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Review: AHA-2940UW vs. Fireport 40

by David Yee
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    Adaptec has been the dominant SCSI solutions vendor, and they have recently strengthened their market leadership position even more with their recent aquisition of Symbios Logic. Here we compare the popular Adpatec AHA-2940UW with a board based on a Symbios Logic chip, the Diamond Fireport 40.
    The first noticeable difference between the two SCSI cards is that the Fireport is much smaller than the 2940UW, and has only an ultra-narrow external connection versus the 68 pin ultra-wide connection found on the 2940UW. You can connect ultra-wide SCSI devices to the Fireport 40, but that requires the purchase of an upgrade kit. Both boards are ultra-wide SCSI controllers, and thus have a maximum transfer rate of 40 Mbytes/sec, although physical limitations of the hard drive mechanism mean that few if any SCSI drives currently available are capable of reaching that theoretical rate. The two cards both support up to 15 SCSI devices, active termination, and have internal 50-pin and 68-pin connectors. At the heart of the Fireport 40 is the Symbios Logic SYM53C875 processor, while the 2940UW features Adaptec's custom ultra-wide SCSI chip.
    We used a 7200 RPM Quantum Viking 4.5 NSE drive for benchmarking the performance of the SCSI controllers. The results show that the two cards performed almost identically. The Fireport 40 had a slight advantage in business diskwinmark, high-end Winstone 98, and was 4 to 5% faster in high-end Winstone. The 2940UW had the edge in Winstone 98 and CPU utilization under Windows 95.
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    An advantage that the AHA-2940UW does have is its greater industry support. For instance, Windows 95 and NT both automatically detected the Adaptec card, while we had to supply separate drivers for the Fireport 40. When installing the Fireport under NT, the F6 key must be pressed to allow for the installation of the Diamond driver or else an "Inaccessible Boot Device" message appears.
    Value-wise, however, the Fireport has the edge. The OEM Diamond card can be had for around $120 while the OEM version of the 2940UW costs about $180.
    So, in short, go for the Fireport 40 if you are on a budget. It offers slightly faster performance than the 2940UW and costs about $60 less on the street for the OEM version. But if need built-in support for external ultra-wide devices, the AHA-2940UW should probably be your number one choice.
    A sidenote- during testing our test drive refused to boot when used with a different controller, and we had to re-sys the drive in order to make it bootable again. Therefore you should have a bootable diskette ready if you are upgrading to a new SCSI card.
2940uw.jpg (18895 bytes) The Adaptec AHA-2940UW
fireport.jpg (18919 bytes) The Diamond Fireport 40
What's Cool, What's Not
Adaptec AHA-2940UW
cclogo2.gif (1616 bytes)High performance, industry standard
cclogo2b.GIF (1198 bytes)Price has not changed much in years
Diamond Fireport 40
cclogo2.gif (1616 bytes)High performance, inexpensive
cclogo2b.gif (1198 bytes)Requires upgrade kit for external ultra-wide connection
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