features.

    The hardware options you've put up look stellar. Let's hope that a new Mac Pro is coming soon.
     
  9. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Thanks for your comments! (and for your help with the name of the 3rd Mac clone manufacturer in the other post :)). Personally, I do believe a new Mac Pro is coming soon. All things considered (and many posts read), IMO there would be something very fundamentally wrong if Apple were to disregard their roots by canning the MP.

    On another note, what do you think about IO speeds for the counter-proposed Areca SAS 6G RAID card using (I assumed) standard SATA 6G HDDs? That is, as opposed to IO speeds for 6G SSDs. And what are your thoughts (and/or experiences) on reliability of striped SSDs?

    General comment for all reading this: Keeping in mind my original post and all replies thus far, I'm interested in hypothetical solutions for the absolute best overall performance, assuming that cost is not an issue. Humor me please. Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated. Primary parameter: Keep options on the Mac Pro if possible (i.e. not PC) - I greatly desire to own and work on a Mac Pro for my stated purposes (whether it be the current model or the assumed refresh). :)
     
  10. ekwipt macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    you might be better sticking to Adobe CS6 since you're a graphic designer, focus on learning after effects and premiere.

    Hardware wise if you're waiting for true new MacPro, id just wait it out and then come back and ask questions everyone will have a better understanding then
     
  11. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #11

    That is the power of many disks reading and writing concurrently. It's not SATA III, it's PCI 2.0 x8 lanes, so the maximum speed through the RAID card is 8x500MB/second, or 4000MB/second. Based on getting 1101 out of eight, and the fact that my card can handle 16 ports, the most I can get with 16 disks would be 2202MB/second. However, if I were to use the ix-24 card instead of my ix-12, I could probably get 3853MB/second with 28 disks in one striped RAID-0. (24 internal and 4 external ports on that card.)

    My RAID box is an 8-bay external, connected via mini-SAS cables to a hardware RAID card by Areca, the 1880ix-12. (The 1880 series has been replaced by the 1882 series not long ago, so the 1882 may be even faster for all I know.)

    When I first set it up, I tested the speeds in one big stripe of all eight disks in RAID-0 so I could verify all disks were working properly, and yes, I got just a hair over 1101MB/second read and write. I think it was 1101.2 or something like that. If you do the math on the drive specs, which are Western Digital 2TB RE-4 (WD2003FYYS), they indicate the max data rate is 138MB/second. Multiply that x8 and you get 1104. I was just slightly under that combined speed, which verified that all my disks were running at their peak(s), averaging 137.625MB/second. Pretty cool, eh?

    Satisfied with that number, I built a RAID-3 of the disks, but it took 40 hours to build, which I *didn't* like. Nanofrog suggested I try a RAID-5, but I went a step further and built a RAID-6 to further increase redundancy and safety by an extra disk failure tolerance. When I saw it was built in under 5 hours, and saw the results of the speed tests, I was sold.

    I know the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G drives have a 5-year warranty like my WD RE-4 HDDs do, but I don't see what they offer on the Accelsior kit.
     
  12. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Meant to ask you: Why do you think that the fact that Premiere is cross-platform means that it wouldn't perform as well as a proper-attention-paid, single-platform software? Am genuinely curious about that. I guess it kinda makes sense in a way but was wondering if you would elaborate a bit.

    Adobe and Apple have always been hand in hand, haven't they? What I mean to ask is: do you feel that even though Adobe and Apple have a long history together that even with that history, Adobe perhaps loses a certain quality level because it has to pay attention to the Windows side of programming too? Or do you mean something different?
     
  13. nuckinfutz, May 19, 2012
    Last edited: May 19, 2012

    nuckinfutz macrumors 603

    nuckinfutz

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    #13
    I've never personally used Areca but what I know of them they are well priced and solid performing products. I like the idea of SAS because it's a mature technology. The only thing that worries me about PCI-Express SSD is that it's still pretty new. It's going to need to get field tested a bit but it "is" an encouraging sign that Intel is playing in that sandbox as well.




    I'm not ruling out learning Adobe stuff someday but the rumor of Apple not caring about Professionals is bunk. They've put a LOT of work into revamping the Audio and Video foundation of OS X ( a big move away from Quicktime) and it was never going to be something that going to be done in short order.

    Final Cut Pro X and it's approach is no different than Autodesk's approach with Smoke. The days of people spending 10K on a single program are pretty much over much like buying 6-figure cameras is under fire as well.

    I love it.



    Adobe does cross platform apps better than most but in the end it means slower adoption of new core features. For instance with CS6 they've moved their GPU accelerated Mercury Engine from Nvidia's CUDA technology to OpenCL which Apple and others in Khronos support. To maintain cross platform agility Adobe really has to create a lot of platform agnostic code and then tweak the final bits for each platform. Apple, in theory, should be more agile because they can design right up against only Mac frameworks. We'll see if this happens in the real world but clearly Final Cut Pro is likely to be updated with more frequency than FCP 7 was.
     
