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Performance - Windows 2000

To truly test and compare the Unity Digital Firewire reader we decided to perform three tests, the first with approx 1.2 MB files simulates the approximate size of high quality JPEG's from a 3 megapixel digital camera, the second with 16 MB files simulates TIFF files and finally a single 128 MB file to test maximum possible throughput.

Timings were calculated using a Unix style "timer" utility and an automatic batch file which copies the files onto / from the card and flushes the removable device buffers before the "end time" is taken. Thus, this is the total time it takes to write / read data before you could possibly remove the card. Timing tests for the Swift Syncro USB and Notebook PCMCIA were carried out with the cards in their respective PCMCIA adapters (which are basically just cradles with pass-through wiring).

Computer used for test: Dual Pentium III 933 Mhz, 512 MB RAM, Windows 2000 Professional. All other USB / Firewire devices disconnected during testing. All other applications (and non-essential services) shut down also. Firewire card used: Belkin IEEE 1394 PCI

128 MB of small size files, 131,163 KB in 102 files (~1.2 MB each)

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive 42 s 3,123 KB/s 64 s 2,049 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 43 s 3,050 KB/s 242 s 542 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 1 GB IBM Microdrive 110 s 1,192 KB/s 141 s 930 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 192 MB SanDisk Flash 109 s 1,203 KB/s 266 s 493 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 1 GB IBM Microdrive 202 s 649 KB/s 580 s 226 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 192 MB SanDisk Flash 217 s 604 KB/s 443 s 296 KB/s

128 MB of medium size files, 131,808 KB in 8 files (16 MB each)

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive 35 s 3,766 KB/s 45 s 2,929 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 42 s 3,138 KB/s 236 s 558 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 1 GB IBM Microdrive 113 s 1,166 KB/s 124 s 1,062 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 192 MB SanDisk Flash 115 s 1,146 KB/s 253 s 521 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 1 GB IBM Microdrive 182 s 724 KB/s 580 s 227 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 192 MB SanDisk Flash 216 s 610 KB/s 427 s 308 KB/s

128 MB file, 131,806 KB in 1 file

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive 30 s 4,393 KB/s 35 s 3,766 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 42 s 3,138 KB/s 231 s 570 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 1 GB IBM Microdrive 110 s 1,198 KB/s 123 s 1,071 KB/s
Notebook PCMCIA 192 MB SanDisk Flash 113 s 1,166 KB/s 255 s 517 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 1 GB IBM Microdrive 199 s 662 KB/s 580 s 227 KB/s
Swift Syncro USB 192 MB SanDisk Flash 215 s 613 KB/s 424 s 311 KB/s

It's safe to say that the Unity Digital Firewire CF reader is the fastest possible way to get images from your CompactFlash card to your computer, taking only 42 seconds to download 128 MB of images you won't find yourself waiting around to see the results of your latest photo shoot. Also interesting is that the 1 GB IBM Microdrive has far greater throughput than a standard Flash Memory card (certainly for writing) and that it's apparent that even the latest digital cameras aren't able to write at these kinds of speeds (though some Pro cameras can).

Here's a summary (based on the results of our tests):

  • Unity Digital Firewire CF Reader is 260% faster than PCMCIA transfers
  • Unity Digital Firewire CF Reader is 480% faster than the average USB card reader
  • Standard flash memory devices have fast read but very slow write rates
  • The larger the file the better the transfer rate


          Read transfer speeds


Performance - Mac OS 9.0.4

For this test we used a Mac G4 500 Mhz, 512 MB RAM, Mac OS 9.0.4 (clean install), Firewire extensions v2.6, supplied card reader driver. All other devices (except USB mouse & keyboard) were disconnected during testing and there were no other applications running. It wasn't as easy to obtain truly accurate results on the Mac (due to my limited Mac OS scripting ability) so we were timing manually, to offset this all tests were run three times and an average was obtained.

Apologies, I didn't have another reader at hand with which to compare these results, sufficient to say you can compare them to the Windows 2000 results above.

128 MB of small size files, 131,163 KB in 102 files (~1.2 MB each)

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive ** 74 s 2,384 KB/s 70 s 1,873 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 47 s 2,790 KB/s 251 s 523 KB/s

128 MB of medium size files, 131,808 KB in 8 files (16 MB each)

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive 48 s 2,746 KB/s 55 s 2,396 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 47 s 2,804 KB/s 251 s 525 KB/s

128 MB file, 131,806 KB in 1 file

Reader Media Read
128 MB
Write
128 MB
Unity Digital Firewire 1 GB IBM Microdrive 46 s 2,865 KB/s 55 s 3,396 KB/s
Unity Digital Firewire 192 MB SanDisk Flash 47 s 2,804 KB/s 251 s 525 KB/s

** Mac OS spent a whole 19 seconds "preparing to copy", we subtracted this from the 74 seconds to get a time of 55 seconds actual transfer time (and thus the read speed figure).

Again, a blistering performance by anyone's standards.. Though it looks like my PC with the Belkin PCI IEEE 1394 card can easily out-pace the Mac which was a whole 13 seconds slower transfering the 128 MB of medium size files. Still, the Unity Digital Firewire CF reader is defintely the fastest way to transfer a CF card full of images to your Mac.


Conclusion

First of all I had to try and think up some cons, so here they are: (1) The eject button is a bit flimsy, IBM Microdrive's seem to catch occasionally, (2) I wish the Firewire cable was a normal double ended type and that the device had a IEEE 1394 connector on the back so you can easily use different cables (to connect it to my Sony Vaio notebook I had to buy a 4 -> 6 pin adapter), (3) to help it sell in the "mainstream" Unity Digital should consider a bundled pack with an OEM PCI IEEE 1394 card.

So, at just under $150 the Unity Digital Firewire CF reader isn't cheap, and if you don't already have any Firewire connectivity then you can add another $50 for a PCI card, however as the old adage goes, "you get what you pay for"... Serious amateurs and all professional digital photographers who use CF cards should almost certainly own this reader. (NOTE: There's also a SmartMedia version of this reader available).

Transfer speeds are absolutely unbelievable (virtually ATA 33), having used the device for just a few days I can honestly say it's saved me time and increased my workflow, it's been as solid as a rock with all sorts of different CF cards and not once let me down. I can't imagine ever going back to any type of USB reader. What more can I say, just excellent! Go and buy one! ;-)

The Box In the box...
Unity Digital Firewire CF Reader
Quick installation guide
CD-ROM
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