Author Topic: I Test SATA PCI Adapters So You Don't Have To - Mac PCI SATA Card Roundup  (Read 3563 times)

Offline chikorita157

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This is a list of SATA PCI cards that work, and I tested. These cards are now expensive and hard to find since they are not produced anymore, except for the Firmtek cards, which they may have stock of still (yes, they are still around).

The advantage of using one of these cards over an IDE to SATA adapter is greater compatibility, especially on older models of PowerMac G4 (Earlier Quicksilver, Digital Audio, Gigabit, Sawtooth, Yikes) and PowerMac G3 (both beige and Blue and White). For a later Quicksilver models (2002 models) and Mirror Door, there are no limitations, and the PCI SATA card performance might be marginal at best.

Here are the cards I tested

Firmtek Serialtek 1v4 4 Port SATA PCI Adapter

Type: 64-bit PCI, 4 Ports
Price: $128 including Shipping
Verdict: Recommended if you really want a SATA to PCI adapter

This is probably the only SATA to PCI card that one can buy new still, believe it or not. This card is one of the few cards that can boot into Mac OS 9, which does perfectly. On Mac OS 9, the SATA drives appear as SCSI hard drives. On Mac OS X, they appear as ATA drives, although not viewable in the System Profiler. On an SSD tested on a PowerMac G4 MDD 2003 model, it achieves read/write speeds of 120 MB/s. While this card is a bit pricy given how old it is, itís a viable option if you want to use bigger size SSDs, faster SSD speeds, or use 4 SATA drives without using four IDE to SATA adapters. Also, itís readily available, for now at least.

Getting one is not easy despite their ordering site being up. I had to contact them when the order sat there for a week before they shipped. But they pulled through and I got this monster of a SATA PCI card, which work great. Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X Tiger/Jaguar boots fast.

Also, there is a two-port variant of this Serialtek card for a 32-bit PCI, which Sonnet also has a rebranded version of that card. However, Firmtek does not sell this anymore since itís sold out.

ACard AEC-6290M/AEC-6890M/AEC-6896M

Type: 32-bit PCI, 2 ports (6290M/6890M), 4 ports (AEC-6896M)
Price: Undetermined, but over $100 when found
Verdict: Great, but a few quirks, good option for older PowerMac G4s, G3s, and Old-World Rom PCI PowerMacs

This is another viable alternative suggested on the 68k Mac Liberation Army forums on his Beige G3. The only difference between 6290 and the 6890/6896 models is that 6290 does not have hardware RAID while the latter models do. These cards work out of the box on Mac OS 9. There are drivers that one need to install on Mac OS X, but it will boot without them. While it works perfectly on Mac OS 9, there are a few quirks with this card on Mac OS X Tiger. On a few startups, a prohibitory sign may appear, and the OS stops loading. Of course, you can fix this with a reset and the operating system boot properly. On both operating systems, the drives appear as SCSI ones.

While the speed on this card is only a little better than an IDE to SATA adapter, the big plus of this adapter is bypassing the IDE limitations on capacity.

Generic 2 Port SATA PCI Controller Card Apple Macintosh PowerMac G3/G4/G5 *SSD *OSX OS 9

Type: 32-bit PCI, 2 Ports (SIL3112) claiming to be a Firmtek Serialtek 1v2 SATA PCI card
Price: $49.99
Verdict: DO NOT BUY, Avoid at all costs
While itís tempting to buy this card since there is no viable options, but donít. I bought this card on eBay, so you donít have to. Off the bat, I know that if it doesnít work and the sellerís claims are bull crap, I can just return it and get a full refund. Yes, a well-known Firmtek Pirate sells this card. It also claims Mac OS 9 support, which I want to test.

I tested this card on the PowerMac G3 Blue and White. After booting into Mac OS X Tiger, I tried to boot into Mac OS 9. When I did, it ended up with a floppy disk and question mark icon, meaning that it does not work with Mac OS 9. Yes, I tried using different PCI slots and SATA ports, same result.  Even removing the ACard adapter and booting from it doesnít make much a difference.

