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What type of card to get for expanding SATA ports for a home NAS?

mineturte83
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So I am simply trying to add more ports to my to-be home NAS with an add in card. After reading all over the internet about what to get it seems the consensus is that you should be getting HBAs to increase your SATA port count. However, no listing for any SATA expansion card labels itself as HBA. What gives? What is even more confusing is that somehow these cards with 8+ ports run on PCI-E x1 3.0, which is a measly 1GB/s. Can 8 SATA 6Gb/s drives even be fully utilized on a PCI-E x1 connection? Is this type of card going to instantly bottleneck all drives plugged into that card if used in a RAID array? If so, what would be a superior option to purchase? Please help!!

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Depends what you connect to it, it should be able to run 5xHDDs before bottlenecking too badly for sequential access, random access you're probably going to be hitting the IO limits on the drives so never reach 1GB/s total throughput anyway.

 

Now for SSDs, yeah, its going to suck.

 

I see a few HBA adapters on Amazon (though with a lot less ports), they're priced accordingly.  So it really depends how important the speed is to you.

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The cards in your post have a 2 port sata controller on them (from AsMedia usually)  and then use 2 or 3 port multiplier chips (that convert 1 port to 5 ports) so basically 5 sata ports all share the bandwidth of a single port ( 6 gbps or 600 MB/s spread across 5 sata ports) 

I don't like such tricks and I don't think it's worth paying $60 for such cards. 

Also, another worthy note is that those cards are pci-e x1 which means you get 500 MB/s max if you plug the card into a pci-e 2.0 slot, or maximum 985 MB/s if you plug it in a pci-e 3.0 slot -  the controller should be capable of pci-e 3.0.

 

You should buy proper 8 port controller cards, there's lots of 8 port SAS controllers which have 2 SAS connectors on them and you can get the cables which convert the SAS connectors into 4 sata ports, to connect 8 drives.  There's even IT / HBA firmwares for these cards, making them just pass through the 8 drives to the operating system.

 

Here's an example of such card : https://www.ebay.com/itm/403649844674

The "IT Mode" in title and the HBA keyword tell you it's configured to just show the 8 sata ports, to have 8 independent sata drives, and skip the raid and other gimmicks.

 

Another example, a LSI card rebranded by Fujitsu but it's still LSI, still in IT mode etc etc : https://www.ebay.com/itm/133410481066

Or an INSPUR branded model, still same LSI 9211-81 in HBA, IT mode : https://www.ebay.com/itm/194584436310

 

Another example but you need to buy the cables separately : https://www.ebay.com/itm/313924649846

 

The cables are SFF-8087 to 4xsata : https://www.ebay.com/itm/374108875609

 

Another alternative would be these older Areca 16 x sata3 cards (only 300MB/s per port)  : https://unixsurplus.com/areca-arc-1260-raid-controller/

It does hardware raid but also supports JBOD (no raid mode, just bunch of drives) and has a proper intel controller chip and proper marvel sata controllers, no port multipliers. 

Yes, it's almost 2-3 times more expensive than the ebay models, but you do get 16 ports so more dense. 

It may also be worth emailing that company Unixsurplus or using chat on page to ask them what controllers they have in stock, as they don't list everything they have on the website.

 

All these controller cards are pci-e x4 ... up to 2 GB/s for pci-e 2.0  or ~3.7 GB/s for pci-e 3.0  but they'll also run in a pci-e x1 slot (some motherboards don't have a wall at the end of pci-e x1 connectors precisely so you can insert x4 or x8 cards into x1 slot)  or you can use a riser cable to plug the card into a x1 slot.

 

 

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-> Moved to Storage Devices

 

Check out the JMB585-based cards, real PCIe x4 to 5x SATA:

 

https://www.delock.com/produkt/90395/merkmale.html

 

https://forums.unraid.net/topic/102010-recommended-controllers-for-unraid/

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That card's around 86 EUR / 88$ here  (422 RON in local currency, 1 EUR = 4.9 RON, 1 USD = 4.75 RON) 

It's not worth the price. Maybe it's cheaper in other places though I doubt it. 

 

For example it's 81 EUR at Reichelt   :  https://www.reichelt.com/se/en/5-port-sata-pci-express-x4-card-delock-90395-p264199.html

 

The chip on its own can be bought for <6$ in volume ... ridiculous markup... the pcb and the bracket and all the passives on the board don't cost more than 10-15$.

 

As proof, they manage to sell a pci-e x16 to 4 x m.2 board PLUS  4  x M.2 to 5SATA using the JMB585 chip for less than half that amount : https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005004374474646.html

edit : my bad .. they sell the base board for around 40$, and each m.2 board with the 5 ports for around 35$

 

 

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6 hours ago, mariushm said:

That card's around 86 EUR / 88$ here

This was just the quick example to a reputable brand, it's $60 here and I got a used one for $35

 

I've seen it from generic sources but the search results are flooded by the m.2 variant.

F@H
Desktop: i7-5960X 4.4GHz, Noctua NH-D14, ASUS Rampage V, 32GB, RTX3080, 2TB SX8200Pro, 2x16TB Ironwolf RAID0, Corsair HX1200, Thermaltake Overseer RX1, Samsung 4K curved 49" TV, 23" secondary, Mountain Everest Max

Mobile SFF rig: i9-9900K, Noctua NH-L9i, Asrock Z390 Phantom ITX-AC, 32GB, GTX1070, 2x1TB SX8200Pro RAID0, 2x5TB 2.5" HDD RAID0, Athena 500W Flex (Noctua fan), Custom 4.7l 3D printed case

 

Asus Zenbook UM325UA, Ryzen 7 5700u, 16GB, 1TB, OLED

 

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I just want to say thank you for this post. I was looking for this exact situation this morning and I just thought to check here and it was the first post!

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On 8/16/2022 at 12:33 AM, mariushm said:

The "IT Mode" in title and the HBA keyword tell you it's configured to just show the 8 sata ports

As long as the card has IT in the name I should be fine to order any plethora of alternatives of this card correct? My only concern is that I end up buying a card that wont be able to reconfigure to JBOD mode.

It also seems like there are a lot of rebranded LSI cards on the market, seems similar to Wi-Fi cards that use rebranded intel stuff. It seems any of them should be fine from what you are saying.

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