actual speed of 1394 (Firewire) CF readers?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006.

  1. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    Does anyone know of a site that compares various 1394 card readers for
    Compact Flash download speed?

    We have been using USB 2 readers and they run about 4.6 MB/sec (or
    about 7 minutes per 2 GB card) regardless of which computer we run them
    on (slow laptop, fast laptop, fast desktop) so I'm sure we're maxing
    out the reader. Usually this isn't a problem but occasionally we have
    massive amounts of data to download, up to 14 GB, so faster would be

    I just got a laptop with a 1394 port and if the download speeds are say
    50% faster than our USB 2 reader I'd like to get one, but I can't find
    any actual data anywhere via Google, just some dpreview results from


    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
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  2. Bill Hilton

    Pat Guest

    If memory serves me correct, firewire 400 (1394) is 400 mbps and USB
    2.0 is 480 mbps.

    Firewire 800 is 800 mbps, but it is more of a video connection and I
    don't know if you can get a reader for it.

    Maybe you would do better with a second card reader and just read two
    cards at ones -- even if you have to do it to different machines.
    Doing it from one machine might not increase speed as much as you want
    because it might bottleneck, but you could always install a 2nd USB
    card on the mother board. They not too expensive.
    Pat, Mar 25, 2006
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  3. Bill,

    My most recent tests, on what is now a lowly 2.8GHz Pentium 4 PC, gave:

    SanDisk Ultra II SD - 294MB in 51s => 5.76MB/s
    SanDisk Ultra II CF - 521MB in 94s => 5.54MB/s

    which is somewhat faster than you've seen. I suspect I could even better
    with a different card, PC or USB 2.0 reader. Let me check. Yes, another
    test on a faster PC and hard disk gave:

    SanDisk Ultra II CF - 551MB in 62s => 8.89MB/s

    (This was a card with a smaller number of larger movie files).

    So you may not need to go to the 1394 just yet. However, I can't give you
    any 1394 speeds, sorry.

    David J Taylor, Mar 25, 2006
  4. Bill Hilton

    Bill Funk Guest

    Nominally, USB 2.0 is faster than Firewire (480Mb/s vs 400Mb/s), but
    USB has more overhead, so Firewire throughput is slightly faster.
    Faster enough that you should notice a difference while downloading
    image files.
    50%? I've seen some reports that show up to a 70% difference, but
    that's stretching things, IMO. A 50% difference *might* be possible,
    if the file size and number is in the sweet spot.
    The reason you can't find objective data is because, well, it depends
    on many factors, including the particular devices involved (not all
    USB and Firewire installations and devices are identical), the file
    size and number, and the phase of the moon.

    I don't have a Firewire card reaqder, so I can't even give a
    subjective report of the relative speeds. :-(
    Bill Funk, Mar 25, 2006
  5. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    Pat writes ...
    Yes, these are the "theoretical" speeds in bits/sec but actual devices
    are much slower and 400 mbps (50 MB/sec) Firewire is almost always
    faster than 480 mpbs (60 MB/sec) USB 2, usually a lot faster, because
    of all the overhead in the USB protocol.
    The laptop has multiple USB 2 ports and I carry two readers so I'll try
    that and see if the speed drops when reading from 2 cards at once ...
    might be a good idea, thanks.

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  6. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    David J Taylor writes ...
    OK, with this same SanDisk Ultra II card I'm about 1 MB/sec and 4.2
    MB/sec slower ... what card reader are you using? I tried three in the
    $10 range (g) and the SIIG was fastest but clearly there must be faster
    USB 2 readers than what I'm using.
    I found something on Rob Galbraith's site where he says the Lexar
    Firewire card was the fastest he tested, and he's getting about 11
    MB/sec with the same CF cards you and I were using ... ... what
    card are you using for the USB xfers, since you're not much slower than
    him? It may be a lot cheaper than the Lexar 1394, which is over $50
    but available at B&H for around $40 ...

    Thanks for the info.

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  7. Bill Hilton

    SamSez Guest

    Any significant differences between usb2 and 1394 readers will mostly be a
    factor of the implementation of the reader, the implementation of the pc
    port and the pc itself -- and not a factor of the difference between usb2
    and 1394.

