Need a dual eSATA express card that works in Snow Leopard

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by rawdawg, Oct 17, 2009.

  1. rawdawg macrumors 6502

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    #1
    The past few months I've made threads asking about eSata express cards and external storage and have received useful information. However, I've always neglected to ask this obvious and direct question. I've been recommended a few cards, one from OWC always comes up. But I never bothered to ask about "dual" versions because I thought I'd be able to find it on my own.

    After weeks of casually looking around I wasted a few hours yesterday hard core searching online. I really need a storage solution for my exploding cache of photos and video that's been stockpiling and needs editing.

    Perhaps FW800 or another interface could be a better solutions. But when I choose my new MBP 17" a few months ago I specifically kept the fact it retained the express card slot in mind because of it's higher transfer rates.

    I'd get 1 TB but I'm thinking realistically I need 2+ TB of storage... and also I think I need to finally get my rear in gear about redundancy. I use Time Machine with an external FW400 HDD and back up my music separately there too but want to keep in mind future space should have redundancy in mind.

    That's why I was thinking about dual eSATA-- to take advantage of RAID and quick transfer speeds. Does anyone have a storage suggestion in mind?

    Much appreciated!!
     
  2. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #2
    Does dual eSata even do anything since wouldn't it split the bandwidth that esata offers through the single express card? But I've seen external enclosures with dual esata outputs...
     
  3. giffut macrumors 6502

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    #3
    The ...

    ... best option you have is to grab a 2x eSata PCI-Express (x1) card which uses the Sil3132 chipset (Silicon Image: http://www.siliconimage.com/support/searchresults.aspx?pid=32&cat=3; there are new drivers for 10.6 available). Prices certainly vary but shouldn´t excel US$30,-. In that case just expect basic two port function.
     
  4. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #4
    It's good to see they finally got a working driver out. :) BTW, the link didn't work for some reason. I had to find it manually, but it's not hard. ;)

    There's multiple vendors that make/sell these cards, and they are definitely inexpensive. I've seen them as low as $20USD, though $25USD is more common IIRC. Either way, it's still a bargain. :D
     
  5. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Thank you, that's exactly what I needed to know-- if a new driver has been released so it works with 10.6.

    At the same time is there any advantage to using the Jmicron (?) chipsets that's native to Macs in terms of reliabilty, quality, or anything else? And are there even any that have dual ports because I can't find them anywhere.

    As a last nagging question-- should I not even be so obsessed with esata and consider FW800 options instead? I'm really bit familiar with external storage solutions and really appreciate the help.
     
  6. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #6
    No. JMicron isn't that wonderful a parts maker either. Their products are "popular" for one reason: They tend to be the cheapest thing out there. (BTW, the common part you find is PCI based, not PCIe).

    eSATA is capable of 375MB/s, while FW800 is good for 100MB/s. The card that you need (SIL3132 based), offers a 3.75x improvement, and is nothing to complain about, especially for ~$25USD. :D

    So go ahead and get the eSATA card. It will allow you additional options, such as more enclosure choices, including the use of Port Multiplier models that can hold up to 10 drives (would use both eSATA ports, as each can operate 5 via a PM board).
     
  7. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Thanks a ton for all your help and informative advice! Looking on newegg for a dual one now.

    Now my search moves on to what type of enclosure: dock, 2 docks, dual dock, dual enclosure, or larger setup..

    If anyone has input or suggestions let me know!
     
  8. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #8
    Think about your capacity growth rate and cost. Ask yourself this: Is it easier to have a more limited drive bay count, and replace the drives with larger ones as they come out, or have additional bays, and just add drives?

    Part of this usually includes the level of throughput you need, but it seems you've settled on that. Otherwise, now's the time to reconsider it before you buy. Buying too little now can cost you more down the road, so think carefully before you make a purchase.

