While Adaptec were kind enough to furnish us with a pair of Seagate SAS hard drives for use in today's review, it's clear to see that that the only real comparison worth talking about is the difference in performance between using an on-board firmware RAID solution such as Intel's "Matrix" RAID and Adaptec's hardware RAID 2405 card with a common set of SATA hard disks.
Starting out with the results from HDTune, the Adaptec 2405 controller had a clear lead giving burst rates over 100MB/s higher than the Intel Matrix RAID array while also using less CPU resources and producing slightly higher sustained average read/write results. However, as we moved on from synthetic benchmarks to real-world applications, the difference in performance was much less pronounced. Both the Dummy File Creation, File Compression, Game Loading and Windows Startup results showed less than a second difference between the Intel and Adaptec arrays, leaving us quite underwhelmed.
Despite this, the 100MB/s higher burst rate of the Adaptec card did make us wonder if the Intel "Matrix" RAID controller actually starts becoming a bottleneck once throughput exceeds 200MB/s? If so, could the Adaptec 2405 begin to shine when coupled with a pair of Solid-State drives or any other hard disks that offer much higher performance than the Western Digital Velociraptors used today? We'll be sure to test this theory when we get a chance.
Of course, performance isn't the 'be all and end all' of what you should be looking for in a RAID controller, and despite the majority of PC enthusiasts having little interest in anything outside of this area the Adaptec 2405 is packed with many enterprise level features that are well suited to a server environment. For starters there is support for up to 128 SAS/SATA devices through use of expanders, support for all major OS's with the Adaptec Storage Manager suite running on everything from Windows to Solaris and finally the ability to remotely control and BIOS flash the card which comes in very handy indeed if your server is co-located in a data centre.
To sum things up, the Adaptec RAID 2405 offers an extensive feature list for a budget RAID card and managed to consistently take the gold in each of our benchmarks. However, even when coupled with the fastest SATA drives on the market, the performance difference between the Adaptec card and Intel's firmware based "Matrix" RAID was negligible, and possibly the only real performance improvements will be had when moving to seriously fast storage solutions such as SSD or 15,000RPM SAS drives.
The Adaptec RAID 2405 card can be purchased from www.ebuyer.com
for £191.63 (as on 10/11/08).
- Burst rates 100MB/s higher than Intel Matrix RAID
- Feature set of a high-end RAID card.
- Support for a wide range of OS's.
- Lower CPU utilisation.
- Support for both SATA and SAS disks.
- Very little real world performance advantage with our chosen disks.
- Card initialisation time is quite slow.
- Lack of RAID5 support.