Iwill SIDE® Pro66™
Introduction
Hard drives featuring the UltraATA/66 interface hit the market long before most mainboard manufacturers released system boards that would support them.  Since UltraATA/66 has now become the industry standard, those of us that upgraded to new system boards and processors before the release of these new hard drives were left scratching our heads as to what to do to obtain support for this new interface.  We could of course purchase a new system board that supported UltraATA/66 or save ourselves a bit of cash and install one of the new PCI UltraATA/66 controller cards

Iwill's SIDE® Pro66™ offers such support at a reasonable cost.  Built around HighPoint's HPT366 UltraATA/66 controller chip with the quality and attention to detail that Iwill is known for, the SIDE® Pro66™ is easy to install and with close attention paid to its included User's Manual, equally easy to configure.  And, at an MSRP of around $25.00 USD, a much more cost-effective solution than an entirely new system board.

Packaging
Iwill boxes and ships the SIDE® Pro66™ along with an 80-wire/40-pin UltraATA/66 ribbon cable, a thorough and easy to follow User's Manual and all the necessary drivers on a single floppy disk.  You will want to give careful attention to the User's Manual before attempting the install so that you'll understand the various prompts when setting up the hardware and drivers.

Features and Setup
Adding an additional pair of dual-channel IDE interfaces will bring your system's support for IDE and ATAPI devices up to a count of eight.  There has been some controversy over the support of ATAPI devices on PCI IDE controller cards but we suffered no apparent problems using an LS-120 and DVD drive attached to the SIDE® Pro66™.  I would caution that CD-RW drives should be attached to the mainboard's IDE interfaces to be on the safe side.

  • HighPoint HP366 ATA66 controller chip.
  • Two Independent  IDE channels.
  • Ultra DMA66, DMA33 and all PIO modes.
  • 256 bytes FIFO per channels.
  • 32bit/33MHz Bus Master PCI interface.
  • Supports up to 44MHz PCI bus clock.
  • Concurrent PIO and bus master access (ATA mode accessible during DMA transfer)
  • One IDE LED header.
  • RAID 0/1 function (option).
  • One jumper to support Hot-Swap function (option).

Once the card is physically installed into an available PCI slot you can plug the drives you want to use into it, then restart.  The SIDE® Pro66™ is PnP compatible so when you boot up the Add New Hardware Wizard displays the following...

Simply pop in the included drivers disk, point the wizard at it and go...

Remember it is a dual channel device so this will occur twice.  Once the drivers are loaded you'll be prompted to reboot.  The User's Manual shows the new device listed under the "Other Devices" heading in the Device Manager, however mine were found under SCSI Controllers. 

There are a few things we need to point out. First of all, if your system has any drives attached to the onboard IDE controller, it will only boot from drives connected to the SIDE® Pro66™ if you set your system's BIOS to boot from SCSI before IDE (your system sees the device as a SCSI adapter remember...).  The other is that you'll want to check your drives individually in the Device Manager to make sure that they have DMA enabled.  If you aren't offered this option don't worry, it has been taken care of for you already.

Performance
To test the capabilities of the SIDE® Pro66™ we used Iwill's own XA100 Plus mainboard which only offers UltraATA/33 support and switched our hard drive - Western Digital Expert 9.1G UltraATA/66 - between the card and the primary onboard IDE connector.  Here's a system rundown.

Test Configuration for SIDE® Pro66™

Mainboard Iwill XA100 Plus
Chipset ALi Aladdin V
L2 Cache 512KB onboard
Processor AMD K6-III 450MHz
Memory 1x64MB PC100
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive WD 29100 Expert
7200 RPM Ultra ATA/66
Graphics Adapter Matrox G400 SH OEM 32MB AGP
Operating System Windows 98

To test the difference with and without the SIDE® Pro66™, we used Ziff-Davis' Winbench 99 with the following results.

While these marks may not seem all that impressive (around a 3% improvement) we were more impressed with CPU utilization and disk access times.  Well, maybe not access times but definitely CPU utilization. (Lower scores are better...)

The SiSoft Sandra Benchmarking Utility offers a more significant look at the performance increase using UltraATA/66 over UDMA/33 (UltraATA/33)...

Conclusion
The SIDE® Pro66™ offers offers UltraATA/66 support for a very reasonable price,  When you consider that an ATA/66 cable alone can set you back $8 -$10 dollars. The only disadvantage that we can even consider is the fact that it requires an available PCI slot.  With disk drive size and density growing at such remarkable rates this is an upgrade that your not likely to have to second-guess.

The SIDE® Pro66™ ran completely free of conflicts of any type, had no problems even at extended PCI bus frequencies, (we ran it with a Cyrix MII with the FSB set to 83MHz which means the PCI bus was 41.5MHz) and even ran DVD movies like a champ

To find out more about the SIDE® Pro66™ and other Controller cards from Iwill, check out their web site at http://www.iwill.net  

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