*EDIT* Pics up now. http://www.angelfire.com/rpg2/tweakit/index.html
*EDIT2* New benchmarks. http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7988
I just got this thing up and running, and I'm very excited. I'll try to be as thorough as possible, so expect a long read. This won't read like a standard review, but more of observations I've come across, as well as the benefits I've got for my own personal reasons.
Sandisk Extreme 4
Yes, that's right. Compact flash. I'm not sure if most people realize, but compact flash cards are native ATA/IDE devices.
I got my CF/IDE adapter here:
And the card itself here:
Now, the Sandisk Extreme 4 card is a special CF card in one particular reason. This card supports ATA/66 natively, with expected transfers of 40MB/s. That's fast. Lexar also has a UDMA enabled card; the only two I'm aware of on the market currently. (compact flash 3.0 spec)
I'm currently running SuSE 10.2, and the first thing that's immediately noticable is the massive increase in boot speed. My boot speed was well over 2 minutes on a hard drive, that includes auto login of user to KDE. Using this compact flash drive it's around 50 seconds.(neither time includes BIOS times, this is from bootloader to usable desktop)
Other things I've noticed is YAST performance.(for those who are familiar with SuSE) It opens up within 2-3 or so seconds, on the hard drive it was around 8-10. Other applications also are notably faster.
I've also noticed an increase in web browsing speed. I don't have a particularly high speed connection to the net, it's 768k down, 128k up. But just browsing through webpages has also become faster.
I'm thinking that the hard drive was actually bottlenecking web browsing, as surprising as that is or not. But it makes sense, most webpages are made up by hundreds of tiny little files, the millisecond access times of a hard drive just can't keep up. I'd love to try web browsing on this thing with a 10MB connection, I'd bet it'd be instant as if the page were actually on my computer. But right now, it's pretty close. Most pages come up very similarly to the google page. Even pages that have a fairly high amount of content such as apple or redhat.com are noticably faster.
If you clicked the link, you've already become aware that my drive is 4GB in size. But I run linux, so who the heck cares? I've still got about 2GB of usable space after OS install, and I have a spare hard drive that's for etc data only.(be it music, games, or anything else) There's also an 8GB version of this card, and I expect larger sizes in the future.
For any windows users who may come across this, I have bad news for you, I don't think this will work for you. I couldn't even boot windows with this thing hooked up to my IDE port. I'd like to know how a Mac would handle this, but I personally find both win/mac to be extremely bossy...... So I doubt that the mac would handle it any differently.
But how about the BSDs? Solaris? And any other OS out there? I'd like to see some people try this and post their results if any wish to try this out.
I bought this mainly for performance reasons, but I also like how it does not generate any heat at all. And it uses next to no power. It's also noiseless.
This would be especially useful for you linux/laptop users. And I have seen CF/IDE adapters which are aimed at the laptop space which have two CF ports on it. Which means two drives for you, possibly adequate space for average day to day usage as you fly around the country.
Now, in order to get this working properly, I had to pass a kernel option at bootloader time, otherwise it wouldn't completely boot. That being "IDE=NODMA".
I have no clue why I had to do this, but I imagine that because this isn't a traditional drive, Sandisk had to make their DMA controller somewhat different. Hopefully someone will get in touch with them and update some drivers accordingly. I think there's still some potential left in this thing for more performance, more room to grow. I've also had a chance to play with an Extreme 3 card on suse 10.2, and the boot speed difference is about 5 seconds. The thing to consider here is that most motherboards do not support PIO modes 5 and 6, which is how Sandisk got 20MB/s out of the EX3 cards. So going from the EX3 to the EX4 card I didn't see a huge difference. I know for certain that my own motherboard doesn't support PIO 5 and 6, my bios tells me so. So I was limited to 10MB/s transfers, and still only got a 5 second increase. Like I said, I think there's room to grow here.
So any questions, comments on this? I know there's *ALOT* of people who have been looking forward to SSDs in their computers that are not dynamic. I've looked at rocketdrives and qikdrives, but using DRAM doesn't work well if there's a power outtage and you lose all your data.
Behold....... the power of linux. :-)
*EDIT* For those wondering, here are my main system specs.
Duron 1ghz, FSB O/C'd to 333
512MB Geil PC 433
ATi FireGL 8800
Lian Li PC 70(yes, full tower)
And my flash drive. :-D
And please don't ask why I still run a Duron. I had a personal matter that demanded my barton. I'll be getting another one from Ebay shortly.