Highpoint 7101A - PCIe 3.0 SSD performance for the cMP

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handheldgames

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Introduction

Stumbling into an Amazon warehouse Deal, I picked up the HighPoint 7101a NVMe PCIe adapter, equipped with a MacPro friendly Broadcom 8747 PCIe bridge at a great price. While Highpoint's acknowledgement of MacPro compatibility was sketchy at best, I ordered one to go along with a recently acquired Samsung 970 Pro NVMe Boot drive.


Some Images



PEX 8747
48-Lane, 5-Port PCI Express Gen 3 (8 GT/s) Switch, 27 x 27mm FCBGA

The ExpressLane™ PEX 8747 is a 48-lane, 5-port, PCIe Gen 3 switch device
Technical Specification Document link

On to the results
Let the numbers speak for themselves. I'm VERY impressed with the near PCIe 3.x performance on a '09 CMP with the Highpoint 7101A PCIe SSD Adapter and the Samsung 970 pro. Yes... Read performance has almost doubled from 1500MBs to 3000MBs. Writes are up 50%.

Taking a look under the hood, The 7101A addresses PCIe SSD’s at a pcie 3.0 x4 8.0Gts link, saturating the x16 a pcie 2.0 connection at close to PCIe 3.0 speeds.

If there is a Holy Grail of PCIe SSD adapters for the cMP, this may be the one.

window6-21-181.42 PM.png

970 Pro in a standard m2 x4 adapter with a heatsink.

970pro 20m-100m pcie2.png
970Pro in the 7101A.
970 pro 20m-100m.png


Whilst the 7101a usually costs $400, a qty can be found at enthusiast pricing on Amazon for $275.

It’s clear the HighPoint 7101a brings a new level of PCIe NVMe / AHCI Sata Express performance to the 4,1/5,1 that’s unattainable with any other controller.

I was able to tear down the Amfeltec Squid 2.0x4 this morning, removing 3 SM951's and their heatsinks that are setup in a software raid. Moving them across to the 7101A, some interesting results came to light:

Addressing a single SSD at a time, the Highpoint 7101A is MUCH FASTER than the Amfeltec Squid. Allowing near PCIe 3.0 speeds from our aging mac pro.

Using a Software RAID 0 setup for the Amfeltec Squid, the Highpoint 7101A is about 25% SLOWER than the Squid. Perhaps I need to reformat the array with a different block size.


Let's start with BlackMagic Speed Test:

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951
View attachment 767333
Highpoint 7101A 2xSM951 ** FASTER THAN 3X SM951 in 7101A**
View attachment 767369
Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
View attachment 767336

Amorphous Disk Mark (FREE - GO GET THIS ONE)

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951
View attachment 767337
Highpoint 7101A 2xSM951
View attachment 767371
Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
View attachment 767340
QuickBench is another great test to show bandwith. Lets look first at 4k - 1m tests:

Highpoint 7101A 3x SM951
View attachment 767343
Highpoint 7101A 2x SM951

Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
View attachment 767344

Lets look at some larger file transfers.

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951



Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
 
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AidenShaw

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But, does it do anything useful faster?

The cherry-picked benchmarks can show great numbers, but for real work (like boot times) there's little improvement. Particularly so for NVMe - which doesn't shine unless massively parallel loads are used.
 
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handheldgames

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Here we go again. Think happy thoughts.

Cherry picked benchmarks? Nope. I had hoped the performance should be great enough to avoid trolls.

Apparently not. Now.. One could have nicely asked if there were other benchmarks to show how the card performs in comparison with the Amfeltec Squid.

While I’m sure you have both of the platforms. Please educate us on the superiority of SATA II. I’m all ears.
 

ekwipt

macrumors 6502a
Jan 14, 2008
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Looks like a great spend for Video Editing in FCPX with this thing as your media drive, brings the Mac Pro even further into the future. no need for Thunderbolt drives at all! I'd like to see 4 of these RAIDed inside a Mac Pro enclosure.
thans for the numbers, much appreciated, some other people have way too much time on their hands :)
 
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Pressure

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At some point we should just begin producing our own cMP compatible logic boards with all the bells and whistles we add via 3rd party solutions, like the old Z77MX-QUO-AOS motherboard from Kickstarter. I believe they "simply" asked Gigabyte to produce them.
 

Kris Kelvin

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Dec 28, 2005
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Vey nice; thanks for testing, @handheldgames!

Is the fan on the Highpoint 7101A always running? How loud is it?

