Question Advice about PCIe SATA Controler

jmw.ppr

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Sep 26, 2017
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Hey all. To begin, please allow me to provide you as much info about the system I am working with as I can upfront.

- I have an older PC based on the Asus P8Z77-V LE motherboard. The board is a bit of a compromise board that includes 4 (FOUR) Intel SATA II ports, and 2 (TWO) Intel SATA III ports via the Z77 chipset, but also an additional two oddball SATA III (supposedly RAID capable) ports via an onboard Marvell chipset. One of those ports is an internal, and the other is an eSATA port, which makes the idea of the chipset being RAID capable odd at best. I can't find specific info on the Marvell chipselt at present, but the fact that it is also not capable of ATAPI support does in fact help toi indicate what chipset is is or isn't. I mention this because there were people having trouble getting this chipset to get along with add on SATA cards, and I don't remember if those troubles were mainly centered around RAID issues or not, and of course there is also a lot of people that get frustrated and never resolve difficulties because they don't take the time to understand what the work-around actually is.
The specifications on the mobo from ASUS Global can be found here: https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8Z77V_LE/specifications/

-I sorely need more SATA ports, particularly decent SATA III ports for better handling of my current and future HDD's.

-I am currently running the following:

|-2x - SSD's (non RAID) on the 2 Intel SATA III connectors. (There are stacked in a single 3.5" internal drive bay)
|~~~
|-2X - 2TB HDD's . . .
|and
|-2X - ATAPI DVD writers . . .
|on the 4 Intel SATA II ports. (So yes, there are currently 2 SATA III HDDs running on SATA II controllers)
|~~~
|-1X - 4TB HDD on the Marvell SATA III internal port.
|-1X - eSATA docking station on the other Marvell (eSATA) port

So 8 Drives total-All onboard internal and external SATA ports are being used

I have a total of 10 internal 3.5" drive bays, and 5 external 5-1/2" bays in this case - 15 drive bays in total.

I am still running Win 7 64 Bit, and will continue to do so until such time that I am forced to move away from Win7, at which time I will most likely go to a Linux platform because I am not at all fond of the current Microsoft offerings, so having something that has drivers avalable for the most common Linux distros would be preferred, but is not a deal-breaker.

RAID is not important to me, and having ATAPI support on any ports I add would also be completely optional. I can limit myself to 4 different types of (5-1/2") optical drives, and use the Z77's 4 naitive onboard SATA II connectors for those (ATAPI) opticals.

The motherboard DOES support PCIe 3.0, and I do not use an above board graphics card, so both the PCI-e x16 slot and the (shared bandwidth) PCI-e x4 (max) slots are open for use. I do not feel a need to run any RAID arrays, so any RAID functionality on a new controller would likely remain un-used. If I DID choose to run a RAID in the future, it would only be a RAID 0 stripe across two SSDs, which the 2 onboard Intel SATA III headers are already capable of providing.

There are some very inexpensive (>$35) 6 port, PCIe x4 cards showing up through sources like Aliexpress and eBay. Many offer no indication of what chipset (or) chipset combinations are used, so I'm a bit reluctant about those because of the odd-duck Marvell chipselt on my motherboard. When this board was new, many had reported problems/conflicts when using above-board SATA adapters with it, and while many were also trying to set up RAID arrays and having troubles even with the Marvell controller turned off in BIOS, I seem to remember there may have been some problems with chipset conflicts even with non-RAID applications because of the Marvell chipset being such an odd duck. There's no way of me knowing if they were real problems or simple operator error problems though. It all gets very complicated to suss out what is really going on when reading a bunch of 3rd party troubleshooting discussions taking place online, becasue the end users are often not really aware of exactly what they are doing, so it's hard to tell if the problems COULD be resolved if their machine was actually in front of me and I could try the things that were suggested for myself. Anyone that's been a member of this community for long knows exactly what I'm talking about. :)

One other important aside - I have been away from doing system builds since I spec'ed and built this particular system, and that was only as a hobiest as I left the IT profession way back in 1995 or 1996, so please, do NOT assume I know much about the PCI-e bus, because I really do not.



