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

IOMETER 2010

We also utilized IOMETER 2010 in our testing to confirm the sequential speeds that we were seeing with compressible data. Here we are using an 8GB test file with 64K transfers at a Queue Depth of 64 to see the maximum transfer speed with sequential read access.

Again we see a top speed just north of 1.5 GB/s. This would be very useful in file transfers and server-type file access scenarios. For use with large video or audio files this would be an extremely fast array.

REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

There is a large difference between what I would deem ‘Consumer RAID’ vs ‘Enterprise RAID’.  Many wrongly think that they are both one in the same. Enthusiasts, and more involved users, who are utilizing these types of RAID arrays in their computers are looking for different things entirely.  Ease of use, affordability, and an emphasis on desktop access file loadings is key to the typical home RAID user. There are major differences in the types of RAID loading and tweaking for the respective products.

We have tested some of the most powerful single SSDs on the planet that are designed for Enterprise servers and, with speeds above and beyond what many normal users can even imagine, one would think that these would be extremely fast in a desktop usage. That just simply couldn’t be further from the truth.

If one were to boot their computer using some of these enterprise-centric SSDs they would be extremely disappointed in their performance. The majority of these devices just are not designed to be used in a desktop application. They are designed for 100 percent operation, 100 percent of the time. These types of SSDs do not lend themselves well to being used by the causal user, and that is without factoring the extreme prices involved.

The SSD realm seems to be coming to a crossroads, however, where there are some devices that can, and will, perform at extreme levels in either scenario, simply by some easy configurations that even a normal user can handle. That seems to be the balance that Intel and LSI SandForce are striving for here by bringing reliability, price, and performance of the true Enterprise-class devices down to a level where us ‘normal’ users can utilize them as well.

The Intel 520 is certainly a huge step in this direction. These SSDs perform extremely well as a single device or in RAID configurations.  Having now tested them in both scenarios, we can safely say that they perform admirably on both sides of the aisle.

The HighPoint RAID controller that we used in this review is also a sign of these blurred lines in the RAID world. With a low price and excellent performance, it is also straddling the line with enterprise-class performance at home user pricing.

Look for more in-depth testing with both the Intel 520s and the HighPoint 2720SGL in very short order from us here at The SSD Review. We are already in the midst of an impressive article for the HighPoint controller with 8x256GB SSDs and this is definitely going to have some of our highest single card results that we have ever seen!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Intel 520s really scored a knockout in our ‘consumer’ RAID testing exercise and, with the speed and latency displayed, it would be hard to go wrong with them. These results are some of the best I have ever experienced with so few SSDs and it wasn’t so long ago that it took a whole stack of SSDs, and a $1000 dollar RAID controller, to achieve what we did here today!  Look for our ‘Round Three’ of this Intel testing within the next few days, as we roll out our new Enterprise Test Regimen!

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21 comments

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

    • 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!

      • 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.

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

      • That’s some sexy stuff, Paul.

      • Thanks Chris! the full review of the new drivers for the highpoint is now up 🙂

  2. 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.

    • 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!

      • 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

      • 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 https://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.

    • 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

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

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

    • 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

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

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

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

  8. Fernando Martinez

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

  9. LOL. that radiator makes me smile 😀

  10. 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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