  14. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Wow, that is impressive! I will definitely look into that then. Thanks so much for the wealth of info - I didn't realize that the data transfer rate multiplied like that with RAID, though now it makes perfect sense to me (I've just never used a RAID setup before so it's just a lack of experience on my part :rolleyes:). May I ask: Do you use this setup for data-intensive tasks like video editing or something comparable to it?

    ----------



    sandbox... or SandForce? Yes, I did. :D



    I think I'm starting to like the idea of SAS too! :)

    ----------

    I'm a little surprised to hear that, actually. I thought that CUDA-capable rendering was a big advantage for Premiere CS5.

    ----------

    wonderspark: All that being said, let's say I do that Areca card RAID array. If it were your setup, what would you do with the internal bays? My thought is to maybe leave all but one empty, and the one occupied one could be an SSD for the boot drive. Or, maybe that and one other bay with an SSD for a scratch disk?

    What do you think?
     
  15. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #15
    The main purpose of my Mac is video editing, but I also do graphic design, photography, and some animation. I use pretty much every app in the CS Suite, and I'm running both CS5 and 5.5 Production Premium until my free upgrade to CS6 physical disks arrive. Actually, I'll wait until some of the quirks I'm reading about get resolved in CS6 before committing a critical project to it. :)

    I've been fooling around with RAIDs since my first real editing system in 1997, a Media100 built on a PowerPC 9600/300. Everything was on tape, so I just ran everything on RAID-0, but tapeless workflows make the other RAID levels so much more important in my opinion. It's worth knowing how the different levels work.
    Standard RAID levels
    Nested RAID levels
     
  16. steveOooo macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    I bought a refurbsd base QC mode, mp in oct 2011 - got fed p with my Mbp and general sluggishness when attempting to do effects / Titles in motion etc...

    My set up (around 2 paid 5-20min videos per month) is

    2x WD black 2tb drives raided to 0 - after I capture or soon enough, I just make a backup of the capture files on a external, as well as on a internal 2tb WD green which I use occasionally - mainly stick video / project files on there that I 'might get round to useng'

    1x 2tb WD green drive - for storage - projects ready to be backed up

    1x 1tb home directory - where all my normal stuff goes
    1x 120gb SSD drive (bought from owc) - the boot drive - for reading only

    16gb ram

    It's ust great to have all that storage and power ( vs Mbp) in one box. Certainly the potential is there to have a ext raid wuth even more storage and faster discs.
     
  17. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #17
    What I did was buy a Crucial M4 256GB SSD, cloned my boot disk, and swapped that in Slot 1 for the OS and apps. Then I ended up with a second identical SSD, so that became my main boot clone, and my original 640GB HDD is a secondary clone that I keep an older version prior to major updates. I think my clone backups are adequate, haha.

    Slots 2 and 3 are 1TB HDDs in RAID-0 for my scratch disk. They work excellent for this. I used to have three 1TB drives in RAID-0 for my scratch, which was even better at 330MB/second, but the two at 215MB/second are fine for now.

    Slot 4 is one of the new 4TB Hitachi "coolspin" disks. I love it, because even though it runs at 5400rpm, it reads/writes faster than my 7200rpm 1TB drives... 129MB/second as opposed to only 96MB/second. That's why I only have two of the older 1TB drives internally now... because I wanted to try out this huge HDD. That makes my third 1TB drive a spare backup, which can also be used as a replacement should one of the two scratch disks in the RAID-0 fail.

    I have a lot of disks. :p
     
  18. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

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    #18
    OWC is high with their prices. 400.00 for the 6G when you can get Intel 520 for under 340.00? I guess better than when OWC was at 459.00 and Intel 520 was 285.00 on Newegg. Anyway, avoid OWC. I had creepy untruthful interactions with them as a company.
     
  19. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    That's good info to have - thanks! :)

    Questions: Do you consider the Intel 520 (or other models maybe) to be better quality than the OWC 6G line?

    And, I'm wondering about your statement/experiences with OWC, as I have always had good experiences with them (save for maybe one time which was a misunderstanding on my part). Would you be willing to elaborate to any degree about "creepy untruthful interactions"? If not it's okay - was just curious.
     
  20. beaker7 macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    SSDs in RAID are fine as long as you are not using a parity array and a decent controller.

    Raid 0, 1, 10, 100 are fine.

    Stay away from 5, 50, 60, etc.

    I run 8 OWC 6G Extreme's in RAID 0 in on a scratch drive in a Mac Pro and I think the lowest sequential bench I've ever seen was around 3 GB/s.

    ----------

    OWC 6G series was actually very competatively priced when they came out, but as they are basically the only vendor they haven't dropped as much as others over the lifespan.

