After my previous review of a Silicon Power 8GB CompactFlash memory card, I was looking around for more CF cards to review, in the hopes of finding a higher-performing card with S.M.A.R.T. health reporting and the ability of acting as a “fixed disk” (that is, identifying to the system as a hard drive rather than a removable disk), and decided to purchase this memory card from Amazon.
The card’s specifications indicate that the CompactFlash card is capable of 120MB/s sequential read and 60MB/s sequential write speeds, has a lifetime warranty and comes with a license key for a 1-year subscription to their RescuePRO data recovery software. It is advertised to have internal RTV (room-temperature vulcanization) silicone potting, has an operational temperature range of -25 to 85 degrees Celsius (-13 to 185 Fahrenheit), and uses their “ESP (Enhanced Super-Parallel) Technology” which I presume is some sort of proprietary multi-channel controller, and is UDMA 7 (167 MB/s maximum interface speed) capable.
Benchmark – Setup
To connect the card to my computer, I used a CompactFlash-to-IDE converter and a Marvell 88SE9128-based SATA/PATA host bus adapter. This allows me to use up to UDMA 6 (133 MB/s maximum interface speed) as UDMA 7 is basically restricted to cameras as it’s only part of the CompactFlash official specifications.
Benchmark – CrystalDiskMark
For this test, I manually zero-filled the card using Hard Disk Sentinel, formatted it with exFAT, then ran CrystalDiskMark, set to 3 runs with a 500MB file size using random data, all zeros (0x00), and all ones (0xFF).
|Data Type||Test||Read (MB/s)||Write (MB/s)||IOPS Read||IOPS Write|
|4K Random (QD1)||11.37||0.916||2775.2||223.6|
|4K Random (QD32)||17.24||1.413||4208.2||344.9|
|All 0 (0x00)||Sequential||104.3||54.25|
|4K Random (QD1)||11.36||1.1||2773.3||268.5|
|4K Random (QD32)||17.39||1.263||4244.5||308.4|
|All 1 (0xFF)||Sequential||104.5||53.95|
|4K Random (QD1)||11.19||1.112||2733||271.4|
|4K Random (QD32)||17.32||1.437||4229.3||351|
It appears that there is no significant difference between the tests depending on what data was used for the benchmark.
Benchmark – AS SSD
As with CrystalDiskMark, I zeroed out the card and formatted it as exFAT before running the test.
|Sequential||99.70 MB/s||46.13 MB/s|
|4K||11.40 MB/s||0.74 MB/s|
|4K 64 Thread||12.80 MB/s||1.03 MB/s|
|Access Time||0.389 ms||5.504 ms|
Benchmark – Hard Disk Sentinel
I ran three separate benchmarks with Hard Disk Sentinel’s Surface Test feature, using the read and write (both empty and random data) tests, and used the Random Seek Test to measure the card’s responsiveness after filling it with empty and random data.
|Read 0x00||95.20 MB/s|
|Read Random||97.30 MB/s|
|Write 0x00||49.81 MB/s|
|Write Random||49.04 MB/s|
|Seek Time 0x00||0.35 ms|
|Seek Time Random||0.37 ms|
Once again, there does not appear to be any appreciable difference between an empty (zeroed-out) or full card.
Analysis – HWiNFO64
Now that the benchmarks are out of the way, let’s take a look at the card and what it can (and can’t) do. Let’s take a look at the details of the drive…
The card shows up as a regular IDE drive in HWiNFO, and has information about its CHS (Cylinder-Head-Sector) geometries and supported I/O interface speeds. Here we can see the card supports up to UDMA 7 but is running at UDMA 6 as because it is connected to a PC IDE bus.
Now for the kicker: Does the drive identify itself as a fixed or removable disk? Cross your fingers…
NOPE! The SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash card does NOT identify as a fixed disk, but instead as a removable drive. This means that the hopes of using this as a bootable Windows disk are now out the window. [ba-dum-tssh!]
Analysis – Hard Disk Sentinel
Looking at the Overview tab in HDS, something weird is happening. It states that “the hard disk status is PERFECT” yet it has no health or performance percentages available. If I open the Information tab, I can see that the SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash card does NOT support S.M.A.R.T. health reporting. Bummer. Additionally, it appears that Windows does not like removable IDE drives that lack S.M.A.R.T. and instead report garbage data (or data mirrored from another drive in the system).
Looking further inside the Information tab, we can see the features that the memory card does support. It supports DMA, Ultra DMA, APM (advanced power management), write caching, 48-bit LBA (logical block address) addressing, IORDY (flow control), a NOP (no-operation) command, and has the CFA (CompactFlash Association) feature set.
Since the card reported that it supported APM, I tried to enable it but the card refused to accept the command.
Overall, I like this card quite a bit. It has fast sequential I/O and a respectable random read speed. However, this is soiled by the fact that the card is configured to show up as a removable disk, which renders the card unusable as a Windows boot drive, and the lack of S.M.A.R.T. health and temperature reporting makes me a bit uneasy as I cannot track the card’s program-erase cycle count during use.
Oh well. Looks like the hunt for a fast, fixed-disk CompactFlash card continues…
You can just install a filter driver to make windows consider a removable drive as a fixed disk:
Good point. It’s still an annoyance to have to manually install a filter driver, and even more so when trying to install Windows on the card.
I did get the 32-bit version of Windows 7 to accept the filter driver during installation, but couldn’t get it working with the 64-bit version (probably due to 64-bit Windows strictly requiring signed drivers).
You can deactivate the driver signature check with bcdedit. A signed filter driver would be preferable, though I can’t seem to find any.