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Kaya Systems Apr 15, 2013

HighPoint RocketCache 3240x8

At A Glance

LOTS OF CASH

SSD speed for any rotating hard drive; multiple configuration options; impressive speed.

Lots of rash

Semi-expensive; not bootable.

Takes SSD caching to a whole new level

It’s tough to wrap your head around HighPoint’s RocketCache , so we’ll try to sum it up as being simply crazy performance, if you’re willing to deal with the configuration hassles.

The RocketCache is a x8 PCIe 2.0 card that lets you connect up to four SATA devices to it via a Medusa-like cable with four SATA 6Gb/s connectors on it. The card lets you run two HDDs with two SSDs for caching, or—more crazy—one HDD with three SSDs for insane caching. That’s not all. You can select between maximum performance, maximum performance with cache protection, RAID 1 with two hard drives and two SSDs for caching speed (maximum performance and protection), and maximum protection, which is RAID 1 with cache written to disks. One important note is that this device is not bootable, which is very unfortunate.

To test the RocketCache, we grabbed a WD 1TB Black drive, two OCZ Vertex 4 SSDs, and one Intel 335 Series SSD , and we ran all tests in Maximum Performance mode, which takes roughly 22GB from each SSD and stripes it together into a 66GB cache. Like other caching products, the size of the 1TB drive remained unchanged, and the extra space on the SSDs not being used for caching—about 217GB or so—is also still available as individual volumes. Since each SSD has its own lane to send and receive data, the configuration is theoretically able to saturate the PCIe interface with up to 1,500MB/s transfer speeds, and we got very close to that in testing with all four drives connected.

First, we connected just the hard drive by itself, and then the Vertex 4 SSD by itself, and ran our tests to show you what each drive is capable of by its lonesome (see benchmark chart). We then ran the HDD with each SSD added, one at a time, and ran our tests several times in order to see if performance would improve as the card began to cache the data used in the tests. Sure enough, it did, and each successive test run showed us increasing speed until we hit a ceiling. It didn’t take long for the 1TB hard drive to become as fast as an SSD, and in many cases performance surpassed that of the lone Vertex 4 SSD, which is not surprising. As an example, when we ran HD Tune on the one-SSD-plus-1TB combo, we initially saw the drive hit 107MB/s sequential read speeds (the same score it hit on its own), then 169MB/s on the next run, then 194MB/s, and on it went all the way up to 242MB/s. PCMark would also show us a “drive-only” score first, around 5,000, then suddenly jump to 40,000 or so—a huge increase in speed.

The RocketCache works as advertised, in other words. The only problem is, who would use this device? We don’t see it being used with three SSDs, due to expense (small, fast SSDs aren’t that cheap), though if you can swing it you’ll be a happy camper. The more interesting aspects are the RAID 1 options, which grant you huge-drive security with the safety of RAID and the speed advantage of drive caching. That is a truly unique combination of performance and security, and makes the RocketCache an interesting product that would kicks ass if we could boot from it.

$160, www.highpoint-tech.com

Benchmarks
 WD 1TB Black
OCZ Vertex 4
1 SSD and 1TB HDD2 SSD and 1TB HDD3 SSD and 1TB HDD
CrystalDiskMark




Avg. Sustained Read (MB/s) 139.2464368630.3969.6
Avg. Sustained Write (MB/s) 138.0
500.6
423830.1737
AS SSD
    
4KB Read (IOPS)1666,8761,9001,9022,037
4KB Write (IOPS)234
16,452
12,974

13,344

14,454
ATTO 



64KB File Read (MB/s)139.7383349638791
64KB File Write (MB/s)139.4497447805895
HD Tune

 

Average read (MB/s)
107.3298.2242307297.4
PCMark Vantage x64
5,93343,74837,67444,438
46,032

Best scores are bolded. All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel Core i5-2500K CPU on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard with 4GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All tests performed using native Intel 6Gb/s SATA chipset with IRST version 10.1 drivers.

THE VERDICT

HighPoint RocketCache 3240x8

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