    Not all usb2 readers are equivalent, and not all usb2 pc ports are
    equivalent, particularly ports that are actually hubs and have other
    hardware connected. Try a different reader from somewhere you can take it
    back if it isn't better than what you have.
    SamSez, Mar 25, 2006
  8. Bill Hilton

    Guest Guest

    although it doesn't compare readers, rob galbraith did mention which
    card reader he liked.


    The Lexar FireWire CompactFlash reader, model RW019, is the fastest
    of over 2 dozen readers we've tested to date, which is the primary
    reason we've standardized on it. Other FireWire readers may not be as
    quick, and we've observed a big variance in the performance
    capabilities of USB 2.0 card readers.
    Guest, Mar 25, 2006
  9. system - 1

    system - 2
    Bill, don't regard these as lab tests, just what I had to hand.

    System 1 has an ASUS CUSL2 motherboard (USB 2.0 hi-speed) and an external
    "Belkin hi-speed USB 2.0 8-in-1" card reader. It is a November 2004
    Pentium 4, 2.8GHz, running Windows 2000 workstation.

    System 2 has an Asus A8N-SLI motherboard and an unknown brand internal
    card reader. It has an AMD 64 X2 4400 processor and 3GB of memory, and
    the transfer was timed to a Western Digital Raptor hard disk.

    To be honest, I suspect that have a small number of larger files made at
    least as much difference as the two PC systems. So you may see faster
    transfer speeds with raw files than with compressed JPEGs, although you
    may get more files per minute with the JPEGs!

    Is the figure you gave (7 minutes for 2GB, IIRC) really an issue?

    David J Taylor, Mar 25, 2006
  10. Bill Hilton

    Scott W Guest

    The USB part of it should not be the bottle neck. I did a quick test
    and transfered 178MP of photos form a CF card to my computer, time 30
    seconds for 5.9 MP/second.
    I than transfered those same 178MP of photos from my main drive to an
    external USB drive, this time it only took 10 seconds to do the
    transfer or 17.8 MP/second.

    This is not to say a give firewire card reader might not be faster but
    I don't believe it would be due to the interface to the computer.

    Scott W, Mar 25, 2006
  11. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    Pat writes ...
    Thanks for this suggestion Pat!! I tested this theory and was really
    surprised at how well it works.

    I knew the processor wasn't working too hard to just transfer files but
    I figured the internal bus might clog up with double writes to the hard
    drive, so I ran this test without expecting much. Wow, was I wrong ...
    both cards downloaded in the same amount of time it took for the larger
    card to download separately. Great, I just doubled my bandwidth
    without spending a cent or hauling my butt down to Fry's again :)

    Here are the details in case anyone's interested ... both cards are
    SanDisk Ultra II 2 GB, card one had 235 Canon .CR2 raw files in 3
    folders or 1.82 GB and downloaded in 6:35 separately, card two had 219
    ..CR2 files in 3 folders or 1.60 GB and downloaded in 5:47 separately.

    When I downloaded them simultaneously with two SIIG USB 2 readers it
    still took 6:35 (for some reason the smaller card seemed to sync up
    with the larger one and they finished together, which I don't quite
    understand (and don't really care about). So I downloaded 454 files or
    3.43 GB (actually 3,692,167,812 bytes) in 6:35 for about 9.3 MB/sec if
    you use the byte count or 8.7 MB/sec if you use the gigabyte count.

    Thanks for suggesting this idea.

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  12. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    David J Taylor writes ...
    OK, thanks for the info ... we have an 8-1 IOgear reader but it was a
    bit slower than the SIIG, IIRC.
    Most of the time when we're on the road we shoot 3-6 GB per 'session'
    (ie, AM or PM) for two people and have time to download, review, cull
    and write off to backup hard drives without any time problems. So this
    download rate isn't typically a big deal. But this fell apart in
    Africa last January when we shot a lot more and had power access
    issues. The worst case (best case for photography :) was in Tanzania
    when we got into lions and then cranes and then cheetahs in the same
    great morning and shot 14 GB of images by 10:30 AM (8.5 frames/sec, 8
    and 11 Mpixel RAW files, what can I say? we got carried away). I
    posted some of these earlier and here are a few more that my wife shot
    that AM (also cheetahs later) ...

