by Andrey Kuznetcov
11/03/2004 | 02:05 PM
Incredible progress in the flash memory field resulted into the significant price drop, so that most of the flash cards, which were hardly affordable for the majority of people about a year ago, turned out considerably better value. Besides, the flash memory cards acquired faster speeds. Together with the ever growing number of digital cameras and mini-systems in the today’s market, these factors stimulated the customers’ interest in flash cards with high storage capacity.
So, we decided to take a closer look at a few Compact Flash memory card models with 2GB storage potential. Please meet our today’s testing participants!
Pretec Cheeth 80x flash cards are pretty interesting products for two primary reasons. Of course, first of all it is the fast speed provided by these cards, which you can actually guess from the card family name, I assume. Secondly, flash cards from this particular family are theoretically capable of reaching up to 12GB storage capacity, which would be a record for today. Of course, the piece we are going to take a look at today is somewhat smaller, only 2GB, however, the product range also includes models with 3GB and 6GB storage capacity. Note that the manufacturer claims this CompactFlash medium should ensure up to 13MB/sec read speed and up to 12MB/sec write speed.
As far as the pricing is concerned, this baby is selling for about $224.
The CompactFlash memory card from Transcend belongs to the Ultra Performance product line, which distinguishing feature is the 45x data transfer rate. The corresponding marking is actually available on the card itself, which you can see from the picture below:
All other specifications of this card are pretty standard I should say.
As the manufacturer has actually promised us, the model with the largest storage capacity, 2GB, appeared in the F1 family later than all the rest. Before that the product range included models with the storage capacity varying from 128Mb to 1GB only. According to the company’s web-site there are no other significant differences between the top model with 2GB storage capacity and all the smaller fellows of the same family.
This model is still marked as 40x, which promises us the data transfer rate of about 6MB/sec.
For our benchmarking needs we used the following software:
Our test platform was configured as follows:
We will test the three cards with the help of SanDisk USB card reader from ImageMate, which has already proven to be a highly efficient solution. The memory cards were formatted for FAT16 file system with the default cluster size.
We used two patterns to test the CompactFlash cards in FC-Test program. The first one contained a set of 100 files, each 1MB big. The second pattern was made of only one single file 100MB in size. According to our experience, it is usually enough to run the tests in these two patterns, in order to make consistent conclusions about the performance of the tested CompactFlash cards.
The first diagram demonstrates the performance of the cards during reading from the first pattern with 100 files 1MB each. Pretec’s solution appears an indisputable leader here.
The next picture shows how fast the testing participants could write all 100 files. Again the Cheetah 80x is the fastest of all, although I wouldn’t state any indisputable leadership of the latter, as it is just a tiny bit ahead of the closest rival, the PQI F1 card.
When the test file gets 100MB big, the performance of the testing participants hardly gets affected at all. The overall picture remains the same, as in case of a hundred smaller files. Pretec’s solution retains the leadership here.
The diagram demonstrating the writing speed for the 100MB file shows all the advantages of the new Pretec Cheetah 80x solution: it manages to get significantly ahead of its opponents. The larger gets the file size, the faster works the medium with the higher claimed speed coefficient. In fact, the writing speed in this case starts getting close to the reading speed.
AIDA32 utility was used to build the graphs for the average access time and to measure the linear read and write speed. The average values obtained as a result of these measurements are given in the table below.
Here come the results:
Linear Read Speed
Linear Write Speed
Average Access Time
The first diagram shows the average linear read speed. Pretec flash memory card looks better that the competitors here, being almost 1.5 times faster than the closets rival.
The picture is pretty much the same on the next diagram too. The linear write speed of the 80x Cheetah flash card is significantly higher than that of the opponents. The result demonstrated by the Pretec storage medium here is just a little lower than in the previous test.
Finally here comes the last diagram of the average access time. 80x Cheetah flash card shows not the smallest result of all tested cards, but it belongs just fine to the standard interval typical of the most Compact Flash media. As you remember, the access time is not a determinative for the performance verdicts for this type of products.
To tell the truth I was a bit surprised to see that the average linear read and write speeds in this benchmark appeared somewhat lower than the results we managed to obtain on a 256MB Pretec card we tested earlier in one of our articles. I dare suspect that the reason for this difference lies with the different electronics of the media (different controller).
The 2GB CompactFlash memory card from Pretec demonstrated the fastest read and write speed of all three models tested. In fact, we kind of expected the results to turn out like that, because it was competing against somewhat older solutions, which have been in the market for a while by now and which boast lower claimed transfer rates.
Those users, who are looking for the fastest medium with the maximum storage capacity, should definitely take a look at Pretec 80x Cheetah card. This solution proves the most efficient when working with larger files, where its performance grows up noticeably. The other two solutions tested this time boast lower speed characteristics and hence can hardly be regarded as a serious threat to Pretec’s newcomers. The only drawback of the new Cheetah CompactFlash card is its relatively high price, especially compared with the models boasting the same storage capacity but slower claimed transfer rates of 40x-45x.
However, you should also keep in mind that when you purchase a fast CompactFlash card, like 80x Cheetah, you will be able to take full advantage of its speed potential only if you have an efficient card-reader or “fast” digital camera. Otherwise, you will hardly feel any difference compared with the performance of the previous-generation CompactFlash solutions.