Abstract: I finally received something to play with and eat up a portion of my free time for a good cause. The truly awesome folks over at Leadtek sent over the Winfast ATA66 for me to abuse and show off.
Able to share PCI interrupts with other PCI devices
Supports system boot up
Easy setup and configuring
Driver support : DOS, Windows 3.1/9X/NT4.0
I finally received something to play with and eat up a portion of my free time for a good cause. The truly awesome folks over at Leadtek sent over the Winfast ATA66 for me to abuse and show off. The worst part of this whole scenario is that my one and only ATA66 Hard Drive has gone to that big hard disk place in the sky. I let a friend use it for a while, (yeah I know a really dumb thing to do) and now it is dead. I think it knew that it was going to be up against this awesome add-on card and said "who, ME?" All joking aside, all I can provide you with at the moment is a couple of benchmarks sans benefit of the ATA66 feature. Now don't move that mouse, this is still good info for those of you looking at upgrading to the ATA66 standard, and other reasons I will mention later in the article. The ATA66 benchmarks will have to wait until I can lay my hands on a new one. Hopefully that will not take too long to get a hold of, and once I do I will be sure to post an addendum to this article so you can see the full glory of this awesome controller.
First off, lets get into hard disk controllers, their features, and of course a few limitations. Nowadays motherboards come with a primary and secondary controller right on the board. This is usually in the form of UDMA33 and allows the use of four EIDE devices. Some motherboards are now offering ATA66 support on the board as well as the normal primary and secondary IDE channels. That's two per controller, a master, and a slave. If you have a full tower case and want to use more than four drives, you are faced with a couple decisions. There is SCSI. This is a great option for servers in a network because you can hook up multiple SCSI drives and only eat up one IRQ. SCSI is fairly fast and reliable. But there is a downside to "scuzzy" drives. PRICE!! The controllers alone will kill a wallet, and the drives themselves are nothing close to cheap. So what about us budgeted peep's, can we get more drives in a box without robbing a bank? Also the question arises, how do I get ATA66 support without having to purchase a new mobo with that feature built in? A new motherboard with 66 support will most likely run you in the neighborhood of $80-140 depending on chipset, features, and processor support. Maybe you are totally in love with your current board and don't feel the need to get a different one.
LeadTek To The Rescue
Well, here comes Leadtek to the rescue. There are many offerings in the ATA66 controller department, but I like this one already for the price. At under $40 you are well below the cost of a new motherboard to support your 66 drive, and you are so far from being as expensive as SCSI it is ridiculous. The package comes to you with the controller card, a small "leaflet" type manual, driver floppy disk, and a "speed guaranteed" 80 wire ATA66 flat cable. Nothing fancy, just short sweet and to the point. I have dealt with multi-I/O cards in the past, and found them to be a pain in the ass to get to install correctly. Not the case with the Winfast controller. I plugged the little guy into a free PCI slot, cabled in an old 1.6gb EIDE, and a fairly new UDMA33 6.4gb Quantum. I decided on the first boot to see if the native Windows partition manager fdisk would see through the controllers BIOS and work the drives on it. Yep, no hang ups there. I did notice one problem, it increases boot time by like a minute or so. Now yeah, this is livable because you are getting added storage and speed, so I think I can endure the extra wait at post. So far pretty painless, so lets see what kind of havoc Win98 has in store at recognizing the new card and how much fun loading drivers is. That went without a hitch as well. Windows after boot sees it as a PCI Raid Controller. Interesting, eh? I pointed it to the floppy for the correct drivers, it loaded both the primary and secondary controllers and voila, that's it. You now have 4 more EIDE device slots available. Doesn't get much easier than that.
Preliminary testing has shown that this controller definitely lives up to its name. It is definitely fast. I would recommend this to anyone looking to get a few more drives in their system as well as get the support for the new ATA66 standard. If you don't have one, GET ONE!