Thursday, August 17th 2017

Alphacool Intros HDX5 Cooled M.2 RAID Add-on Card

The Alphacool HDX-5 is a combination of a RAID controller card and a massive cooler. It has two slots for M.2 SATA SSDs and two additional SATA slots, allowing you to set up a RAID 0 or 1 group. The PCI-Express 3.0 x4 card also provides a bandwidth of up to 3900 MB/s.

The new generation of HDX coolers from Alphacool is getting another addition. The HDX-5 is not just a cooler, but also lets you run a RAID 0 or 1 group. It boasts two M.2 SATA SSD slots and two classic SATA slots. The combination possibilities are considerable, since you can set up a RAID group over one M.2 SATA SSD and one normal SATA drive, or connect just the M.2 slots to form a RAID group. That leaves the classic SATA slots free to be used for normal connections.
Highlights
  • No more throttling of the SSD due to overheating
  • RAID 0 or 1 possible
  • 4x PCIe card with a bandwidth of around 3900 MB/s
  • Cooler optimally protects your SSD
The 4x PCIe plug-in card provides your SSDs with a bandwidth of around 3900 MB/s. This eliminates the usual system bottleneck - the connection between the SSD and the system - entirely. Normal SATA slots on a motherboard provide a maximum data transfer rate of around 640 MB/s, and even most M.2 connections on a motherboard often only provide around 1900 MB/s.

One problem with direct connection to the motherboard is cooling. At high or continuous rates of data transfer, M.2 SATA SSDs often overheat and drop their speed. This can lower performance down to 10% of actual capacity. On motherboards, the M.2 slots are often located directly underneath or beside the graphics card, which serves to heat them further. Cooling this area is often only possible to a limited extent due to the lack of space. If you're looking to take advantage of your M.2 SATA SSD's maximum performance, a good cooling solution is a must.

The massive, expansive HDX-5 heatsink completely covers the SSDs in both M.2 slots. This means optimal heat transfer from your SSD as it is cooled. The possibility of the SSD slowing down and the accompanying loss of performance are virtually eliminated.
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16 Comments on Alphacool Intros HDX5 Cooled M.2 RAID Add-on Card

#1
Hood
Nice, but why not 8 x PCIe lanes? On a mainstream board, to use this, you must split 16 lanes with your graphics card anyway at x8/x8, (x12/x4 is not possible), so why not use 8? On HEDT, plenty of PCIe lanes, so no problem there either, unless your running 2 or more graphics cards. Two Samsung 960 Pros in RAID 0 can achieve ~6500 MB/s sequential read, 4200 MB/s writes, so 4 lanes kind of limits the top speeds to 3900 MB/s. Not that it matters in most uses, since you'd have to be transferring very large files from one of these RAID setups to another similar RAID array to get those sustained speeds. I guess we need an 8-lane Optane SSD to get the kind of 4K random iops that matters in daily use, along with much lower latency.
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#3
Flaky
Hood said:
Nice, but why not 8 x PCIe lanes? (...)
Dude, it's a controller for up to 4 SATA drives. You don't need any additional bandwidth.
Posted on Reply
#4
_JP_
Just your 50€ random port arrangement PCI-e x4 with a marvell bridge from AliExpress...but this one has heatsinks.
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#5
bonehead123
Nice looking card, but I wonder why they chose to have the logos upside down.... when it is installed it should be right side up and readable
Posted on Reply
#6
Hood
Flaky said:
Dude, it's a controller for up to 4 SATA drives. You don't need any additional bandwidth.
Sorry, I missed that this is SATA only. This doesn't really make sense then, when building a striped RAID array for speed, why would you want slow SATA M.2 drives and not fast NVMe PCIe drives? Maybe if you had some extra SATA drives laying around unused, (M.2 and 2.5), this would be a good way to use them.
Posted on Reply
#7
bonehead123
Hood said:
Sorry, I missed that this is SATA only. This doesn't really make sense then, when building a striped RAID array for speed, why would you want slow SATA M.2 drives and not fast NVMe PCIe drives? Maybe if you had some extra SATA drives laying around unused, (M.2 and 2.5), this would be a good way to use them.
Wow I missed that too, definitely a waste of a pcie slot then....I haven't actively used an sata drive for over a 1.5 years now....
Posted on Reply
#8
Hood
bonehead123 said:
Wow I missed that too, definitely a waste of a pcie slot then....I haven't actively used an sata drive for over a 1.5 years now....
Same here, although I'm only on a single Intel 750. I'd love to boot Windows from 2 x 960 pro Sammys in RAID, as apparently you do. I'm curious whether you can really feel the difference between a single and two in RAID 0, in everyday tasks, and how it affects latency.
Posted on Reply
#9
Gasaraki
Nothing to see here. Ignore what I said.
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Great idea but then then fuck it up by putting a 4x PCIe slot on the card instead of the proper 8x or even 16x slot.

Do we even know if this will boot off of the card? Can I put this in my old X58 machine? I have mine running on one M.2 but it would be great to be able to do RAID 0.
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Posted on Reply
#10
Gasaraki
Flaky said:
Dude, it's a controller for up to 4 SATA drives. You don't need any additional bandwidth.
My bad... SO this is pretty much useless. I thought it was PCIe M.2..
Posted on Reply
#11
bonehead123
Gasaraki said:
My bad... SO this is pretty much useless. I thought it was PCIe M.2..
Yep, except for older drives...m.2 yes but only th SATA kind, not nvme kind.
Posted on Reply
#12
bonehead123
bonehead123 said:
Yep, except for older drives...m.2 yes but only th SATA kind, not nvme kind.
I have 2x Sammy 950 pros now, but will be getting 2x 960 pros by Xmas, and would really like to raid them as boot drives too, but no point unless I can find an 8x card to go with them....
Posted on Reply
#13
ypsylon
Nice one Alphacool. Considering that X299 boards shafting number of SATA ports down to only 3 available (from total 6/8 on motherboard - depending on what devices are plugged) this is a nice idea. I would gladly see even bigger card for more drives.

Even better quad NVMe x16 model, without proprietary shenanigans like that Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card which will be supported only on Asus boards or Dell server AICs whatever name and model, should be next on the "To Do:" list .
Posted on Reply
#14
Hood
ypsylon said:
Nice one Alphacool. Considering that X299 boards shafting number of SATA ports down to only 3 available (from total 6/8 on motherboard - depending on what devices are plugged) this is a nice idea. I would gladly see even bigger card for more drives.

Even better quad NVMe x16 model, without proprietary shenanigans like that Asus Hyper M.2 x16 card which will be supported only on Asus boards or Dell server AICs whatever name and model, should be next on the "To Do:" list .
Like this: http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA_new/CS-product_nvme.htm - Newegg has them in stock for $399.99 - https://www.neweggbusiness.com/product/product.aspx?item=9b-16-115-217 - this would be great for X99 or X299 system that has the spare lanes, but I don't think it would work on Z170/Z270 unless you're using Intel GPU/ no video card. This should be faster than onboard M.2 slots, which are bottlenecked by the DMI3 bus - this Highpoint card allows full 32 GB/s for each M.2 or U.2 drive. These are for storage only, non-bootable, though.
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#15
Zaxx420
to muddy it more...you'd want to be able to mostly cool the controllers and raid chip...the nand not so much. Nand runs better n lasts longer 'warm'...
Posted on Reply
#16
CheapMeat
Shame it isn't NVMe or at least 4x SATA M.2's. The heatsink top and backplate are pretty nice and would have made it a decent addition.
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