I recently purchased an Intel SASWT4I RAID controller. First of all, it is indeed a hardware RAID solution, so it is operating system independent. This is crucial as my workstation is dual-booted with Windows and Ubuntu. I have the ASUS P6X58D Premium motherboard and in the setup of the card, I had some issues. The motherboard would not let me enter the card’s BIOS setup utility. I could see the card initializing, but if I tried to launch the configuration utility, the BIOS would just boot the OS instead. If I was creating a bootable array I would have had a big problem, however was just using it for a 4 SATA disk RAID 10E array, so I installed the Windows configuration utility and set it up that way. The configuration is stored in NVRAM so it persisted with Ubuntu. Unless you have the configuration utility you cannot view the connected disks. I was unable to view the SMART status’ of the disks, even with the utility. There is a configuration utility for Linux, but it is distributed as an .rpm package. In the near future I might use Alien to convert the package to a .deb and attempt to install it on Ubuntu.

The card has a load of LEDs. There are 4 green activity LEDs, one for each port and 4 orange fault LEDs, one for each port. There is a green power LED on the board itself and 2 lightpipes that pass through the backplate that indicate heartbeat and fault, as well as global activity. There is a 4 pin LED header but there is no documentation on how it is wired. I found out that the pins farthest from the backplate are the activity indicator pins with the ground closest to the backplate. The performance was at par with a 3 disk software Intel RST RAID 5 array I already had in the computer, however the access time was about 3ms better. After a little digging in the settings, I found that by default the drive cache is disabled. I enabled it and got roughly the same performance in my benchmark. It does however feel faster under normal use, so it might just be the way the benchmark works. The firmware it shipped with seemed outdated, but I could not upgrade it because the updater requires a UEFI system and has no compatibility with BIOS motherboards. The Windows utility allowed me to flash a .rom to the card but the update package Intel ships has no such compatibility. The card initializes within 10-15 seconds, which is average for a hardware RAID card. When the system shuts down, the drives do not seem to be unloaded before the system power is cut. I can clearly hear the heads of the drives snap into their park positions. I don’t particularly like this because that feature is designed for emergencies, not for normal use. It can cause the drive to fail 100s of times faster than normal.

All in all, it  is still a very good RAID controller considering the sub $150 price tag. It has some issues, but it gets the job done.