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Benchmarks: Access Time, I/O Performance

Roundup: CompactFlash Cards For Professionals
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We only added the access time results for the sake of completeness. They are not relevant in everyday life, and they don’t correlate with the I/O performance results either.

If you throw typical file server access at the memory cards, you will see the Transcend Extreme Speed 300X 8 GB card winning by a clear margin. A figure of 240 I/O operations per second is more than any conventional desktop hard drive can deliver; it actually matches the I/O performance of a 15,000 RPM Hitachi Ultrastar 15K450 hard drive.

The Web server benchmark requests only very small chunks of data, and it purely consists of read operations, which has most of the drives perform at a comparable level. All of these CF cards are much faster than hard drives at this type of workload.

The workstation test is mostly relevant for desktop and workstation applications. Again, the Transcend Extreme Speed 300X dominates, followed by the PNY Optima Pro and San Disk’s Extreme Ducati Edition. The Lexar Platinum II, Transcend Ultra Speed and Silicon Power Professional are all based on MLC flash memory, which is why they don’t perform well here. They do much better when it comes to throughput, as you can see on the next page.

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  • 0 Hide
    MartenKL , March 26, 2009 9:50 AM
    I have two issues with this test that may or may not be relevant. First, isn't it important to compare same size cards when benchmarking continuos read/write? Second isn't just 1GB of ram in the server used to test a limiting factor? And of course more important is there no way to benchmark with the typical write pattern of an SLR?
  • 0 Hide
    MartenKL , March 26, 2009 10:06 AM
    Ok after reading Robs testing linked by Kjeld Olsen I think tomshardware needs to rethink their recommendation. Card size matters, but more importantly kingston is really slow compared to the fastest cards, somewhere around 50% write performance which shouldn't be a recommended buy. It is bvious that the memory card reader used in this test works very differently from DSLR's.
  • 0 Hide
    valnar , March 26, 2009 11:27 AM
    I only care about two things. Which have SLC and a wear-leveling algorithm. Can the review be updated to include that info for all the CF cards?
  • 0 Hide
    marokero , March 26, 2009 12:17 PM
    In my Nikons (D3, D2xs, D200IR) I only use Lexar 300x or Sandisk Extreme IV. Slower than that and the playback of images and ability to shoot another long burst are affected. The lifetime warranties on the pro Lexar and Sandisk CF's help as well.

    The test has a valid point if one is going to use the CF's the same way as a hard drive, outside of a camera. Inside of each different camera the write speeds can vary a lot. Also, for transfering images to a computer, you should test small (jpg) and large (raw) files. I find, as did Rob Galbraith, transfering a load of larger raw files does yield higher transfer rates from my firewire 800 card readers. USB card readers just aren't fast enough when you come back from a job, and want to go to sleep ASAP before the next job.
  • 2 Hide
    sublifer , March 26, 2009 1:03 PM
    MartenKLOk after reading Robs testing linked by Kjeld Olsen I think tomshardware needs to rethink their recommendation. Card size matters, but more importantly kingston is really slow compared to the fastest cards, somewhere around 50% write performance which shouldn't be a recommended buy. It is bvious that the memory card reader used in this test works very differently from DSLR's.

    You need to look a little closer. As Kjeld pointed out, it depends on the camera. On the Sony DSLR the Kingston does quite well. What Robs chart really shows is that the performance will depend greatly on the camera and its internal controller. That said, when it comes time to download your pics to a PC, wouldn't you want something that works fast in the PC? Well, the Kingston does great with that hence the win. Personally I hate Kingston as they've always been over-priced. I'd much rather pick something with acceptable performance that costs half as much.
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , March 26, 2009 3:02 PM
    I sometimes shoot continuous with my D70 and D300, but not enough that this is a limiting factor for me. I do care about how long it takes to download photos to my computer, so the test is perhaps more relevant to me than to someone who does a lot of continuous shooting.
  • 0 Hide
    snarfies , March 26, 2009 3:37 PM
    Somethime in April I'm building y own Mini-ITX Nas (waiting for the board I want to become available). I plan to use a SATA CF Reader for my OS boot disk - one for FreeNAS, one for Ubuntu Linux. The CF card sellers (addonics and others) all recommend "industrial" CF cards for these purposes. In this case I'm looking between industrial Transcend and Emphase. It would be nice to have seen some of these "industrial" cards included, to see if they're just a relabel of the exact same thing...
  • 0 Hide
    valnar , March 26, 2009 3:46 PM
    snarfies,
    The reason they recommend "industrial" CF cards is for the SLC memory and wear leveling. Same reason that I want to know. So look up those stats when you look at an option. I believe the faster Transcend model fits the bill.
  • 0 Hide
    xnem3s1sx , March 26, 2009 8:06 PM
    And why aren't companies using the sata adapter to add these to netbooks? It would save at least a hundred dollars, not to mention, would be plenty fast for any netbook, although the throughput is lower, the IO and seek times are far less.
  • 0 Hide
    hellwig , March 26, 2009 8:20 PM
    ArticleWe used a CompactFlash-to-SATA card reader to make sure that there was no bottleneck for the eight contenders from Kingston, Lexar, PNY, San Disk, Silicon Power and Transcend.