    Anyway this remote lodge had only two power outlets and ran a generator
    a few hours each day so it was a hassle downloading, previewing etc and
    we couldn't keep up (our battery is only good for a couple of hours
    when we're doing stuff like this). We are returning to Africa soon and
    just got a newer laptop that's almost twice as fast at generating
    previews and converting RAW files, but the download times are still the
    same so that's why I was looking for something faster, especially since
    this one has a Firewire port. But Pat's suggestion to download two
    cards simultaneously basically doubled our download thru-put.

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  13. Bill,

    Fascinating to hear of the problems which others have! I can see you
    getting a USB hub and taking about half a dozen readers! 14GB would be a
    lot even for me - I only possess 8GB of memory and that's all I would use
    on a week's trip!

    Nice photos, by the way!

    David J Taylor, Mar 25, 2006
  14. Bill Hilton

    Pat Guest

    I'm not sure 6 readers on a USB hub would be that much faster. From
    what I understand, his computer has 2 usb ports. Each probably
    connects to the motherboard, directly. That avoids the bottleneck and
    is a great solution for him. But I could see him with another reader
    that goes into his PCI slot and get a third reader going!
    Pat, Mar 25, 2006
  15. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    I can see you getting a USB hub and taking about half
    I think David was kidding about using six readers :) I used to design
    USB interfaces and most of the problems people had were with hubs so I
    don't have one and wouldn't want to try one on something like this.
    Actually the new laptop has four USB ports, with three free (one has
    the mouse, which is optional), and all connect directly to the Mobo ...
    I think I have 8 USB ports on the desktop but I don't really care how
    long it takes to download when at home.
    There is no PCI slot on the laptop but I might get the Firewire reader
    and try it in parallel with one of the USB readers ...

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  16. Bill Hilton

    Guest Guest

    does it have a cardbus slot? that is pci...

    unlike the pcmcia compact flash adapters, cardbus adapters are very
    Guest, Mar 25, 2006
  17. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    It has an Express Card slot (type I or II) and a PC Card slot ... I
    didn't realize these might be PCI, I'm used to opening up the box and
    inserting PCI cards internally but this is the first notebook I've had
    with this type of built-in port.
    Thanks, I may check into that ... do you know the xfer speeds? While
    in Africa at the place with only two power outlets I saw many people
    with different gear and one guy seemed to be doing very rapid xfers
    with something that looked like a PCMCIA card or similar, maybe this is
    what he had. (On the flip side, two newbies were taking 23 and 27
    minutes per GB with I guess USB 1.1 and were astonished to see others
    downloading 8x or more faster).

    Bill Hilton, Mar 25, 2006
  18. Bill Hilton

    Alan Guest

    Bill Hilton wrote:

    I believe that the bottleneck is in your reader. I shoot BMX and I
    normally shoot about 2000 pix in a 4 hour afternoon, so the speed at
    which I can upload to my laptop (I keep it with me on the track)is VERY
    important. I've tried several readers and the SanDisk USB 2.0 Compact
    Flash Reader model # SDDR-92 is the fastest I've found. For my 2 GB
    extreme III and ultra II cards it takes just over 3 minutes, that's
    about 9 MBs. I normally upload 3 cards at a time and they are all read
    concurrently with only a slight hit with 6 GB uploading in about 4
    minutes. Also, I've found that doing this through a hub makes no
    Alan, Mar 25, 2006
  19. In tests last night I read data from a Lexar 80x card with WA (not
    relevant for reading, I don't believe) at 9 MB/sec. Reader was a
    SanDisk, on USB2 on an XP system with MSI motherboard, built-in USB2,
    nothing unusual (processor is AMD XP 2600+). I haven't tried the 133x
    card yet, to see how that differs. So it looks to me like you can get
    considerably better throughput than you are currently getting. (I was
    unhappy with the performance of a Lexar USB2 reader, but haven't
    plugged it back in to compare the two readers head-to-head on the same
    computer and USB subsystem).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 25, 2006
  20. Bill Hilton

    Bill Hilton Guest

    nospam writes ...
    OK, in reading the manual I see the PC Card port accepts Cardbus
    readers and Google gives me this link, showing a guy with a 32 bit
    Cardbus that downloads 4 GB in 4 minutes ... ... this is what
    I saw someone in Africa using and it was a lot faster than my USB 2
    reader so I think I'll get that. The CF card case I have even has a
    slot to carry this reader so it will work out well.

    Thanks for your help.

    Bill Hilton, Mar 26, 2006
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