    But from what I can tell, worst case, you don't need to really go much beyond it, if at all. A 4x PCIe lane eSATA card (4 eSATA ports), as the additional lanes can allow you to run RAID in the external enclosure as you need to make changes in your setup. But they're not as inexpensive, and if you want the ability to boot off of it, you're SOL. The only bootable eSATA card is 2 ports, though it is 4x PCIe, and is made by Highpoint.
     
  9. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #9
    thanks nanofrog!

    The card I need is for my MBP though, so I think 2 port is as many as possible.
     
  10. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #10
    Oops. For some strange reason, I was thinking you were asking for a MP.

    For a laptop, 2 ports is the limit on an Expresscard.
     
  11. KeriJane macrumors 6502a

    KeriJane

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    #11
    Hi Rawdawg

    I have a little experience in eSata and FW400/800.
    I prefer FW800.

    The inexpensive eSata adapters do tax your CPU somewhat, especially if RAID is being used. I've always used the SilImage 3132 for eSata on PCs because the Chipset-based Sata ports usually require a reboot. They're nice and cheap and get the job done, but all inexpensive SATA adaptors (including chipset ones) slow the system down in RAID.

    Personally, I use FW800 on my MP with a 2-drive external RAID enclosure. Would eSata be faster?
    Not until drives get a bunch faster or I put in a Hardware RAID card. Why?

    Because eSata does offer higher possible transfer speed, but the drives mechanics are a big limiting factor. Add to that the CPU overhead required for Software RAID and you have a net slowdown which defeats the purpose.

    My advice is that if you have a FW800 port, use it. It's plenty fast and the Firewire ports are hardware based and don't tax the CPU much.

    This is one reason why FW400 at "only" 400mbit/s is a lot faster in the real world than USB2.0 at "480mbits/s"


    Now if you're talking about a Hardware RAID card running RAID0 with insanely fast drives in something like in a Mac Pro, that would be a bunch faster than FW800.
    That was the only way I got Vista to run at all well (in a PC).... Hardware RAID0.


    How can you tell if a SATA card or adaptor has Hardware RAID? Well, it'll have a heatsink of some kind on it and probably cost well over $200! :D

    I say just stick with FW800 and maybe a LaCie 2big Quadra in RAID0,
    Have Fun,
    Keri
     
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #12
    That happens with any software based RAID array, as it uses the system resources (CPU) to do the processing (Fake RAID <SATA/eSATA controller chip, perhaps with a ROM on it> or the SATA controller on the logic board). But a stripe set (type 0), is minimal, and the CPU usage is typically no higher than ~4% on a small stripe set (2 - 4 members).

    To avoid this, you have to get a proper hardware RAID controller, and they're not exactly inexpensive.

    Drive mechanics certainly have an influence, but ultimately, the limit is the bandwidth available from the card's interface with the system, not SATA, as it's slower (Expresscard34 is attached via a single PCIe lane (1x)), and is limited to 250MB/s - 300MB/s. Most eSATA Expresscard's list 300MB/s, but if the PCIe bus is v1.1, it's only good to 250MB/s. It's good for a small array (2 - 3 in a stripe, depending on the individual drive performance of the disks used), in terms of highest throughputs possible.

    If you want an SSD, it's good for one if it's an Intel, perhaps 2, with other brands (slower SSD drives).

    What helps make up for the limitation, is it's low cost, ease of use, and if you don't need high throughputs, it allows you to use a PM enclosure (up to 5 drives per eSATA port) for greater capacity. A pretty good trade off (compromise of performance/cost and features) for the funds IMO (say just under $50USD).
     
  13. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #13
    Thanks, KeriJane, for that alternative viewpoint and again to nanofrog for your thoughts.

    This does bring new issues to mind! Certainly you both have more experience than I. At this point I'm all but through searching and just want someone to tell me what to get:confused:. A huge set would be nice in the future if (or when) I need it, but with my level of competence creating such a setup I wonder if I should just stick to something simpler for now. Certainly FW800 would simplify things, I was hoping eSATA would similarly.

