Seagate Barracuda V and SATA 150 Controllers

Seagate Barracuda V and SATA 150 Controllers - Page 2


Seagate's Barracuda V and SATA 150 Controllers
Welcome to Serial ATA - A Performance Analysis

By Dave Altavilla
Januray 14, 2003

Installation of a Serial ATA drive, couldn't be any easier.  There are two cables to concern yourself with, just like on standard parallel ATA drives, power and data.  However, SATA Data Cables are significantly easier to install that 80 pin ribbons cables that are used with standard Parallel ATA drives.  The SATA Data cable has a very low "insertion force" required to plug it into it's mate socket on the drive.  The cable is notched on one end as well, so you can only install them one way.

Setup and Installation
Skinny cables good... Wide cables bad!

Most folks that have seen a Serial ATA cable, have probably seen the Data Cable.  The data cable is the thinner grey or red cable in the shots below.  However, like any hard drive, SATA drives need power.  The SATA power cable, the four stranded color coded adapter below, has not been included in any motherboard kit, we have received to date, from any manufacturer that has a board built with a SATA Drive Controler on board. 

Cable Connections and Installation


We'll take this opportunity to send a message to our Motherboard OEM friends in the channel.  When you build a new motheboard that supports SATA, include a pair of SATA Power Cables in your kit, as well as the Data Cables you already supply, and we'll be impressed!  Mobo vendors are always looking to impress us these days, with all their fancy pack-in kits and bundles.  This would be a simple, low cost addition that would bring a smile to our oh-so serious analytic faces.

SATA Controller BIOS Setup
Cake walk

So, we've plugged in, powered up and spun up our drives.  Now it's time to look at the Serial ATA Controllers that we used for testing in this article.  Both of the current Serial ATA Controllers that Motherboard OEMs and PCI Add In Card vendors, are utilizing at this time, are capable of SATA RAID configurations.

Bench and System Installation

Promise Controller
Silicon Image
Promise BIOS
Silicon Image BIOS

It is interesting to note that the Promise SATA Controller, is packaged in a 100 pin TQFP (Thin Quad Flat Pack) IC package and the Silicon Image SATALink Controller comes in a 144 pin TQFP.  That's an additional 44 pins that are brought out to the PCB on the Silicon Image controller.  It left us wondering if the Silicon Image solution will provide for additional features or performance in the future, with all the extra pins at its disposal.  If we learn anything else here, we'll let you know.  Also, interestingly enough, although Silicon Image's chip seems to be a home grown ASIC (Application Specific IC), the Promise chip has Marvell Technologie's logo on it.  Marvell is a fairly young Semiconductor Company that had their Initial Public Offering on the NASDAQ back in 2000.  They seem to have been making the right moves as of late, with Gigabit Ethernet technologies and now these Serial ATA Controllers.  The Marvell chip used for the Promise Private Label solution here, is part number 88SP5021 however, and we can't find any information on it on the Marvell site.

The Promise PDC20376 Controller's BIOS has a slightly more user friendly feel to it versus the Silicon Image version.  However, both BIOS setup menus have pretty much everything you need for configuring a single drive or RAID setup.  We chose to setup a RAID 0 Array, for optimal performance, versus the redundancy and security of RAID 1 mode.  After we configured our array, we saved and exited the BIOS and one reboot later, we were partitioning one large 240 Gig SATA drive, consisting of two Seagate Barracuda V Serial ATA drives.  We also tested these drives on single drive setups in the BIOS, for comparisons to a standard ATA100 single drive system.

HotHardware Test Systems
3 Drives, 2 Motherboards, 2 SATA Controllers and 1 P4


(Promise PDC20376 Controller)
Asus P4G8X
(Silicon Image Sil3112A Controller)

Pentium 4 2.8GHz

512MB Kingston HyperX
DDR RAM PC3500 (2-2-2-5-2)

2 Seagate Barracuda V
Serial ATA HD w/8MB Cache

1 IBM ATA100
7200RPM 60G HD

1 WD ATA100 Special Edition
ATA100 7200RPM 120GB HD

ATi RADEON 9700 Pro

Plextor 40X CDRW

Windows XP Professional

DirectX 9

ATi Catalyst Drivers 3.0

Intel Chipset Drivers
Intel Applications Accelerator
For ATA100 testing
Promise SATA Drivers
Silicon Image SATA Drivers
Version 1.082


Test Setup and Methodology

In the following series of tests, we used identical peripheral components, only swapping out two different Granite Bay based motherboards, the Asus P4G8X with the Silicon Image controller and the MSI GNB Max with the Promise controller.  Both boards we're configured to run at a stock speed of 2.8GHz on the processor with identical memory timings and 2 sticks of Kingston HyperX DDR DRAM memory.

We then installed WinXP with the respective SATA controller drivers, on a clean formatted 60 Gig ATA 100 drive.  In the case of the SATA testing, we attached two Seagate Barracuda drives on the SATA ports, in either single SATA150 or RAID 0 mode.  With the ATA100 testing, we simply attached another Western Digital Special Edition, 120 Gig drive on the secondary Intel ICH4 IDE channel.

All test drives in these benchmarks were partitioned with NTFS at their fullest capacity, formatted and left completely blank.  Testing and benchmarking software was run off the primary boot drive and directed to test either the blank SATA drives or the blank ATA100 drive.


Sandra Hard Drive Benchmarks
Reads, Writes and Access Times

Sandra's Hard Drive test is a decent measure of "burstable" performance with reads and writes on a given drive.  It's certainly not a "real world" benchmark in this regard but it does give you a feel for file and application load time performance, for example. 

Promise SATA150

Silicon Image

Promise SATA

Silicon Image SATA

First things first, note that in the Promise SATA150 test, with one single Barracuda V drive, the drive comes neck and neck with the reference score for an ATA100 7200RPM drive with 2MB cache.  Even though these new SATA Barracuda V drives have 8MB of on board cache, it's advantages are not being realized it seems.  Word has it that WinXP doesn't natively support the bandwidth of the new SATA 150 standard, and as such it's primary virtue, 150MB/sec bandwidth, is not being exploited fully.  The RAID scores on the other hand are some of the best we've seen to date from just about any ATA drive, when configured in a RAID 0 mode.  Both the Silicon Image and Promise controllers, along with Seagate's new Barracuda, outperform the ATA100 7200RPM 8MB cache arrays, by a comfortable margin.  As was the case in the single drive test, the Promise controller seems to have a slight advantage overall with the Sandra benchmark.


Hard Drive Tach and Winbench Disk Winmarks

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