Did you test with multiple SSD blades? As I understand it, this adapter should do hardware RAID, but the software to configure it (HighPoint NVMe Manager) is not available for macOS.
 

handheldgames

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Me too... Was just about to buy an Amfeltech when this came out.
Insight: I had back surgery a week ago and time at my standing test bench is limited. With that our of the way... off to today's results:

I was able to tear down the Amfeltec Squid 2.0x4 this morning, removing 3 SM951's and their heatsinks that are setup in a software raid. Moving them across to the 7101A, some interesting results came to light:

Addressing a single SSD at a time, the Highpoint 7101A is MUCH FASTER than the Amfeltec Squid. Allowing near PCIe 3.0 speeds from our aging mac pro.

Using a Software RAID 0 setup for the Amfeltec Squid, the Highpoint 7101A is about 25% SLOWER than the Squid. Perhaps I need to reformat the array with a different block size.


Let's start with BlackMagic Speed Test:

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951
sm951x3 black magic.png
Highpoint 7101A 2xSM951 ** FASTER THAN 3X SM951 in 7101A**
sm951x2 black magic.png
Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
3x sm951 black magic.png

Amorphous Disk Mark (FREE - GO GET THIS ONE)

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951
sm951 x3 4k burst.png
Highpoint 7101A 2xSM951
sm951x2 4k.png
Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
4k burst 3x sm951.png
QuickBench is another great test to show bandwith. Lets look first at 4k - 1m tests:

Highpoint 7101A 3x SM951
sm952x3 4k - 1024k 7101A.png

Highpoint 7101A 2x SM951

Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
sm951 x3 2k-1024k squid.png


Lets look at some larger file transfers.

Highpoint 7101A 3xSM951
sm951x3 20m-100m 7101a.png



Amfeltec Squid - 3xSM951
sm951 x3 20m-100m squid.png

[doublepost=1529696363][/doublepost]
Vey nice; thanks for testing, @handheldgames!

Is the fan on the Highpoint 7101A always running? How loud is it?

Did you test with multiple SSD blades? As I understand it, this adapter should do hardware RAID, but the software to configure it (HighPoint NVMe Manager) is not available for macOS.

The fan is always running, is controlled by SMART, and is not silent.

Ive tested with multiple SM951 AHCI blades, not multiple NVMe.

The Highpoint NVMe Raid manager is still in development and is planned to be released in July 2018.
 
Last edited:

handheldgames

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Somewhat puzzled by the results.. I tore down the Disk Array and rebuilt it with 2 SM951's. Performance is on par, perhaps 10% slower than 3 SM951's.
 

edgerider

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Apr 30, 2018
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Somewhat puzzled by the results.. I tore down the Disk Array and rebuilt it with 2 SM951's. Performance is on par, perhaps 10% slower than 3 SM951's.
seems fair to me because in the case of the 970 pro on the highpoint, it is simple pass thru wherehas the sm951 the higpoint has to do the raid calculation.
on the amfeltec the cpu of the mac is doing the raid calculation.
the optimum configuration might be to have the highpoint with 1 970 and 3 other cheaper large nvme drive in raid .
 
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handheldgames

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HighPoint is yet to deliver any drivers for the 7101a. Whilst plugged into PCIe slot 2, it’s just running as a Broadcom 8747 PCIe bridge.

Variances in performance are probably PLX chipset / configuration specific. Luckily Broadcom has a great suite of dev tools I’ll be installing in Parallels / VMWare fusion to get a better idea of what the 7101a is up to.
 

handheldgames

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Posting an update.

The Mojave public beta & a 4,1->5,1->NVMe modded EFI firmware / 970 pro NVMe install and Boot works without issue. Also reporting that Sleep/Resume causes no issues.

Enabling Hibernation support. The Mac Pro powers down without flashing power button, indicating a successful hibernation.

The hibernation file is shown to take up 28G of disk space.
From powered off hibernation to operational desktop takes 6-7 seconds.

For reference, it usually takes almost 20 seconds for my cMP to chime.
 
Last edited:

w1z

Contributor
Aug 20, 2013
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405
Been following your posts and success stories with getting the Samsung 970 Pro NVMe drive to boot on the cMP via the firmware mod.. Good stuff and thanks for sharing!! I am seriously considering the highpoint 7101A card coupled with the 970 Pro 1TB drive.

I also just read your nvme guide and was wondering whether you patched your original rom to boot apfs volumes prior to injecting the nvme DXE driver as I patched my cMP 3,1 ROM with the APFS patch (which is working as expected). I did a quick comparison between the two bin files and the only difference was a deletion of 25.5 kilobytes at offset 0x9f70 and an insertion of 25.5 kilobytes at offset 0x14fdbf.

@dosdude1 do you foresee any issues in applying both the apfs and nvme patches to the cMP 3,1 ROM?

Thanks guys!
 

dosdude1

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Feb 16, 2012
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Been following your posts and success stories with getting the Samsung 970 Pro NVMe drive to boot on the cMP via the firmware mod.. Good stuff and thanks for sharing!! I am seriously considering the highpoint 7101A card coupled with the 970 Pro 1TB drive.

