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CalDigit S2VRHD

SATA products excel as video editing systems, with an amazing low cost. The earlier drives of Hitachi and Seagate in enclosures of Firmtek SATA, which used Sonnet or Firmtek SATA cards performed similar to Fibre channel arrays and SCSI. The ‘port multipliers’ came later. Then the Silicon Image Company brought forth a chipset, which allowed plugging five SATA drives to one port of SATA host card inside a MAC or PC. Sonnet E4P and Sonnet X4P became popular. So, SATA host card could be used in a PC AVID and MAC’s Final Cut Pro, with a huge amount of cheap storage, unlike the expensive, noisy and bulky Fibre arrays and SCSI.

But uncompressed HD could not be handled, except when two post- multiplier chassis and ten drives on Sonnet X4P or the SATA E4P host card were used, stripping all the ten drives together. But it was too expensive. At this junction, the Cal-Digit Company came up with their Cal Digit S2VRHD, claiming that a single enclosure of five-drive SATA could handle uncompressed 1080i HD, if SATA host card used in the MAC was theirs.

I got this Cal Digit S2VRHD with the host card for PCI-E computer and PCI-X computer. As I was building two systems for Disney, using both kinds of MAC G5’s with SATA arrays and the host PCI cards of sonnet, I tested Sonnet on both computers with the AJA Kona System, and evaluated the drive speeds to get wonderful results. It is easy as you just plug in and RAID the drives with Apple Disk Utility, the default feature. Then I set up Cal Digit S2VRHD to insert its host controller card (SATA) into the MAC’s in place of Sonnet. I conducted the sample tests with AJA Kona System. Amazingly, it was faster than Sonnet.

Without having read the manuals, I reinitialized the drives in Apple Disk Utility for creating a RAID 0 for all five drives, and ran the test again. I was surprised to see everything slowed down and ran at a speed equal to the Sonnet arrays. So, I went on to read and manual and tried another time.

The manual gives detailed explanations, inclusive of hitting the ‘Options’ key in Apple Disk Utility, for setting RAID Block Size as 256K and not its default 32K. As I followed the instructions, and tried the next time, the results were faster again and sufficiently fast for uncompressed HD.

Therefore, I plugged Sonnet Fusion 500P equipment using five 500Gig SATA drives onto Cal Digit S2VRHD PCI SATA card, reformatted the drives and recreated the RAID using 256K block size. Now, Sonnet 500P was as fast as Cal-Digit. I though that it was just the setting (of 256K for RAID Block Size) that could make a SATA array fast for uncompressed HD. However I was wrong.

When I put Sonnet E4P card again in MAC Quad G5, with RAID set to 256K Block Size, undoubtedly, Sonnet E4P card caused slower performance of the system. It was nearly 25mb per second slower for writing files to RAID array, in comparison to Cal Digit S2VRHD SATA card. Thus, it shows that Sonnet is unreliable for writing uncompressed Hi Definition files to drives. Though the read times are good, you can’t digitize uncompressed HD material on to Sonnet.

Now, I set up Cal Digit S2VRHD on MAC Quad, using the host card of Sonnet E4P, just to test. The results showed that write time was truly faster than with Sonnet Chassis, probably because of new Seagate 7200 ten SATA drives. The slower write time was good for everything except uncompressed HD.

Therefore, Cal Digit S2VRHD is the ideal SATA solution available, and it outperforms the Sonnet. In case you want to upgrade the Sonnet that you already own, buy Cal Digit PCI host SATA card to use with MAC. The performance will be better. It is also possible to mix and match Cal Digit and Sonnet hardware.

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