RocketRAID 2302 is one of the simplest RAID controllers from HighPoint, featuring two internal SATA-300 ports and two external eSATA-300 ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and JBOD. With several motherboards coming with RAID capability why should someone spend USD 120 to have an add-on RAID controller? That is the question we will try to answer in this review.
If you are new to RAID, we recommend you to read our tutorial How to Setup a RAID System, where we explain everything you need to know about RAID. In this tutorial you will information on what is RAID, the difference between RAID levels, etc.
As you can see in Figure 1, RocketRAID 2302 uses a PCI Express x1 connector. What is really interesting about PCI Express is that you can install this card on any PCI Express slot, including bigger slots like x4, x8 and x16. The card, however, will still work at x1 transfer rate.
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Figure 1: HighPoint RocketRAID 2302 RAID controller.
As mentioned, this card has two internal SATA-300 ports and two external eSATA-300 ports, making it a product targeted to average users looking for a simple RAID controller. If you need more ports you will need to look for another product, like RocketRAID 2300, which offers four internal SATA-300 ports but no eSATA ports.
It is also important to notice that cards from RocketRAID 2000 series aren’t 100% hardware-based –some processing is still done by the system CPU and that is why they are also called “software RAID” cards. Only cards from RocketRaid 3000 family are 100% hardware-based and that is why they are more expensive. Hardware-based cards also provide on-board memory cache to increase performance, which also increases the final price. Just as an example, RocketRAID 3510 also features four SATA ports but costs around USD 300, more than double – this other card is 100% hardware-based, has 256 MB memory cache and supports RAID 6.
RocketRAID 2302 is based on Marvell 88SX7042 RAID controller.
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Figure 2: Marvell 88SX7042 RAID controller.
So, what is the difference of RocketRAID 2302 RAID controller to a typical RAID solution provided by the motherboard and that you get “for free” when you buy a board that has this feature?
In this review we will compare the performance of RocketRAID 2302 with the performance of Intel ICH9R south bridge RAID, so we will discuss performance later.
Feature-wise, this card provides some interesting features not provided by on-board RAID solutions, such as Online Capacity Expansion (OCE), Online RAID Level Migration (ORLM), hot swap, hot spare and remote management.
Online Capacity Expansion (OCE) allows you to add more disks to your RAID array while Online RAID Level Migration (ORLM) allows you to change the RAID level of your array. Both features can be done with the operating system loaded and your system working, even with the hard disk drives being accessed, so you won’t face any loss of data. On motherboard RAID solutions you usually don’t have these features and if you need to add disks or change your RAID level you need to backup your data and reconfigure your RAID array, which involves reformatting your drives and losing all data.
Hot swap allows you to replace a hard disk drive with the computer turned on, in case of disk failure. Notice that you need first to access the RAID control panel on the operating system and select the hot swap function before removing any drive from your system; this will shut down the hard disk drive, allowing you to remove it from the system.
And hot spare allows you to have an additional drive on the array ready to replace any other disk from your array in case of disk failure.
RocketRAID 2302 comes with two eSATA cables and two SATA cables, plus a low-profile bracket, see Figure 3.
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Figure 3: Accessories that come with the product.