    I understand not wanting to use a USB adapter, but wouldn't a purely electrical adapter from CF to IDE have been even better? Plug the card direcly into the mother board and see how it handles? I wouldn't think a CF-to-SATA adapter would slow it down too badly, but I would rather see no signal conversion at all.
  • 0 Hide
    marraco , March 26, 2009 8:58 PM
    if where possible to make a RAID 0 to boot windows...

    To be really useful, it should have fast 4 Kb random read/write.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 26, 2009 9:18 PM
    During PMA 2009, Pretec unveiled the world's first 666x Compact Flash cards with a read/write speed of 100MB/s. This model is at 64GB. They also have a 100GB model but not as fast.

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0903/09030602preteccfcard666x.asp

    This CF stuff on Tom's hardware is a bit outdated if they claim that these cards they've tested are the biggest and fastest cards available.

    They also got info incorrect about the SanDisk Extreme IV's. The Ducati versions do promise 45MB/s while the Extreme IV's at the time was rated at 40MB/s but when they pulled the Ducati off of main stream North American market shelves, they also improved the Extreme IV's. All the current Extreme IV's boasts 45MB/s and not 40MB/s.
  • -1 Hide
    valnar , March 26, 2009 9:30 PM
    How do I turn off alerts to this thread? I've never done it before. I don't see an "envelope" icon anywhere.
  • 0 Hide
    MartenKL , March 27, 2009 4:02 AM
    subliferYou need to look a little closer. As Kjeld pointed out, it depends on the camera. On the Sony DSLR the Kingston does quite well. What Robs chart really shows is that the performance will depend greatly on the camera and its internal controller. That said, when it comes time to download your pics to a PC, wouldn't you want something that works fast in the PC? Well, the Kingston does great with that hence the win. Personally I hate Kingston as they've always been over-priced. I'd much rather pick something with acceptable performance that costs half as much.

    Because this article specifically says it is aimed at DSLR use and that writing is primary. With the sony kingston does not lag behind that much but still firmly behind, and with the mayor player Nikon and Canon only has half the performance. On a site that recommends overclocking to get 5% more fps I would say it is huge, sandisk has 100% improved writespeed over kingston in the latest Canons and Nikons. or 100% more fps if you will.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 28, 2009 2:20 PM
    One more negative comment: the Addonics reader used in this test has gotten AWFUL review comments for its inconsistent operation with different operating systems (apparently no linux support, problematic Windows support) and, especially, chip sets (improper and/or inconsistent operation with a number of Intel chip sets, inconsistent operation with AMD chip sets, unknown operation with nVidia chip sets). Sadly, I feel that this article is essentially useless.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 6, 2009 8:52 AM
    I have to laugh when I read this test - did Toms Hardware tester ever use a modern DSLR? This test could have been great, but it isn´t... :-(
    Recommendaiton for next tests: Table of cards incl. memory type and other specifications. For the read/write/IO tests - maybe redo speed tests for all cards with for example: Canon 5DII, Nikon D700 and a least two card readers (for example a usb2 and a firewire based reader) - now that could be interesting... As it is I feel more confused (from this test..) as to which card would fit my needs...
    Anyways - I normally find Thomshardware testing excellent, this test should never have happend...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2009 7:18 PM
    I was impressed with this review until I read some of the comments that call these results into question. So I checked around. Here are comprehensive results on just about any CF card you would want to buy, and their performance shooting both RAW and JPEG with Canon 5D II.

    http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/camera_multi_page.asp?cid=6007-9784

    The Kingston 266x Ultimate is well below the competition, which would be the current San disk Extreme III 30MB/sec. CF Cards and the Lexar Professional 233x. Patrick and Achim I am afraid you are incorrect and recommending the wrong cards to your readers.
  • 0 Hide
    butthead , July 14, 2009 11:32 AM
    A really slacker review and test.

    1. Background on why you need a SATA CF reader/converter, and some tests that "show" why the SATA is needed comparing internal and external USB readers to teh Addonics SATA reader.

    2. Where are the other fast CF cards, like the Ridata 233x Lightning series--been out about 2 years now--the SanDisk Extreme III cards, at least one SanDisk Ultra II for comparison, and the the Ducati isn't much faster, if any, than the MUCH cheaper SD Extreme III. What about the SanDisk Extreme IV announced in 2006? Are you guys smoking crack?

    It seems like you had a couple CF cards lying around your office, decided to roast a cone early on Friday, have some fun, a couple beers, and accidentally published this rubbish.