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SATA PCIE add-on card - £20 vs £200+ what's the difference?


jademonkee
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Hi there,

I'm looking at options to add some extra SATA ports to my microserver to attach some SSDs to for use in unRAID as a cache pool, and maybe also later a 2.5" HDD for some extra storage.

I've seen a huge difference in price, from ~£20 options, through to >£200 and well beyond.

I understand that SAS has some applications in enterprise situations, and can hold 4x SATA drives per port, but is it worth ten times the price in a light-use unRAID home server environment?

If I'm just looking to add 3x cache drives, I could attach 2x of those to the PCIE card, and 1x to the on-board ODD SATA. For 1/10th the price, I don't mind missing out on those extra two ports that a SAS option brings.

But are there speed advantages to the SAS cards? Reliability? Anything else?

Your input is appreciated, thanks.

Edited by jademonkee
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The difference is that the 20pound card is using an ASMedia chipset. This is a consumer grade chipset. It also supports up to 8 drives, IIRC. 

 

The LSI/Avago card is a SAS card, and enterprise quality.  It can handle up to 256 drives on one cardk, with the right hardware (SAS Expanders).  

 

 

Another difference, the ASMedia card is a PCI-e 2.0 1x card, meaning that it can get 500MB/s throughput max. 4-5 HDDs or a single SSD will max out the throughput. 

The LSI card is a PCI-e 3.0 8x card, meaning that it's max throughput is 8GB/s (not gbps, but GB/s).  Which means you can run 50 HDDs at 150MB/s or 16 SSDs at 500MB/s without maxing out the connection (half this if the motherboard is connected to a PCI-e 2.0 slot. 

 

The mean difference is quality. Enterprise hardware is generally much better quality, and these LSI cards definitely show that. 

The other difference is that you can use SAS or SATA drives on the LSI controller, but only SATA on the ASMedia.   One of the biggest differences is that SAS is full duplex where SATA is half duplex.  Get a few SAS drives, and you'll get better performance. 

 

 

 

You can also find cheaper cards. For instance, the Del Perc H310 or IBM ServeRAID M1015 use the same chipset as the 9207 cards. They need to be flashed, or you can find a use 9207-4i4e (or similar) on ebay or the like for cheap too. 

 

This is what i've done specifically, and it's what I would recommend, 

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Fantastic info, thanks. I'd never considered a SAS drive.

Since posting my original question, I've since found this card for £37 (which appears to be a clone of this £90 card).

As it's SAS, I'm assuming it's a better option than the original card, but what would the difference - functionally - be to one of the £200 cards? 

i.e. is it just componentry/build quality? Or is there a functional difference, too?

I've already spent more than I had budgeted for, so am in the process of saving up for these. If I can spend £40 vs £200, I'll be able to install my cache pool sooner, so I'm eager is all :)

Thanks again.

 

EDIT: Wow. Those cards are cheap - about £55 for the Dell, and £65 for the IBM on eBay. I'm guessing they'll be better than the £37 I linked above ... yes?

Thanks for the tip!

Edited by jademonkee
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The card you linked is a Marvell based card. if it's a clone of anything, it's closer to a HighPoint card. 

 

These are not really true SAS.  It's SATA masquerading as SAS (which since SAS is fully compatible with SATA, is possible). 

 

 

EDIT: Wow. Those cards are cheap - about £55 for the Dell, and £65 for the IBM on eBay. I'm guessing they'll be better than the £37 I linked above ... yes?

 

Yup definitely.

But you'll need to "cross flash" these cards. I'd recommend reading up first, and see if you're comfortable doing so. Or have a friend who is. 

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Yup, basically. 

 

Just keep in mind that if you're using an EFI system, you may need to go out and find the sas2flash.efi program to get this working properly.  Or flash it on a BIOS based system. 

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Yup, basically. 

 

Just keep in mind that if you're using an EFI system, you may need to go out and find the sas2flash.efi program to get this working properly.  Or flash it on a BIOS based system. 

 

Mine's BIOS, but for anyone that is EFI, I found a guide that covers that, too: https://techmattr.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/updated-sas-hba-crossflashing-or-flashing-to-it-mode-dell-perc-h200-and-h310/ 

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Remember that LSI cards run very hot and use around 10w of power 24/7

which results in higher fan speed

 

In comparison to a Marvell 9230 using around 1w and running stone cold

 

So if you just need to add a few drives your better off with the marvell

if you want to add 200 drives sure go for it

 

I have an LSI 2308 (9217-4i4e) that i dont use as its a power hog

you also have to hack the drivers for spindown

Edited by Shonk
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I've used marvell based chipsets before (HighPoint RocketRAID), and to be blunt, I got better performance and stability from the LSI card.  The HighPoint would periodically drop disks, and require a power cycle to bring them back online. 

 

The LSI card may definitely pull more power and generate more heat, but that's beacuse it's doing more. 

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I have a 9230 running 7 drives it works fine in windows

the only bug i have found is if you are having high io

 

e.g. a torrent downloading at 100mbit and query all drives smart data at once on the controller

e.g. opening hd sentinel it will crash the driver

 

work around pause the torrent before opening hd sentinel

it would be nice if marvell fix the driver at some point though..

 

though this only happens when using a port multiplier

its fine if just using 4 x directly connected hd's

Edited by Shonk
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