Friday, 12 November 1999
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Tekram DC-390U2W: A SCSI Adapter for All Occasions
What users who want to get into SCSI need is a SCSI adapter that can break down some of these barriers and make life a bit easier, while not sacrificing performance. The Tekram DC-390U2W does just that by offering the latest in SCSI technology at an affordable price. It would be appropriate for any higher-end system, whether a workstation or a server, and should not be looked down upon because of its lower price. Tekram has put together a solid card providing speed, reliability, and affordability.
SCSI is an interface that has been around for quite some time now. In the past, SCSI was thought of as a server-only solution. Now, though, this interface is being seen in high-end workstations as well as the server market. What makes SCSI so attractive over the other choice, IDE, is its higher bandwith (multiple reads/writes at the same time on the same bus) and higher transfer rates (Wide Ultra2 SCSI is capable of 80 MB/sec maximum transfer). Higher costs as well as a steeper learning curve have made SCSI prohibitive until only recently. SCSI encompasses a wide range of devices, and to a novice, these choices would be too much of a hassle. What users who want to get into SCSI need is a SCSI adapter that can break down some of these barriers and make life a bit easier, while not sacrificing performance. The Tekram DC-390U2W does just that by offering the latest in SCSI technology at an affordable price.
When evaluating a piece of hardware such as a controller card, it is important to cover two different types of installations. First is the installation into a new system without an OS, and second is installation into a system that is already up and running. This card passed both tests without any hassles or aggravations.
For starters, when I began testing I tried to install this card into a brand new system and start from scratch. I thought that this possibly could be a hassle for someone new to SCSI, but thanks to nice features in most distributions that detect SCSI cards, as well as exceptional support for Linux from the Tekram FTP Site
, there turned out to be very few differences from installing Linux onto an IDE hard drive. You'll notice that not only does Tekram have instructions for installation of this card, they have instructions for FIVE
major distributions (Caldera, Debian, Redhat, Slackware, and SuSE). I had my system up in no time and it worked perfectly by just using the nice 'autoload modules' feature of SuSE. I would suggest that you attempt to install via the instructions included with your distibution before trying Tekram's instuctions: it may be easier. The kernel option that you need is for the '! NCR53C8XX' SCSI chipset.
The next installation attempt I made was trying to integrate this card into an existing system. This was also very easy and can be done in several ways depending on your distribution. Most distibutions come with a configuration utility that will allow you to add hardware drivers to your system through the use of kernel modules. This is the preferred method for new users. For more advanced users though, this is also an easy upgrade. All you have to do is compile a new kernel with SCSI support, the drivers for the types of SCSI devices that you'll be running, and the 'NCR53C8XX' low-level SCSI driver. Once the new kernel is installed, all that is needed is a reboot for seamless integration of your new SCSI card.
The only thing that I saw as as a downside to this card was the fact that I had to search for Tekram's Linux support. I would like to see these nice instructions somehow incorporated into their manuals that come with the card and, at very least, a more visible link to these drivers from their web site. The only way that I was able to find the FTP resources was through a small link from their drivers page. This did not affect the score much, though. This was a nice easy install and they have shown signs that they do want to do more to support Linux.
Installation Score: 9/10
When speaking of SCSI adapters there's not much to say. When you look at the specs you pretty much see what you get. This card is very feature rich and has just about every standard SCSI interface that you could want: SCSI-2, Wide SCSI, Ultra SCSI, Ultra Wide SCSI, and Ultra2 LVD SCSI. With a top speed of 80MB/sec (with LVD devices), what more could you want? This is a nice high-end board with great high-end speed.
Performance Score: 10/10
It may not be fiber channel but it does what it says it will.
Features are in abundance with this card - just check the technical specs. It supports all of the different types of SCSI listed above, supports up to 15 devices, and has just about every connector that you will ever need. Along with all this, the card also ships with internal Ultra2 and Ultra-Wide cables, along with an Ultra2 Terminator. All this can be had at an online price (at the time of writing) of $147 to $172. This is very low compared to similar cards from other vendors starting at around $195. The only thing that you may wonder is whether you need all of these features. Dropping a couple of connectors could save you about $20.
Value Score: 9/10
Overall, the Tekram DC-390 U2W is considered a best buy
for anyone wanting a good SCSI card with all the features without paying the the restrictive prices that SCSI usually has. It would be appropriate for any higher-end system, whether a workstation or a server, and should not be looked down upon because of its lower price. Tekram has put together a solid card providing speed, reliability, and affordability.
Overall Score: 9
Processor: Pentium III 450
Motherboard: Abit BH6
RAM: 192 MB PC100 SDRAM
OS: SuSE Linux 6.2
Product: DC-390U2W PCI SCSI controller
Manufacturer's URL: http://www.tekram.com
Price Range at Time of Writing: $147-$172