SOOOOOO . . . all that gobledie goop stuff having been said, what is important to me is having the most ports possible on a single card that are capable of providing really decent speeds from plain old rotational HDDs without SEVERE bottle-necks because of the PCI-e bus, AND, no conflicts, obviously.

One of these 6 port SATA III card's ebay listing is linked below. (Sorry it's an eBay auction that will likely eventually disappear from this thread, but I have found NO static webpages for ANY of these 6 port controllers.)

https://www.ebay.com/itm/PCIe-PCI-Express-to-6G-SATA3-0-6-Port-SATA-III-Expansion-Controller-Card-Adapter-/123397054064?_trksid=p2349526.m4383.l4275.c10#viTabs_0

This listings description headder says "PCI Express 4X to 6G SATA3.0 6-Port SATA III Expansion Controller Card Adapter new"

Below that is another sub-headding that says: "6 SATA ports 3.0 6 Gbps PCI-Express expansion card adapter single port, up to 500 MB ASMedia 1061 + 1093x2 acquisition chipset"

In the body of the description, (as seen in full, copied and pasted below) it says, "Main control chip: ASM1062+1093."
Here is the whole thing:

Product model: SATA3006

Number of interfaces: 6 port

Support mode: AHCI

Maximum speed of single port in PCI-E2.0: 520MB

Applicable slot specifications: PCI-E (4X/8X/16X)

Maximum slot speed under PCI-E2.0: 900MB

Support system: Synology/NAS/Mac/Linux/Windows(R) XP/Server2003/Vista/7/8 (32/64bite)

Main control chip: ASM1062+1093

Can do system disk

Support for large capacity hard drives

Support SSD/CD drive

Support small chassis

Does anyone have knowledge that this card WILL conflict withthe Marvell controller? If so, can you say with any level of confidence that DISABELING the Marvell controler in BIOS will allow the card to function peoperly? I know it's only $32, but I really do NOT have even that much money to burn. :/
 

jmw.ppr

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Sep 26, 2017
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Ok, here's the skinny. I am hoping to find advice based on real world experience, and it really comes down to chipset compatability. The northbridge on this motherboard is the Intel Z77, which only provided for 2 SATA III channels. Asus added the Marvell 91xx chipset that is onboard so there would be two more available SATA III channels as a less expensive alternative to adding a second Intel licensed chipset. At the time, the ONLY Intel chipsets available supporting Ivy Bridge CPU's were limited to 2 SATA III and 4 SATA II channels.

Here's the board in question:



The Marvell chipset is under the lower right hand corner of the "Dual Intelligent Processors - ASUS" heat sink on the Intel Z77 Express chipset. (Seen just to the left of the DIMM slots) So, yeah, I can't read the actual number off of it, but it's a 91xx series Marvell chipset. The current driver for it is rev 1.2.0.1014. This latest driver was released on 09/21/2011. This may help to identify the chipset more specifically. Because it is under it, the exact model number can not be read off the chip itself. I did RTFM and the only info given is that it's a Marvell 91xx.

As far as reviews are concerned, far more than half of all reviews are from people that have no clue what they are doing. (Like adding 6 drives into their eMachines "super tower" with a 320 watt power supply and wondering why it's dropping drives, or slotting the card into a slot without cleaning out dust-bunnies.) It's an Asmedia chipset pair on the card I pointed to, and further, it's the "ASM1062+1093" set. None of the reviews lead me to believe the end users know what they are doing or tell me what they tried, they just say "the card is at fault." This is not necessarily the case. I see TONS of bad reviews from people that obviously DON'T know what they are doing, and I know there are plenty of one line reviews where you can't TELL if the end user did something wrong or not. They just say, "Dropping drives. Card is awful."

Lots of people post reviews about "bad" cards for the same reasons mentioned above, yet there are a few reviews from more knowledgeable people who are not only using those same cards for years with no issue, but also point out where operator error has caused many of the bad reviews for the same product. Some free advice is worth more than other free advice.