I also just read your nvme guide and was wondering whether you patched your original rom to boot apfs volumes prior to injecting the nvme DXE driver as I patched my cMP 3,1 ROM with the APFS patch (which is working as expected). I did a quick comparison between the two bin files and the only difference was a deletion of 25.5 kilobytes at offset 0x9f70 and an insertion of 25.5 kilobytes at offset 0x14fdbf.

@dosdude1 do you foresee any issues in applying both the apfs and nvme patches to the cMP 3,1 ROM?

Thanks guys!
Not at all, having both DXE drivers in the ROM shouldn't cause any issues. Just dump your APFS patched ROM, and use DXEInject to add the NVMe.ffs DXE module into it, and flash it back.
 

w1z

Contributor
Aug 20, 2013
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Not at all, having both DXE drivers in the ROM shouldn't cause any issues. Just dump your APFS patched ROM, and use DXEInject to add the NVMe.ffs DXE module into it, and flash it back.
Re-flashing the ROM modded with the nvme/apfs patches applied to the 3,1 was successful. Thank you sir.

The toolset provided by DosDude1 is rock solid. It’s been designed to inject multiple objects into your efi rom.
Yeah, I have been following Collin's amazing work since his sierra releases... The guy is a gem!

I also just ordered the same HighPoint 7101A card you have with a Samsung 970 pro 1TB drive and will report back with my findings. I'll most likely install the HH in slot 2 and test. Super excited!
 
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dosdude1

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Re-flashing the ROM modded with the nvme/apfs patches applied to the 3,1 was successful. Thank you sir.



Yeah, I have been following Collin's amazing work since his sierra releases... The guy is a gem!

I also just ordered the same HighPoint 7101A card you have with a Samsung 970 pro 1TB drive and will report back with my findings. I'll most likely install the HH in slot 2 and test. Super excited!
Just looked up that card, as I was definitely interested in upgrading my Mac Pro 5,1's storage (I'm still using the internal SATAII bus with a SATA SSD)... But $500???? GEEZ! That's more than double what I paid for my Mac Pro! I know there are cheaper cards, which is probably what I'll end up getting, but from the looks of it, if you want insane disk I/O speeds on your Mac Pro, you've got to pay some big bucks.
 

w1z

Contributor
Aug 20, 2013
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Just looked up that card, as I was definitely interested in upgrading my Mac Pro 5,1's storage (I'm still using the internal SATAII bus with a SATA SSD)... But $500???? GEEZ! That's more than double what I paid for my Mac Pro! I know there are cheaper cards, which is probably what I'll end up getting, but from the looks of it, if you want insane disk I/O speeds on your Mac Pro, you've got to pay some big bucks.
I actually paid $275 for it on Amazon - check other offers under the regular retail price.
 
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handheldgames

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Since we are talking prices I’m Looking for a pulse check FROM THE PROS before posting on eBay.

What would be a good ‘value’ price on:

amfeltec squid? $275?
256gb AHCI sm951’s. $150 ea or $125ea.
 
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edgerider

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Since we are talking prices I’m Looking for a pulse check FROM THE PROS before posting on eBay.

What would be a good ‘value’ price on:

amfeltec squid? $275?
256gb AHCI sm951’s. $150 ea or $125ea.
at this price i’ll buy all of it from you...
the squid comes at 600$ for non us like us and the sm951 retail for 300$ each in europe on ebay...
so i think that you could bundle evrything for 1500$ because try to find 4x256Gb = good luck

here in europe it took me almost a year.

try a 1500$ on ebay with the « make an offer option » I guess it will be sold before the end of next week.
 

handheldgames

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at this price i’ll buy all of it from you...
the squid comes at 600$ for non us like us and the sm951 retail for 300$ each in europe on ebay...
so i think that you could bundle evrything for 1500$ because try to find 4x256Gb = good luck

here in europe it took me almost a year.

try a 1500$ on ebay with the « make an offer option » I guess it will be sold before the end of next week.
Thanks for the feedback and tips for setting up ebay, it's been a while since I've sold tech online.
 

handheldgames

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Without drivers, the Highpoint 7101A card appears to have a max transfer rate of 3000 MB/S in the cMP. So it doesn't scale well, but it delivers enthusiast class PCIe 3.0 transfer rates to an aging Mac from 2009.

With 2 970 Pro's in RAID0,
average Maximum Read speed is 3126 MB/Sec.
average Maximum write speed is 2932 MB/Sec.

970 Pro 1TB
average Maximum Read speed is 3071 MB/Sec.
average Maximum write speed is 2622 MB/Sec.

970 Pro 512GB
average Maximum Read speed is 3051 MB/Sec.
average Maximum write speed is 2236 MB/Sec.


FWIW.. This brings back memories of adding a Radius Rocket to my mac IIx. :apple:
 
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