iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






CompactFlash Memory Cards Tests. Part II

Today I'm going to continue our tests of cards with the CompactFlash interface. Last time we tested far not all models available on the market. For example, such well-known manufacturer as Delkin Devices was disregarded, and today it will be made up for :) Why is the second part arriving so late? Everybody wants to get an idea on performance of not only flash cards but also storage devices like IBM Microdrive. But an attempt to test them failed as there were some problems with delivery. Whether they they are temporary or IBM decided to phase out such a promising production is hard to say. We haven't got microdrives yet, but it makes no sense to put off the article further. Also note that I'm going to touch upon one more aspect - adapters from different cards to CompactFlash. One such device will be examined today, and in the near future we will cook up a review on other similar adapters.

However strange that may be but this test wasn't noticed by suppliers of memory cards. The first part lacked for cards from a lot of manufacturers, for example, NCP, Delkin, Apacer, Lexar etc. Their suppliers have been keeping silence to some reason, though the objective tests are needed for them as well. The only companies that contacted me were SIVMA that offered the products of Delkin Devices, and PatriArch with the TwinMOS cards. 

The theoretical aspects and tests were given in the Part I. That is why let's proceed directly to the tests. First come descriptions of the tested devices and then diagrams and comments.

Delkin Devices

This is a grand-scale company with professional promoters. Its products come with a life warranty for flash cards (in contrast to the competitors who offer 5 years at most). Look at the packages of the cards:

It's mentioned there that any card of the eFilm family comes with a software bundle priced at $150 on a 80mm CD. It means that if you need a 256MB card the company is like to pay YOU (such cards are cheaper than $150). The CD contains:
  • ixla Digital Camera Suite - for working with bulky collections of photos. Apart from working with folders and making searches you can create calendars and post cards using photos, develop special Web pages or presentations and so on. 
  • ixla Web Easy - this program is designed for creation of web sites, and in this respect it is better than the previous one 
  • ixla Explorer - this program is tailored for creation and work with collection of images
  • Piccolo - one more program for working with collection of images
  • DJ2000 - for working with MP3 files: player, collection manager etc.
  • MP3-Wolf - a widely known program for searching audio files. 
  • Labels, Cards & More.
  • Make Your Own ScreenSaver. 

The software suite is really useful and handy. I didn't try to find out how much it is indeed. But it's still pleasant that with a card you get the longest warranty period. The only thing left is to find out how such cards work.  

eFilm 128 MB

eFilm 512 MB


The back side of the models is different: the 512 MB one says something about the copyright of 1998, and the numbers are written differently. Judging by the diagrams, the last figure of the number seems to be a production date (year) - the smaller model looks excellently in comparison to other modern cards, while the more capacious one doesn't look like an up-to-date solution. Actually, the 512MB models are based on an aging controller. But soon Delkin is going to launch new speedier cards of large sizes.   

eFilm SmartMedia CompactFlash Adapter


Having taken for the test such an interesting device as Delkin Picture Pad (it will soon be reviewed) I found a SmartMedia-CompactFlash adapter in its accessory pack. So, I decided both to test the adapter and obtain the results for the SmartMedia. Surely, this can't be considered a direct comparison of the CF and SMC because we are dealing with the card+adapter tandem. Soon I'm going to test other similar adapters of various companies and not only for SmartMedia.


128 MB (Q1)


128 MB (Q3)


The cards are of the old series (Q1 and Q3). On the one hand, why to test them? But on the other hand, such cards emerge on the secondary market. Besides, it can be interesting from the historical standpoint to compare cards produced by the same company but at different times.


512 MB


I have nothing to add - I just tested the 512MB card which I couldn't fetch last time.


128 MB


512 MB


Test results and comments

None of the cards was as "successful" as the Sandisk. The combination of the adapter and SM card has the highest time, but this sandwich shows only 4 ms compared to tens of ms of our outsider. The old cards from PQI and the TwinMOS's solutions of 512 MB are quite slow. At the same time, the less sizable card performs noticeably better which means that the cards use different controllers and there will be more differences.

The eFilm 128 MB has broken into the leading group. The Transcend is soaring above. The TwinMOS 512 MB shows a good read speed, while the 128 MB is markedly worse. The aged from PQI don't differ much from each other, and can be compared only with the Digitex Optimal 128MB. The Delkin eFilm 512 MB cards have the scores lower than average but they were developed a year or two ago. A similar speed is demonstrated by the SmartMedia - this format does have some reserve, but it's not enough to stand against the CompactFlash. The adapter is not to be blamed - according to the standard such cards can provide up to 2 MB/s and we have received even more.

Transcend remains in the leading positions. Although its speed is lower than that of the tested 128 MB model or Ridata's cards (they almost always show identical results) by nearly a hundred of KB/s, but the following card falls behind by 170 KB/s. And who is that next? Delkin eFilm 128 MB. Well, its wide popularity, a long warranty period and rich software bundles do not hinder the card from working fast. But the 512 MB cards have weaker scores, - Delkin should make a transition to modern controllers for such sizes as quickly as possible (especially because the speed there is more important than in less capacious flash cards). The TwinMOS models have interchanged their positions: the 128 MB sample is slower is reading but it can compete against the Kingston cards in recording operations, and the larger-size model is able to catch up only with the PQI Hi-Speed. I have no comments on the old solutions from PQI. As for the SmartMedia, it would suit only those who don't need high speeds and large sizes (I made sure of that yet when I made TIFF shots on my Olympus C3020 :)).


Strangely enough but the leaders and outsiders of the first part are the same :) The new-comers behave differently - I'm really pleased with the Delkin eFilm 128 MB which provides a high speed, a long warranty period and abundance of software, though its more sizable sibling looks inferior. It's not a failure compared to the Sandisk, but compared to the junior solution... Well, Delkin should release a new model as soon as possible. The test results clearly indicate why the SmartMedia is dying away. Besides, if you really need high speeds, you should go with the most up-to-date flash cards.

Andrei Kozhemyako aka Korzh (korzh@ixbt.com

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