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Test notes
Rather than overriding manufacturer defaults, we prefer to let RAID controllers chose their own stripe sizes for striped arrays. These defaults are usually what the manufacturer considers to be an optimal configuration for the RAID controller, and we wouldn't want to test a configuration that was anything less than optimal. Unfortunately, the chipset RAID controllers from Intel and NVIDIA default to different stripe sizes for RAID 0 arrays—128KB for the ICH7R and 64KB for the nForce4. This difference in stripe size could impact performance in some tests, so keep it in mind. The default stripe size for RAID 10/0+1 and 5 arrays is 64KB for both chipsets, so it's not an issue.

Because we're masochists thorough, we tested each chipset with a wide variety of arrays, including RAID 1, 0, 10, 0+1, and 5. RAID 1 and RAID 10/0+1 arrays were limited to two and four drives, respectively, but we busted out a few variations for our RAID 0 and RAID 5 tests. RAID 0 arrays were tested with two, three, and four drives, while RAID 5 arrays were tested with three and four drives. We've also included single-drive test results for reference.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition
System bus800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium MSI P4N Diamond
Bios revision04221.30
North bridgeIntel 955X MCHNVIDIA nForce4 SLI SPP
South bridgeIntel ICH7RNVIDIA nForce4 SLI MCP
Chipset driversChipset 7.2.1.1003
AHCI/RAID 5.1.0.1022
NVIDIA ForceWare 7.13
Memory size1GB (2 DIMMs)1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory typeMicron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL)33
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)33
RAS precharge (tRP)33
Cycle time (tRAS)88
Audio ICH7R/ALC882DCreative P17
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updatesService Pack 2, DirectX 9.0C

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor's Choice winners in our latest PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.