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Pros: Relatively easy to install -- there's a nice wizard to take you through everything in Windows.
Performance increase is dramatic. I'm going to miss that.
Uninstallation is similarly quick and easy. After this, you just have your old, slow hard drive back the way it was.
Cons: Pretty much everything else about the software.
Requires a product key, which is silly and obnoxious. I have a physical piece of hardware that this came with! Checking the manual confirms that if I upgrade my hardware too much at once, it may invalidate my license.
There is a manual and a text document called "LIMITATIONS.txt", neither of which I could find until I actually had the product and had downloaded the software. Here is (abbreviated) the main limitations form LIMITATIONS.txt:
1. MBR only, GPT isn't supported.
2. If caching the boot drive, you need a Windows System Partition (the weird little 100 meg partition) on the same drive.
3. Multiple OSes are not supported.
4. Only one cache drive is supported in a system.
5. There cannot be two identical SSDs in the system, one of which is to be used as cache.
6. There is no support for RAID sets as the cache drive.
7. If after uninstallation of Dataplex, the system is restored to a prior state in which Dataplex was installed, Dataplex will be started in a disabled state.
8. NVIDIA storage controllers are not supported.
Some of these are understandable -- 7 is a feature, not a bug. 1 and 2 are weird, but workable. 8 makes me nervous, but fortunately doesn't affect me.
But if I had known about 3, 4, or 5, I would not have purchased this product. After installation, I was unable to boot the Linux partition on the same drive. Examining the drive with a recovery disk showed that my entire 1 terabyte disk now had a single 1 gigabyte partition on it, and nothing else.
So they don't mean tech support will ignore you if you use Linux. They mean installing this will make all other OSes on the drive unbootable! The manual makes this even clearer:
"What happens if I boot from an external USB drive?
"When you boot from an external USB drive, you will not be able to access the Target and Cache Drives unless Dataplex has been uninstalled. These drives are intentionally obfuscated in order to protect the integrity of the data on these drives."
Intentionally obfuscated. Thanks for that.
Fortunately, uninstalling Dataplex restores the drive to its prior state.
Other Thoughts: It seems sketchy, if not outright dishonest, to sell a product with limitations this severe without publishing them anywhere other than in documentation shipped with the product. Again, had I known this would make my drive invisible to other OSes and recovery software, I would not have purchased this product.
It's also worth mentioning that similar caching software exists for Linux which doesn't have these limitations. I am not sure if this counts as a "competing brand", I'm only pointing out that there is no technical reason DataPlex should be so limited.
Pros: Case is huge, spacious, and tool-less. Actual components are fairly high quality. Performance is solid, ATI card delivers for Bitcoin mining and gaming -- though I can't recommend buying this just for Bitcoin at this point. Quiet when not being pushed hard.
All the shiny stuff everyone seems to want in gaming desktops -- case lights, watercooling, fan controls. Gigabit Ethernet -- useful for getting data to and from that terabyte drive.
BIOS is decent -- except I'm not sure it's actually a BIOS? Is it EFI? Whatever it is, it's much friendlier than I'm used to. First order of business: Go in there and turn on the virtualization instructions. Going to put those 8 gigs of RAM to work.
Best of all, the Windows 7 install was completely devoid of crapware -- the ONLY things they added were drivers. My SOP is normally to format immediately, but I'm still running strong with the original Win7 plus a dual-boot to Linux.
Cons: Headphone jack at the top of the case buzzes annoyingly when there's disk activity. Maybe the LED wires are too close to headphone wires, or something's not shielded well enough? The rear audio ports don't have this issue, so it's just a minor annoyance. Still, it's why this gets four stars -- this is a defect in the design.
ATI card -- the hardware is solid, but developers seem to be optimizing for nVidia now. Example: I can max every setting with no impact on performance, but PhysX makes Mirror's Edge occasionally drop to 1-2 FPS.
The top and front part of the case seem to come off too easily, and whenever I take it apart, I'm afraid of snapping some plastic piece. Hasn't happened yet, it just feels flimsy.
Watercooling makes the CPU quieter and cooler, but the GPU isn't watercooled, so it gets loud if you push it. Not many games push it hard enough to do that, though, and in a cool enough room, it never gets to be its loudest.
Other Thoughts: I wanted a 6990. If it weren't for that, I'd probably rather build it myself -- while I appreciate not having to assemble things, there are a _lot_ of choices I would've made differently.
The biggest performance bottleneck by far is the hard disk. I don't need a terabyte, I'd much rather have an SSD, so eventually I'll replace the HD and put the terabyte in a fileserver. Or, get bigger sticks of RAM so it's easier to upgrade -- all slots are currently filled. Or, don't bother watercooling the CPU when the GPU is the main generator of heat and driver of performance. Or maybe get an i7 CPU instead of i5. Also don't care about an optical drive, but those are cheap enough.
It's reasonable for the parts, if these are the parts you really want.
It generates a lot of heat when pushed hard. Again, not much pushes it that hard, but if you're trying to mine bitcoins or do any other GPGPU stuff in the summer, watch out. But it'll be nice in the winter.
Pros: The price was right. It worked pretty much exactly as it should for over a year.
Cons: Got an email yesterday from my home server, complaining the drive had some sort of error. Checked into it, the health looked fine. Today, it's failing.
Other Thoughts: I should've listened to the reviewers claiming WD fails. The other two drives in that box are a "Hitachi Deskstar 7K80 series" and an "ExcelStor Technology J8080S", both of which are running fine after much longer -- at least 3 years on one of them.READ FULL REVIEW
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