Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Expresscard SATA host card questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    18

    Question Expresscard SATA host card questions

    Hi all,
    Christmas came early this year, and I just got a MacBook Pro with the Core 2 Duo!

    I'm in the market for a SATA host card to fit into the Expresscard slot so I can use my existing hotswappable external SATA setup.

    I've been looking around and it looks like CalDigit, WiebeTech and Sonnet all make cards, but I'm having trouble figureing out the difference between the cards.

    Here are my questions:

    1. Will any of the cards allow me to boot up from a sata drive attached via the card?

    2. It looks like all three support port mutipliers, please let me know if I'm wrong?

    3. Do all three support hot swapping drives?

    4. Are there any other cards that I should be considering?

    In my fantasy cost no concern world, I would have two hot swappable drives for my data (photos) and a RAID scratch disk of some flavor attached to the SATA card. I'm a photographer.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    catfell

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    I could be wrong, but I am not sure any of them are bootable. The Firmtek card would be the only one with that capability - but it isn't listed on their site.

    Also I don't believe the Firmtek card has port multiplier capability, again, I could be wrong.

    ALL external SATA host cards from Sonnet, Firmtek and CalDigit will be hotswap capable. They pretty much will always have that feature on an external SATA host card or the card will be fairly useless. Besides, hot mounting resolves some timing issues that caused problems with some hard drives not mounting reliably. Giving the cards hotswap ability made the timing less critical if the drive missed a request at startup.

    I am not sure you will get enough bandwidth out of the Express34 slot to warrant a RAID for scratch. It may be that a single Raptor would give just as good results. Without testing there is no way to be certain though.

    Personally I would opt for Port Multiplier every time. The versatility that comes with that feature makes them the kings of storage today.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    18

    Question All the same?

    Rick,

    Are you saying that basically all four cards are essentially the same?

    Thanks in advance,

    catfell

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    So far, we haven't seen enough difference to matter. The one we carry from Sonnet works flawlessly with the Burly Port Multiplier Enclosures which is critical for us. Until the Sonnet one came out none of them really dazzled us because they didn't work with the PM enclosure that is such a large part of our storage business. I have yet to have a support call on the Sonnet cards we sold. However, they are an OEM product that Sonnet buys and resells, so it very well could be that all these cards are identical chipsets and just relabeled from the same manufacturer.

    It would not surprise me if Firmtek runs their own firmware on their card making it the most capable at some point. At this point the list of features makes it not useful in MacGurus market.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    ex-Cupertino, CA, USA. Now HU+SRB (Europe).
    Posts
    163

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    I could be wrong, but I am not sure any of them are bootable. The Firmtek card would be the only one with that capability - but it isn't listed on their site.
    It's not bootable on Intel machines - yet, but it could change relatively soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    Also I don't believe the Firmtek card has port multiplier capability, again, I could be wrong.
    Fortunately this is incorrect. The Port Multiplier support with SeriTek 5.2.0 FirmTek driver is perfect. Sonnet is using SiliconImage drivers with SCSI emulation, no S.M.A.R.T. and they are not in control of the driver development for the ExpressCard. You can (do you really need it?) download the SiliconImage driver from SiliconImage web side for free and make it work with FirmTek card, but not the other way.

    The bootability on Sonnet card NEVER will happen for hardware reasons, neither true hotplug.

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    Personally I would opt for Port Multiplier every time. The versatility that comes with that feature makes them the kings of storage today.
    Port Multiplier is a perfect thing for the perfect world. 3132 is not a perfect chipset, so for FirmTek it took a bit of time to develop the PM capability - and it is working now. At least, it's not a SCSI-emulated driver but a driver fully complying with Apple's ATA/SATA API set and supporting S.M.A.R.T. client.

    The only "free" lunch is in the mousetrap. Any SiliconImage 3132-based 34mm Expresscard will work with the "free" SiliconImage SCSI driver on MacBook Pro. So if you want to save money, buy the cheapest one. These won't be bootable ever due lack of hardware resource. The one made specially for FirmTek is made with bootability in mind. Currently, Windows XP already boots (via Bootcamp). The "free" SiliconImage SCSI driver can be "matched" to FirmTek card, but the FirmTek SATA driver will work with FirmTek card only.

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    It would not surprise me if Firmtek runs their own firmware on their card making it the most capable at some point. At this point the list of features makes it not useful in MacGurus market.
    Rick, - what feature (besides the MacOS-X bootability) you are missing with SeriTek card? Port Multiplier works. SMART client works. Hotplug/hotswap works. With SATA driver model there is even performance improve a bit over SiliconImage free driver. At least, the bootability is feasable on Seritek card and it works with XP, the other cards won't. With the rest it's beating or matching every other card feature-for-feature.
    Last edited by ataMan; 11-28-2006 at 05:50 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Mobius Strip
    Posts
    13,045

    Lightbulb Vista support?

    I've been playing around with Vista along with OS X on MacPro and was hoping that eventually there would be support for an external SATA drive that would boot OS X and/or Vista (say two-drive external).

    But I've been holding off.

    What would be icing on the cake would be ability to boot Vista from RAID on said controller - but that may be asking too much.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    ex-Cupertino, CA, USA. Now HU+SRB (Europe).
    Posts
    163

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TZ
    I've been playing around with Vista along with OS X on MacPro and was hoping that eventually there would be support for an external SATA drive that would boot OS X and/or Vista (say two-drive external).

    But I've been holding off.