A lot of the "less expensive" cards by "better known" US names such as Syba, Rosewill or IOCrest are built on the exact same production lines as these "no-name" cards, and quite frankly, the actual CARD is pretty hard to screw up. There's hardly ANY components on them at all. Heat problems, which are common on ANY chipset moving a ton of data at fast buss speeds can often be attributed to either crappy heat sinks, (the card manufacturer's oversight), and in some of the more pricey, (though still lower end) cards from names like SIIG, HighPoint and LSI, which also build really HIGH END cards too. Even the pricey cards sometimes have heat issues if they are not in an actual server chassis with REAL cooling. I have plenty of cooling in my case, and if need be can even slap a 25, 30, 35 or 40mm fan (whatever fits) on the heat sink as well.

The card I put up as an example even has a removable heat sink that is WAY better than what WELL KNOWN companies like Syba, IOCrest, HighPoint LSI and other companies putting on some of their cards that are based on more basic (and WAY less expensive) chipsets. ALL of the more basic and lower priced cards use the exact same Marvel and Asmedia chipsets in their less expensive cards, including the same companies that build really expensive (well over $200) high-end drive controllers as well. Given the fact that the heatsink on the card I offered as one example is removable, it can be removed, lapped and have thermal paste applied FAR more carefully than any assembly line worker is going to apply it.

My board has an OLDER Marvell chipset, so newer chipsets may well play very nicely with it. Everything works with Intel chipsets, because they HAVE to. If a chipset butts heads with Intel stuff, they just produced a chipset that a huge segment of computer users will not me able to use! That would be . . . not financially prudent.

When newer Intel chipsets like the Z77 come (came) out supporting new standards like SATA III (6.0Gbit/s), other chipset manufacturers also develop new chipsets to support AND to add new functionality to existing machines, and don't always know what another company is going to release at the same time, so ensuring compatibility between similar chipsets release at or near the same time between two companies like Marvell and AsMedia is not always possible. Over time, however, newer chipset offerings are developed with full knowledge of pre-existing chipsets from competing manufacturers, and there is conflicts are far less likely, though not always.

I really am hoping to get some feedback from someone that knows this stuff and can offer me some advice based on real-world experience. I am capable of taking a guess all by myself. :) I would rather ask because there ARE people who actually know.
 
Honestly this is what I would do (As it is what I have done)

I have a Cooler Master HAF X with a 4 bay hot swap taking up 3 of my 5.25 bays (6 Total 5.25 and 5 3.5.
Every single one is filled up so 12 drives total) 1 with a single hot sway caddy, and the bottom two are built in how swap drives with a back plane. Hard drive populate all of them. 8 of my drive are 2TB WD Reds, 1 4TB Purple, and some other odds and ends on top of of the 250GB Crucial M500 SSD for my OS boot. Use to have my server in a NAS Type box with 8 Hot Swap but the i5 4590 couldn't stream any 4k content so moved it over to my main desktop with my FX-8320 which has no issues streaming 4K to my TV. Every single one is filled up so 12 drives total.

I currently have a Rocket RAID card with the IT Firmware which basically means it is either JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disk aka every disk is its own) or simple RAID of 0, 1, 10. I do have 2 RAID 0's but one will be replaced by the 4TB giving me one more slot of space. So 8 drives there.

Then i have the other 4 drives plugged into 4 of the 6 onboard sata ports which aren't part of my server. Just a temp drive, a drive for my games, one of the hot swap drives that i use to put my backup drives in for backup, and my OS.

I honestly would find a cheap HBA (Host Bus Adapter) that just does JBOD/Simple RAID. There are a lot of cheap second hand card or cards under $100 bucks. Honestly I have NEVER had a new card and have always gotten second hand/used cards without issue. All except the Rocket RAID (High Point) Have been some kind of LSI Card. They seem to be the most bullet proof and most of the NAS guys use them more so that the others.

The only time I have ever had an issue with a card not working with a 3rd Party Motherboard is the Z97 board I have with some PCIe 1 RAID/HBA cards. Just won't detect them at all or won't get past the POST, but PCIe 2.0 and up have no issues. Have not tested them on a Z77 board though as I do not have any to test either.

But that is my 2 cents. I would get a new or used reliable controller and put all the drives (Minus OS drive) on it. Most of them have Linux Drivers and I have yet to come across one that doesn't have windows 10 support as all my machines have windows 10 and they all work flawlessly.
 

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