    If i were buying right now I'd go with the 520.
     
  21. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Sounds like a nice setup. :) Yes that is a lot of disks! For your HDDs in slots 2 and 3, are those controlled via software RAID (Apple or third party)?

    Slot 4 - the 4TB Coolspin: Does the MP see all 4 TB? What I mean is, the current MP supports up to 8TB internal, so is that number cumulative for all 4 slots or does it limit formatted capacity per slot to 2TB?

    Also since the Areca card is PCIe 2.0 x8, and since I'm assuming you have it installed in the MP's x4 slot (right?), does that create a data throughput limitation of any kind?

    And, do you see any advantage of using the Areca card/HDD setup as scratch, over and above internal slots 2 and 3? That is, I like the idea of let's say 600-700 mb/s more than 215-330 mb/s.

    With your setup, where would you say that any bottlenecks might be (if applicable) and if so, what would you do to eliminate it/them?
     
  22. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #22
    Haha, that's awesome! Some day, if I ever have sixteen identical SSDs, I'll have to hook them to my Areca and see what I can benchmark in an epic stripe. Somehow, I think I'll hit the limits of the x8 PCI lane connection. :p
     
  23. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    3 GB/s - Impressive! What controller card are you using for the 8 OWC 6Gs? I'm assuming you didn't somehow stuff all 8 of them inside the MP, yes? :)

    Why would you go with the 520 if you were buying now - because of the price difference?
     
  24. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #24
    - Slots 2 & 3 are software RAID, yes... via Disk Utility.

    - 4TB in slot 4 is recognized as one 4TB volume, just as one would expect. I've read that people on 4,1 firmware might not be able to see over 3TB volumes, and one theory is that the 5,1 firmware (which I updated my 4,1 to) fixed this limitation. Anyway, the "8TB limit" you mention is likely just marketing copy from the fact that when they wrote it, there were only 2TB disks available, and four slots to put them in, hence 8TB. Like they say it only handles 16 or 32GB of RAM, when we also know that isn't true. You can put 4x4TB HDDs in the Mac Pro (at least a 5,1) and I'm sure you'd see 16TB.

    - I have the Areca in PCI slot 2, which is x16, so the card is at full bandwidth. The 5870 in slot 1 just squeezes under the RAID card. In slot 3, I have the bootable Caldigit USB 3.0/eSATA 4-port card, which is x4 in an x4 PCI slot, leaving slot 4 open. Since I have nothing in that slot, I run internal-to-external (SFF-8087 to SFF-8088) mini-SAS cables out the open slot space to my external RAID. I also have an SFF-8087-to-4x eSATA breakout cable coming out the slot for when I want to hook up loose drives for backups and what-not. I power those by an eSATA power splitter cable hooked to the power side of my Voyager Q dock. Looks ugly if you look behind the Mac Pro, but that's just for temporary convenience anyway. I put the disks in a tidy shelf puka when not using them.

    - Areca scratch and internal scratch serve their purposes well. Those scratch volumes are split in Adobe CS already, so the Media Cache files go to the internal scratch, and the Preview files go to the Areca scratch. The logic here was that most of the cache files are 4k, and the internal scratch is a smaller block size array... while the preview files are large and small, and basically just media files, which seem to belong on my main media drive.

    - I think the only bottleneck is that I have an SSD inside the Mac on a SATA II bus, but it doesn't matter to me. I tested these SSDs hooked to internal slots, ODD bay connectors, eSATA and USB 3.0 ports from my Caldigit card and via Areca card connections. The results were:

    Internal slot 1 = 230MB/sec write, 266MB/sec read
    USB 3.0 = 168.5MB/sec write, 242MB/sec read
    eSATA = 168MB/sec write, 246MB/sec read
    ODD bay = 237MB/sec write, 270MB/sec read
    Areca = 281MB/sec write, 480MB/sec read

    If I really wanted to, I could hook the boot SSD up internally via the Areca card, but all I gain from the hassle is faster sequential speeds. Not that important for a boot disk, in my opinion. Therefore, I use the clean convenience of a 3.5-2.5 adapter tray in slot 1, and enjoy.

    Other than that, every disk runs as fast as it can to the best of my knowledge.
     
  25. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #25
    Of course - what was I thinking? The x16 is one of the 3 OPEN PCIe slots, so of course the Areca card would go there. Wasn't paying attention when I read the spec page on Apple's website. :rolleyes:

    Hmm, I wonder... Is there such a thing as an x16 capable RAID controller, and if so would that present a significant enough performance increase to make it worth buying?

    Also, the Areca ARC-1880X (according to OWC website) has two 4-channel external SFF-8088 mini-SAS ports. Does that mean that two different arrays are possible off of a single card? Oh, the possibilities... :)
     

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