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Intel 520 SSD Review (Round Two) – RAID Testing at 1.5GB/s With Highpoint 2720SGL RAID Controller

Our release yesterday of our Intel 520 SSD Review (Round One) was probably one of the most anticipated events seen yet in the SSD arena and, if sales can be determined by the extreme numbers of readers who visited the site, Intel will do very well.

In that review we made a promise, this being that we would follow up with the absolute best in RAID testing possible, displaying results only we could pull off.  Welcome to Round Two folks and get ready for the knockout punch!

With the backdrop of the LSI purchase of SandForce becoming a great story line, Intel’s choice to implement the SandForce SF-2281 into their enthusiast product line has created the ideal that the interaction between the two in creating a custom firmware could have dynamic results.  They weren’t wrong as our review of a single Intel 520 blew away the competition in PCMark Vantage Suite Testing.

The Intel 520 simply delivers performance as we have never seen from a SandForce controller, hence the excitement as it is so rare to see such high expectations deliver first hand, and deliver big!  If you could, imagine my excitement when Les (our Editor) called and asked me if I could push three Intel 520’s to the limit in order to validate our expectations even further.

I told him we could do one better.  Not only are we going to be showing you the performance of RAID 0 tests today, but also, get ready for their use, beside others, in our new Enterprise Test Regimen in upcoming days. For now though, this is for all the enthusiasts out there!

The Intel 520SSD is the culmination of almost a year of Intel’s efforts through intensive validation and firmware customization for the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller. Each SSD contains Intel’s own ‘hand picked’ 25nm synchronous NAND flash memory, each of these three SSDs being 240GB in capacity. With a 6Gb/s interface providing rated speeds of 550 MB/s read and 520Mb/s write with a maximum 80,000 low 4k random write IOPS for a single drive, three drives will be incredible

ENTER THE HIGHPOINT 2720 SGL RAIDCARD

Timing could not have been better for this report as we were already in the midst of performance testing the HighPoint 2720SGL RAID card with its new firmware and it has shown some amazing results.  Quite frankly, the results are off the charts and today’s testing of three Intel 520’s will be a taste of the Highpoint 2720SGL review to follow.

In the end, a quick disconnect of eight 6Gbps SSDs from the 2720SGL saw the connecting of three Intel 520’s.  Remember now, this is only a preview with the Intels and a thorough review will be published shortly highlighting the Highpoint, Intels and some unexpected other solid state drives.  For now, lets take a quick look at the 2720SGL engine under the hood…

About Paul Alcorn

  • WOW!

    Wow thats alot of benchmarks to be running on the SSDs. I would never do that many within a months time on my SSD.

    • Paul Alcorn

      That is true, many would not. A funny aspect of this is that by the time I had tested this on the HighPoint, I had ran it through two other controllers, putting it through its paces. We used the HighPoint in the end because it gives the clearest view of the drives performance itself, with no caching involved. These drives have taken quite the beating before we even reached review time, and they have much more in front of them in Enterprise testing!

      • Ghostrecon69

        It looks very impresive #s at a highly price cost, when I compare a bit less performance of my Revodrive3 X2 for the half of the cost of all this hardware setup the only thing that I envy out this setup is the 4k #s compare of the Revo3X2. Im still happy with my revo.

      • paul alcorn

        They both certainly have their place. the nice thing about this controller is future expandability. you can upgrade drives as new tech comes out :)

      • Christopher Ryan

        That’s some sexy stuff, Paul.

      • paul alcorn

        Thanks Chris! the full review of the new drivers for the highpoint is now up :)

  • Fortune

    Paul, will you do a step by step how-to install of the Highpoint 2720sgl on a X79 motherboard? Or is it just plug-n-play w/ update firmware? Meaning just let it boot after updating the firmware then do a soft raid. I have an Asus RIVE, but read some review on an e-tailer it’s not compatible with it, but it seem to work with your ASRock.

    • paul alcorn

      i have no issues with it. If you are having issues though here is some pointers:
      boot the computer with NO DEVICES connected
      instal the management software for the card (its called RAID Management)
      then once installed, flash the BIOS to the “QuickBIOS”. This bios allows the user to not see the control panel that comes up pre-boot. therin usually lies the problem, with incorrect option rom assignments from the motherboards.
      So, once installed, reboot. you will see no pre-boot GUI, just some test.
      that should be curative :) it is a ‘low profile’ boot method to get past any incompatibilities with certain mobos.
      you lose no functionality, all can be manged via the Software in the OS :)
      lets us know how you fare!

      • apocalypzez

        Hey Paul,

        I just bought this raid card and am trying to use 2x intel 520 240GB ssds via this card as a main boot drive. How do I go about doing this?? I have posted this question in the forum as well. And how do you boot to the raid management?? And BIOS version for the card you suggesting. I have installed the latest bios that was available in highpoint website!!