    What would be icing on the cake would be ability to boot Vista from RAID on said controller - but that may be asking too much.
    In the theory, you already SHOULD be able to boot from the SeriTek/2SE2-E via Bootcamp and BIOS. You can force Tiger to boot via BIOS (remember the old developer machines? They had no EFI), but for two reasons it's better not.

    Reason/1: Apple won't be too happy, to say the least. They include the Bootcamp as a way to boot Windows, not a MacOS.
    Reason/2: FirmTek is in control of MacOS-related development, not in Windows or DOS(!)-related development. Currently the FCode bootstrap driver and the Turboboot feature and the MacOS-X driver is fully in-house development. This is currently the only card which can boot from port multiplier-attached drive(s). Unfortunately, the "free" BIOS is provided by SiliconImage and it is not capable to handling of PortMultiplier, only their run-time driver for Windows. I would say, the future should be going from the BIOS completely away, right now that is the weakest point.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ataMan

    Rick, - what feature (besides the MacOS-X bootability) you are missing with SeriTek card? Port Multiplier works. SMART client works. Hotplug/hotswap works. With SATA driver model there is even performance improve a bit over SiliconImage free driver. At least, the bootability is feasable on Seritek card and it works with XP, the other cards won't. With the rest it's beating or matching every other card feature-for-feature.

    George,

    For the life of me I cannot find ANYTHING about port multiplier capability on your site for this card. Now I can be blind, but that is the feature I stated I needed and the feature I based my card choice on. Unless it is posted in the card specs how can we know?

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    ex-Cupertino, CA, USA. Now HU+SRB (Europe).
    Posts
    163

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    George,

    For the life of me I cannot find ANYTHING about port multiplier capability on your site for this card. Now I can be blind, but that is the feature I stated I needed and the feature I based my card choice on. Unless it is posted in the card specs how can we know?

    Rick
    Rick, the web site needs to be updated, but at least in the other thread we discussed, the AMUG test of the "brother" (SeriTek/2SE2-E) was done on PCI-e based G5 and also on Mac Pro. It's the only PCI-e SATA card with "5 out of 5" result, mostly due SATA instead of SCSI, PM support and bootability (on G5).

    http://www.amug.org/amug-web/html/am.../firmtek/2se2e

    Probably it was not discussed too much, but the SeriTek/2SM2-E is using identical chipset with the SeriTek/2SE2-E, the difference is only the ExpressCard form factor and card hot-swap.

    It was also on xlr8yourmac: http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/archives/nov06/111306.html

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    I'd certainly say it needs updating. We don't have time to go all over and read everyone's reviews. We have over 800 different products on our pages. If your specifications page doesn't reflect what is so important of a criteria we just move on since there are so many things to test and just so many hours in a day. First place we look is manufacturer specs. If it isn't there we can't claim it.

    I am glad to hear it matches our needs. Puts it on our list anyway.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    18

    Question Sonnet or Firmtek?

    Quote Originally Posted by ricks
    So far, we haven't seen enough difference to matter. The one we carry from Sonnet works flawlessly with the Burly Port Multiplier Enclosures which is critical for us. Until the Sonnet one came out none of them really dazzled us because they didn't work with the PM enclosure that is such a large part of our storage business...

    It would not surprise me if Firmtek runs their own firmware on their card making it the most capable at some point. At this point the list of features makes it not useful in MacGurus market.

    Rick
    Rick,

    Does the Firmek card have problems with the Burly enclosures? What does the Sonnet do that the Firmtek doesn't, with the Burlys?

    I have a 2 drive swappable Burly that I got from Macgurus, and is playing very nicely with a souped up G4 Powermac, but I was hoping to use the Burly with the new MacBook Pro.

    Thanks,

    catfell

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    I can't answer that other than to say: the FIrmtek card would probably not have any problem at all since we are using the standard port multiplier chipset. We haven't tested it though. Didn't even know it was port multiplier capable until George said so here. Don't even have one here to test with.

    The other cards will never be bootable, at least that is how things surely look. SO the one advantage from using the firmtek card is the possibility of future bootability.

    Other than that, I doubt you could find a difference in usability and performance.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    18

    Question A rose by any other name...?

    Just to add to my confusion, I came across two other expresscard/34 SATA cards. Neither claims mac compatibility, but I have found a posting or two that claims that either will work with OSX when the Silicon Image 3132 driver was installed.

    Here are the two cards:

    http://www.sabrent.com/products/specs/SATA-EXC2.htm

    and

    http://www.byteccusa.com/product/xP-card/bt-eces2.htm

    No mention of drive multiplication support, but if they work with the Silicon Image driver, then that would seem to imply that they both have the Silicon Image chip, which does support drive multipliers?

    Any thoughts?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Grangeville, ID USA
    Posts
    9,122

    Default

    Too many directions for me.

    Unfortunately, if it ain't Mac specific I never count on it working in a Mac. Sometimes a generic card will work after a fashion, and there are just tons of cards branded out there by just about anyone with a name. Most every one of them is an identical card made, usually, by Lycom, with SilImage chips. Lycom will let anyone buy their products, put their own name on them and sell/support them. For the most part you will find them all identical and everyone of them has need of the tender ministrations of a Mac professional that knows how to tweak firmware.

    All I can say is, use at your own risk. There is no way that I care to track down every card with a claim of Mac support. Especially when proven sources mean we get support. Without support a card is just a hunk of silicon, plastic and aluminum just waiting to screw you big just when you need it.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •