|Introduction and Specifications|
No question about it, Flash Memory devices have taken on the Consumer Tech industry by storm. Flash memory is utilized in so many different applications these days, from Cell Phones and PDAs, to MP3 players and Digital Cameras, that it's hard to imagine a world before the Flash memory was invented. However, thanks to some very smart minds at Toshiba all the way back in 1984 and then Intel in 1988, we all have the ability to store information on the fly in a number of hand-held applications and more.
Like any other technology, Flash Memory, specifically NAND Flash which is the type used predominantly in consumer electronics, has been improving exponentially in terms of density and speed increases. Today we have two products from Kingston to show you that typify the state of Flash technology. Kingston's 100X CF Ultimate 2GB Compact Flash card and their 15-in-1 card reader, are targeted at offering maximum performance and high speed access to your images, data and other files. Here's a quick-take on the product and then we'll look at how it performs.
Kingston CompactFlash Ultimate specifications
Kingston 15-in1 Reader Features and Benefits:
|The Card, 15-in-1 Reader and Our Test System|
Kingston's new 100X CF Ultimate 2GB card and 15-in-1 reader, detailed here for you in pictures.
The Kingston 100X CF Ultimate 2GB card has a sustained write speed rated at "100x", 13MB/s read, 13MB/s write, which is two times as fast as Kingston's 50X card that offers 7.5MB/s performance. Beyond that, it's square and thin. What else do you need to know? Exactly...
The 15-in-1 Flash Reader on the other hand is a tiny little device and it's amazing that so many different memory formats can be read in such a small form factor. The socket connector pins alone take up most of the real estate inside the unit itself. The 15-in-1's apperance is minimalistic, sleek and stylish, just the way we like it.
Let's look at some performance numbers next.
|Performance and Conclusion|
SiSoft SANDRA provides a fair amount of detail regarding their Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark module, within the help section of the software. So rather than re-inventing the wheel, we'll let the folks at SiSoftware tell you exactly what this test does and measures. The following section is courtesy, SiSoftware Ltd.
A typical usage model for Flash devices is File operations, such as writing a file to the device, reading a file from it, and deleting a file. This benchmark exercises the devices in terms of these operations (to measure the "raw" cluster level performance of the device...
The following characteristics are measured for each of the four representative files sizes of 512 Bytes (representing a minimal single data cluster file), 32kB, 256kB and 2MB. The weighting of the results is not equal it represents the distribution of different files sizes as used on these devices (obtained through field research):
Delete Performance: measuring the number of files deleted per minute.
Combined Device Index: is a composite figure representing an overall performance rating based on the average of the Combined Index figures over the four file sizes. (Higher is better, i.e. better performance)
Endurance Factor: is a figure representing the Wear and Life Expectancy of flash devices; this is obtained by dividing the average performance (normal condition, i.e. sequential write) to the lowest performance (high-stress condition, i.e. same block re-write). This test measures the relative improvement of endurance caused by the wear levelling or flash management algorithm; the absolute endurance of a device (i.e. its expected life-time) is directly dependent, in addition to this Endurance Factor, on the nominal manufacturer rating of maximum erase/reprogram cycles, which is typically 100,000+ for SLC and 10,000+ for MLC devices. (Higher is better, i.e. longer life-time for the device)
As you can see, Kingston's legacy Elite series CF 2GB card registers a combinded operations per minute index of 1540 and an endurance factor of 13.8, while the new Kingston Ultimate CF 2GB card posts over 2X the performance at 3208 combined operations per minute and an endurance factor of 24.9. So basically what SANDRA is telling us here is that the card is twice as fast and nearly twice as reliable as the Kingston Elite CF card.
Moving forward from there, you can see that the Elite card is right in the middle of the pack performance wise versus it's peers like CF cards from Sandisk, IBM etc. However, the Kingston Ultimate CF card easily out-scores the Sandisk and IBM Microdrive reference numbers and even takes on one of the fastest scores put up by the Kingmax mini-SD card across the various file sizes.
On a side note, both of these SANDRA scores above went down significantly if we just plugged the cards into the side of our Dell 2405FP LCD, which has an on board CF reader. The Kingston 15-in-1 memory card reader definitely offered faster access and transfer of files to and from both the Kingston CF cards. The variation in performance was on the order of 60+% actually, which tell us if you want top performance from one of these cards, either your card reader, the camera or other device you're writing to the card with, needs to be able to take advantage of that speed as well. The Kingston 15-in-1 reader definitely shines here.
Obviously performance and cost per megabyte are the two most important factors when considering any Flash Memory card device. However, testing in this area can be very subjective. There are a lot of variables in the mix that can affect performance beyond just the CF card or other Flash cards themselves. Your reading and writing devices need to be capable of executing operations fast enough to take advantage of the available memory access speed. With an average street price of around $175 for the Kingston 100X CF Ultimate 2GB card, it's probably a bit hard to justify over the Kingston 50X CF Elite card, which can be found for about $50 less at around $125 or Corsair's 40X 2GB card for around $100. We're giving the Kingston CF Ultimate 2GB card a HotHardware rating of 8.
Conversely the Kingston 15-in-1 Flash Reader is a steal in our opinion for an MSRP of $19.99 and a street price that's even lower. Its performance was excellent, with installation and stability that were down-right perfect. We're giving the new Kingston 15-in-1 High Speed USB 2.0 card reader a HotHardware rating of 9.5.