In other words, Mac OS 9 support is a lie, and the seller is giving me a hard time returning this after I filed a ďItem Not as DescribedĒ since the card obviously doesnít work on Mac OS 9. Even after trying his suggestions in poorly written English, it still doesnít work. I replied and no response.

He probably blocked me after trying to get him to give me a shipping label to send it back, so I will be ending up escalating the issue to eBay in a few days, which I will most likely win and get my money back. The funny thing is that this card reports itself as a Firmtek Serialtek 1v2 card. I highly doubt this card has the full firmware as the original as there is a sticker on the EEPROM chip.

As they say at Apple, ďif you canít innovate, I guess you just imitate. Itís never quite as good as the original.Ē

If anyone else use a SATA PCI adapter that works with Mac OS 9 that I didnít mention, feel free to share your experiences.

Conclusion
While SATA PCi adapters are expensive route to use SSDs on vintage PowerMacs, it allows flexibility and maximum compatibility. You donít have to deal with issues with certain SSDs not working with IDE to SATA adapters. Also, you can get rid of all those IDE adapters besides the optical ones, which can improve airflow. Lastly, there is the bragging rights of having one of these cards given how rare they are, especially ones that can boot into Mac OS 9.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 03:31:36 PM by chikorita157 »

Offline DieHard

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This was an awesome run-down, thanks for the effort :)

Offline FBz

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Mac PCI SATA Card Roundup
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2021, 10:40:39 AM »
ďOn an SSD tested on a PowerMac G4 MDD 2003 model, it achieves read/write speeds of 120 MB/s.Ē

Is that 120 MB/s from XBench per OS X, or from MacBench 3.0 (or QuickBench) under OS 9?
« Last Edit: March 19, 2021, 08:28:43 PM by FBz »

Offline chikorita157

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Re: Mac PCI SATA Card Roundup
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2021, 08:41:00 AM »
ďOn an SSD tested on a PowerMac G4 MDD 2003 model, it achieves read/write speeds of 120 MB/s.Ē

Is that 120 MB/s from XBench per OS X, or from MacBench 3.0 (or QuickBench) under OS 9?

This is under Quickbench. Here are the results on the Firmtek card.


In XBench, it gets the following:
Sequential
Uncached Write: 111.49 MB/sec (4k), 95.21 MB/sec (256k)
Uncached Read: 27.06 MB/sec (4k), 115.15 MB/sec (256k)

Random
Uncached Write:41.39 MB/sec (4k), 115.19 MB/sec (256k)
Uncached Read: 15.41 MB/sec (4k), 107.58 MB/sec (256k)

For ACard AEC-6280M (Didn't do quickbench on this yet)
Sequential
Uncached Write 46.70 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 44.49 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 13.24 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 74.40 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random
Uncached Write 20.71 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 45.00 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read  9.06 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 70.48 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Offline peeperpc

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What model of HDD you used it (the pirated one) with?

Recently I bought a 2TB Seagate (ST2000DM008-2FR102). It couldn't boot OS 9 when connected to my 1s2 (firmware v 5.1.3 which I flashed it myself) clone nor with a SATA to IDE adapter, just the blinking floppy disk for a while before switching to boot from other drive. The boot partition is just 1.6 GB which is within OS 9's limit. This makes me a bit worry when buying new drives.

The 1TB (ST1000DM010-2EP102) boots OS 9 fine, BTW.

Offline SDG

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On that fake flashed card you bought, it looks very much like the 3.3v regulator just under the BIOS chip has been removed from the board, which is very odd. That's the one that needs replacing with a Micrel 29150 to work in a QS/DA.

Offline chikorita157

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What model of HDD you used it (the pirated one) with?

Recently I bought a 2TB Seagate (ST2000DM008-2FR102). It couldn't boot OS 9 when connected to my 1s2 (firmware v 5.1.3 which I flashed it myself) clone nor with a SATA to IDE adapter, just the blinking floppy disk for a while before switching to boot from other drive. The boot partition is just 1.6 GB which is within OS 9's limit. This makes me a bit worry when buying new drives.

The 1TB (ST1000DM010-2EP102) boots OS 9 fine, BTW.

I tried booting off a ADATA SU600 120 GB SSD, but it wonít boot off of it for some reason. However, it works with the ACard SATA PCI adapter though.

 


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