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Old January 19th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #1
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Anyone using a Sata Express card adapter

Is anyone using an Express card adapter to hook their hard drive up as a Sata drive? Do you see a noticeable improvement in performance above and beyond firewire?

I ordered an adapter to use with a Sata HD. After weeks of waiting I found out it's not shipping from manufacturer. In the interim I've been using good ole firewire without issues. Also made me wonder how I'd use the Sata card while downloading SxS cards; obviously I cant do both simultaneously! So now I'm wondering if I should look elsewhere to re-order the Sata card or just stick with FW 800.

Thank you
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Old January 19th, 2009, 12:15 PM   #2
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I'm using an Addonics ExpressCard SATA adapter on my laptop, in lieu of Firewire 400. The SATA drives exceed the thruput of Firewire 400 by quite a margin. I have, also, a Firewire 800 adapter card, but, I much prefer the SATA adapter. SATA is nowhere near as flaky as firewire, and I rely on it extensively.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 01:23 PM   #3
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I use the Adaptec 1225SA eSata PCIe controller. Has two ports and built-in RAID. Very nice card. Drives operate same as if they were operating from internal connector, very fast. Not familiar with the Addionics card Bill mentioned.

Edit: I now realize you're talking laptops, disregard post.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 07:03 PM   #4
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I use the Sonnet Tempo sata Expresss 34 with two ports.

Works great, although I was disappointed to learn the bus only supports 1.5Gbps, not 3.0. I use it to connect two JBOD HD's in an eSATA housing from Startech.

I've not tested or compared it with the FW400 connection. Physically the FW400 is so loose I can't move the laptop without disturbing the communication, plus I just trusted that the eSATA would be 2-~4x faster.

Over the past 5 years I've had such bad performance with any of multiple FW connections I wanted to get far away from it. "Good ole firewire" never existed in my world...for me it's 'good ol USB2', which was fine for DV, but won't get it done for ProRes.

If it's working for you, why not go with it?
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Old January 19th, 2009, 07:52 PM   #5
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Scott brings up an very important and less-known point: FW and even many USB connections are not very stable, both physically and electrically and are never a good choice for mission-critical connectivity such as video work. With DV and HDV capture many have used this connection to go direct from camera to NLE but the weak connections have also been the source of dropped-frames and bad grabs.

I have a SeriTek ExpressCard adapter with (2) SATA drives in in FirmTek enclosure, RAID-0 JBOD (software RAID). Although there are some Express-card hosts/drive combos that offer hardware RAID it's not as fast as software - interestingly enough.

Enclosed are some tests using the AJA System test which is the most realistic "real-world" HDD speed test for video I've ever tested. Unlike other bare-drive tests used even by places such as Mikes Hardware and BareFeats this utility accurately simulates the load put on any HDD communication just as if it were a real video clip of the codec selected.

There are 3 grabs: One is DV25 (miniDV), DVCPRO-HD 720/60 and uncompressed 1920 10-bit. What may seem counterintuitive is that the uncompressed test shows faster read-write speeds; this is normal because compressed formats actually take more resources going through the I/O pipeline of the HDD. These resources have nothing to do with the actual bit-rate of the video codec. (notice how DV25 has the slowest speed)

Contrary to the glossy ad-campaigns that promise lighting-fast speeds compared to FW800 it's nothing to write home about. Faster than FW800 (which the AJA test typically shows any FW drive max's out around 80-90 Mb/s) yes, but not night-and-day.

I even tested the Magma enclosure (Magma Home Page) and connected my ATTO 42ES to my extermal Fiber array via their proprietary ExpressCard 34 Adapter (8-drives RAID-0). On a MacPro the Fiber array originally tested almost at 380 Mb/s, on the MacBook Pro going through the ExpressCard slot the speeds were knocked down significantly and were nearly identical to what you see here.

The point being, you can't expect tower-like speeds on any Mac laptop regardless how you're connected. The results you see here are the best you can hope for.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 08:02 PM   #6
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In another thread I posted performance numbers. A single drive will be about the same on either eSata or FW800. However, a very fast drive will be somewhat faster (10-20%?) on eSata. We're just at a point now where a single mainstream drives can max out bandwidth on FW800. So Raid 0 on FW800 is obsolete.

If you buy a two connectors eSata expresscard and use both cables (one drive on each), you have the option of running Raid 0 at about twice the speed of what you can get on FW800. It's important to use one cable per drive (no Port Multiplier box)

Since one good drive on FW800 can use all the throughput, more than one drive can't run any faster.

Two fast 3.5" drives on eSata in Raid 0 run at about 150MB/sec. FW800 probably tops out at 60MB/sec. My 7200 rpm 160mb MacBook Pro internal drive tests at 50MB/sec, for comparison.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 08:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bill Ravens View Post
SATA is nowhere near as flaky as firewire, and I rely on it extensively.
This has been my experience as well. I don't really see a difference in speed, but eSata has been much more reliable. I'm using an eSata Express card with one of the newer late-2008 Macbook Pros.

It's also good idea to get an external enclosure that supports several connections like Firewire & USB, especially if you're traveling. It's a very good safety measure, as you never know what types of situations you may encounter.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
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