    The storage I need is for h.264 video (~40Mbits/sec compressed from Canon 5DmarkII) to be transcoded to ProRes422 (HQ) along with a great deal of the ~23MB RAW files it's capable of producing. I'm no editor, I'm a shooter who wishes he was also an editor, and so I don't demand the fastest and best, after-all I bought a MBP not a MP. I dream of having it one day but before that happens I need to spend a lot more time learning Color, After Effects, Nuke, and other programs that would make use of the demanding hardware. I do know FCP pretty well and am learning the others but spend the majority of my time shooting and watching my unedited work build:(.

    One thing I'm doing now is Time Lapses with those 20+MB Raw files. Working with thousands of them in Photoshop and building a solid video from it does require a LOT of time. And the space for those files are what's creating my current dilemma.

    That in mind, do you have any specific recommendations, FW800 or eSATA? This OWC enclosure was recommended to me, along with Icy Docks. This was the sort of thing I had in mind though it sounds like what your thinking is more substantial. Are these good enough?

    Ultimately I've been considering if down the line when new MacMini's are out I could network my MBP to it and make use of QMaster to assign rendering tasks. This way I could also make use of it's hard drive and bus for additional storage. Again I'm no editor and have no experience building networks or storage but that was the biggest system I initially had in mind.

    Who knows, maybe in a year I'll finally learn this stuff and realize I need 16TB of RAID storage... or maybe all I'll need is the solution I come to here now.

    Thanks for all the help and sorry to drag this on. But your input is VERY helpful as my system reaches this crossroad.
     
  14. KeriJane macrumors 6502a

    KeriJane

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    #14
    FW800 OR eSATA? Why not BOTH?

    Hi Rawdawg.

    Here is my most practical answer for you:

    Get an external enclosure that features FW800 AND eSATA.

    You can start with a cheap WD MyBook single drive or...
    if you really want RAID0,

    LaCie makes the 2 Big Quadra:
    http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?pid=11140

    Iomega and G-Technology also make quad interface RAID enclosures (with drives, usually) quad being USB, FW400, FW800 and eSATA

    In these enclosures, the unit itself has a Hardware RAID controller which brings the price up. You would then use FW800 or a single eSATA cable to the computer (USB or FW400 would be silly)

    The quad interface drives leave all of your options open. You can change your mind later if you want.

    I only have experience with two of the above brands:
    LaCie and Western Digital.

    The WD MyBook drives are cheap, fragile plastic enclosures that contain a single decent drive. The silver "Studio" ones are available with quad interface. If I recall correctly, they come with only a USB cable.
    This would be your lowest cost, and the FW800 will plug right in and just work very fast with no hassles.
    It should be fine for video capture though maybe not HD at high settings.
    Basically, FW800 is faster than nearly any single mechanical drive. For a single drive look no further than FW800.

    The LaCie external drives are solid, heavy enclosures that usually have a temperature controlled fan and come with all possible needed cables. The enclosure, cables and power supply are of high quality, though both my D2 Quadra and 2Big Triple (USB, FW400, FW800) came with some rather noisy and hot running (but fast) Seagates.
    I ended up putting in bigger, quieter and cooler Green Power drives for 500GB in the single drive D2 and 2x1TB in the 2Big Triple.

    They are still plenty fast for my video editing. Normally I use them for long term storage and Time Machine backups even though they are fast enough for real-time SD capture.

    Even with a 2-disk RAID0 array, FW800 does pretty well and most importantly, it JUST WORKS without all the messing around that eSATA often entails.

    Good luck,
    Have Fun,
    Keri
     
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #15
    eSATA's easy to set up, and is rather simple. What you want to do is not complicated at all. Plug in the Expresscard, and attach the drives. That's the extent of the hardware.

    The enclosure you linked will work just fine for eSATA. But the recommendation of one that's FW800 + eSATA (will likely have USB as well) capable isn't a bad idea either, even if you get the eSATA Expresscard. You can hang on to it past the useful life of the current computer, and it offers you options.

    The rest of it is setting up the array, and that's not hard either.
     

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