written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 4/26/2010
Buying a RAID card can improve the performance of RAID, allow for larger RAID arrays, and enable RAID on computers which don't have it available by default. However, most RAID cards are very expensive. This guide highlights three great RAID cards under $150.
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RAID Cards for Less
While many motherboards come with support for RAID configurations of various types, the controllers used are often so-so. This can hamper performance and result in long-term reliability issues. In order to have the best RAID hard drive array possible you will need to purchase a high-quality RAID controller which can be installed into your computer.
However, RAID controllers can be very, very expensive. This guide reviews three of the best RAID controllers which can be purchased on a value budget of under $150 dollars
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Promise FastTrak TX4310
The Promise FastTrak TX4310 is a software RAID controller. It has four 3GB/s SATA ports and offers full support of RAID 0/1/5/10 JBOD configurations. The FastTrak TX4310 supports hot swapping and bootable arrays as well.
Array management can be handled using Promise's FastBuild BIO-loaded utility and a browser-based management solution called WebPAM for Promise Array Management. WebPAM not only monitors the array, but is also capable of performing administration and synchronization tasks. WebPAM can even send you email notifications of problems with the array.
A well known solution, the RocketRAID 2300 is a high-bandwidth PCI Express RAID controller offering support for RAID 0/1/5/10 JBOD configurations. The bandwidth (300mb/s) available through the PCI Express interface makes the RocketRAID 2300 one of the best RAID controllers available under $150. The Highpoint RAID cards also result in minimal CPU utilization.
The Highpoint RocketRAID 2300 includes a web interface similar to that of the Promise FastTrak, but the interface is a little less intuitive. SMART drive monitoring and hot swapping are supported. A feature is also included which allows for automatic RAID rebuilding in the event of a problem.
While the Promise FastTrak and the Highpoint RocketRAID are solid solutions, they are both software RAID cards, which means that there is no on-board processor handling the RAID array. The 3ware 80062LP, however, is a hardware RAID card. This is advantageous because software RAID put a load on your computer's processor in order to manage your RAID array, but a hardware controller does not.
Hardware controllers are typically very expensive, and in order to reduce the price 3ware hasn't been able to put many features on the 80062LP. RAID 0/1 JBOD are the only configurations supported and the card only has two SATA connections available. The trade off means some functions of the card are much reduced compared to the other options listed here.