        Thx

      • Mrfsys

        The factory enables INT13 by default, so the following sequence is what I would recommend, having previously installed 2 of these 2720SGL cards:

        (1) boot into the card’s BIOS with CTRL-H;

        (2) initialize all member SSDs;

        (3) create a RAID-0 array with 2 x SSDs as members;

        (4) re-boot into your motherboard BIOS and
        choose this RAID array in your Boot Priority;

        (a) Highpoint recommends that all other storage
        devices be disconnected from the motherboard’s ports,
        temporary: see README.TXT for further details;

        (5) proceed to do fresh install of Windows,
        from your Windows Setup disc.

        (The above sequence is obviously for a fresh install sequence.)

        If you already have an OS installed on other storage media,
        you can try the following:

        (6) download the latest device driver and bios for the card
        from Highpoint’s website;

        (7) install the card, but do NOT connect any cables or
        storage devices;

        (8) load the device driver when requested to do so;

        (9) flash the card’s latest bios, using the Windows program
        that you downloaded with the bios;

        (10) here, you need to decide whether to DISABLE INT13 or not;
        if you do NOT intend to boot from this card, then you should
        DISABLE INT13 when you flash the latest bios.

        I haven’t tried restoring an OS drive image to the 2720SGL,
        which requires that you ENABLE INT13, to boot from this card
        (i.e. leave the factory default unchanged).

        Don’t forget to review README.TXT which explains
        when to disconnect all other storage devices.

        Hope this helps.

        MRFS

        Here’s README.TXT from the driver download:

        Readme file for RocketRAID 272x/271x SAS Controller
        Windows Device Drivers

        Copyright (C) HighPoint Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved.
        Last updated on Jun 24, 2010.

        Please review this file for important information about compatibility issues and
        differences in operation that were discovered after our product manuals were
        created. In case of conflict among various parts of the documentation set, this
        file contains the most current information.

        Note: The latest firmware and product documentation will be available for
        download at http://www.highpoint-tech.com

        This file is divided into the following major sections:

        1. Software Version
        2. Files Listing
        3. Revision History
        4. Device Mapping Order
        5. Known Problems

        1. Software Version
        ====================

        Driver version: v1.1.10.624

        Operating Systems:
        Windows 2000
        Windows XP
        Windows 2003
        Windows x64 Edition

        2. Files Listing
        =================

        |- Readme.txt This file
        |_ win_2000 Windows 2000 driver
        |_ win_xp Windows XP driver
        |_ win_2003 Windows 2003 driver
        |_ x64 Windows x64 driver
        |_ disk1 Driver disk label
        _ txtsetup.oem Windows text mode setup file

        3. Revision History
        ====================

        v1.1.10.624 06/24/2010
        * Add Winbond W25X20BV/W25X40BV flash support

        v1.0.9.1229 12/29/2009
        * First release

        4. Device mapping order
        ========================

        The device mapping order in system is same as BIOS setting utility. The disk
        marked as “BOOT” will always be mapped as first SCSI disk. Please keep it in
        mind when installing Windows, otherwise OS may be installed to wrong location.

        5. Known Problems
        ==================

        * Install OS to devices attached to RocketRAID 272x/271x SAS controller

        Before installing OS to devices attached to RocketRAID controller, you
        must remove the drives connected to other controllers from your system
        temporarily. After OS installation complete, you can put them back.

        * Moving disks to other controllers

        When you want to use disks previously attached to RocketRAID controller
        on other controllers, please first delete any array information on the
        disks. Otherwise your data may be lost when you want to put it back later.

    • MRFS

      First, read the README.TXT file (what a concept, eh?)

      INT13 is enabled by default at the factory and,
      if you are not hosting your OS on that controller,
      you should DISABLE INT13.

      There is a Windows program that makes this easy, BUT you must download
      both the latest device driver and the Windows program to update the card’s BIOS.

      Obviously, you need Windows installed on some other storage device(s),
      in order to be able to run this BIOS update program.

      If you plan to install an OS on this card, you don’t need to change the INT13 setting.
      Installing Windows is easy: just have the device driver ready on some other
      medium like an optical disc, USB flash drive etc.

      MRFS

  • http://my1tbportableharddrive.com/ Jimmy

    What is the water cooling system you have installed here on the test images? Great review on these hard drives by the way. =)

  • MySchizoBuddy

    newbie question. How did you connect the 3 drives to two ports on the raid card?

    • Henk

      each port on the controller has 4 sata channels. Usually you would connect the two ports to the backplane of your computer case, which in turn has connectors for your disk. Alternatively you can probably pickup a splitter cable on Ebay

  • Ibmford

    Does trim function with RAID in this line? When can we expect TRIM to work in RAID configurations?

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      NO, TRIM does not function as the appropriate RST release has not been made public as of yet.

  • Jonathan

    Where can I download the new driver for the raid card???

  • val

    Another newbie question: what sata cable did you use? they look awesome.

  • Fernando Martinez

    Did the same, here is my result:
    http://i46.tinypic.com/23j1wd2.jpg

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.kennedy.75098 Joshua Kennedy

    LOL. that radiator makes me smile :D

  • Focus Johny

    wow. It is very popular in NAS users who want to build it self.
    Some hackintosh users also share their threads in process of building.

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