Monday, September 24, 2012

Rosewill 40-in-1 3.5" Internal Card Reader (RCRIC001)

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Inexpensive, works well, installs easily and reads a lot of different formats
Cons: Doesn't read common microSD cards without an adapter

When I built this last computer for my mom, we decided to throw a memory card reader into one of the available 3.5" external drive bays. While it's not something she uses regularly, it's nice to have on hand for for reading the memory card out of her phone or camera occasionally and it also has an additional USB 2.0 port in it as well. Also, since it was only $6 on sale it wasn't really going to affect the price of the build much, so there was little reason not to include it.

This build:

AMD FX-4100 Quad-Core Processor
Cooler Master GX-450 Power Supply
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB DDR3 1600
Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 Motherboard
MSI Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card
Rosewill Challenger Gaming Case
Rosewill 40-in-1 Internal Card Reader
Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen 2TB Hard Drive
Zalman N Series 2.5" Solid-State Drive

I'd picked up a similar card reader in the past for a previous build, and it was a little short and only had one mounting screw location on each side. It sat in the case fine but it did pivot a minuscule amount up and down because there was only one screw holding it on each side. This Rosewill RCR-IC001 card reader didn't have that problem because it's longer and takes advantage of both screw mounts on each side of the device, which makes it feel more stable and secure in the case.
The card reader also comes with a changeable front panel. There is a black face plate installed out of the box, but there's an additional silver face plate in the package in case it matches your case better. It's easy to change with one little tab to depress on each side to make it pop right off. Hooking the device up to the motherboard is also easy, as the connection consists of a single USB 2.0 cable that you run to one of the USB headers on your motherboard. The cable is probably 18" long so there's plenty of length to make it reach wherever you need to on your particular motherboard. I ended up using a zip tie to tie off a loop of extra slack and laid it under the drive, out of the way.
This device is a 40-in-1 memory card reader, but when they say "40" they really mean "5 types and most of their variations". It supports Compact Flash, Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital and SmartMedia cards. Many of the variations like miniSD, microSD and MS Pro Duo only work with the appropriate adapter that may or may not come with the memory card. The device also supports the SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) format that is prevalent in most phones and tablets these days.
The card reader works by having four different slots in the face, along with a USB 2.0 port and a couple of LEDs for activity (green) and power (blue). The top slot on the left is used for MS/MSPro/MS Duo/MSPro Duo, and the top middle slot is used for CFI/CFII/MD cards. The bottom left is for SD/MMC/RS MMC and the bottom middle is for SMC cards. We've only used it with SD cards (and microSD cards with the adapters) so far since that is the only type of card that any of us have laying around. SD cards must be inserted upside-down into the slot, but they worked just fine and were about the same speed as my external card reader.
The slots are hot swappable and you can use multiple slots at once (as well as the USB port) if you have different types of memory cards, allowing you to transfer data from one to another. Supported operating systems include Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000/ME, and it also seems to work fine in Linux Mint (which implies it will likely work fine in Ubuntu and Debian, and probably most major Linux distributions). No drivers were necessary for me to install in either operating system. The device can be operated in temperatures ranging from 0ºC to 50ºC at a humidity between 10% and 95%.
The package contains the card reader itself, four screws for mounting the device, the extra silver face plate, and a folded up single-page user manual. The manual contains a brief introduction and specifications in seven different languages on one side, and surprisingly clear installation diagrams and instructions on the other. This device is made in China and backed up by a 1 year limited warranty.
Overall this was a good purchase and I recommend it. You can usually find it on sale for $6 or $7 and it's just one of those things that is nice to have on hand even if you don't use it too often.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kingston 16GB Class 4 microSDHC Card

Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: Worked well enough in the generic Android tablet it was picked up for
Cons: Worst random 4k write speeds; no included SD adapter or plastic case

My young nieces have birthdays that are close to each other, so their mom got them each a $90 generic Android tablet to play with. They enjoyed the tablets a lot, but the 4GB of internal storage was a bit lacking for all the games they wanted to download and play. Now I could have picked up identical microSDHC cards for them but I decided to be clever and pick up two different brands so that I could compare the two and review them in the process.
First of all we have this Kingston 16GB microSDHC Card (SDC4/16GBSP), and secondly we have a Mushkin 16GB microSDHC Card MKNUSDHCC4-16GB). I decided on these two cards in particular because they are both brands that I've had a positive experience with in the past. I skipped out on some of the similarly priced generic brand cards for the opposite reason. I also previously reviewed a Patriot Signature Line 16GB microSDHC Card (PSF16GMCSDHC43P) that we used in a Motorola DROID 4 Phone that I will poke comparisons at as well for variety.
Three separate manufacturers. Since all three of these cards are the same size, same speed rating, price and format the comparison should help figure out which is the better deal. This review will mostly focus on the Kingston 16GB microSD card, though I will mention the others at times and point out if they were particularly better or worse.
The first thing I noticed was that this Kingston card did not come in a full plastic package. Instead, they opted to go with sandwiched cardboard that was easier to open by snipping off the top with a pair of scissors and pulling the blister pack out of the middle that held the card. The blister pack did sort of snap shut and held the card in place, but it's flimsy and large and not something that you would want to use to keep the card secure and undamaged.
That's the second thing I noticed... unlike the other two cards, this one did not come with a rigid plastic carrying case to protect the card while it's not in a device. It was also the only card not to come with an SD adapter to use in tablets, cameras and laptops. The package I liked; the lack of a case and adapter were a little disappointing but not really a big deal overall since I already had two of each from the other manufacturers' cards.
This is a standard microSD card with the normal notched side to prevent it being inserted the wrong way. Like most cards this one is black, but it's really noisy looking with a ton of text across the front. Hey, it's not like you're going to be looking at the card anyway though -- I assume it will be crammed into a phone, camera or some other random device most of the time. It comes preformatted with the FAT32 file system and has a total formatted capacity of 15,699,279,872 bytes (14.6 GB). For comparison, the Patriot card had a capacity of 14.9 GB and the Mushkin had a capacity of 14.4 GB.
I assumed since they skimped on the adapter and the case that maybe they put a little extra work into the card; would the Kingston be the winner of the three? As it turns out... no. This was the only one of the three cards that Windows 7 would not let me use for ReadyBoost. Since it's a Class 4 card we should see a minimum performance of 4 MB/s for both reading and writing on a new card. Well, we easily got that but we assumed that going in. Looking at the benchmarks below we see a 20 MB/s sequential read speed and about the same for 512k random reads, which are moderately fast. We also see 5 MB/s sequential write speeds which falls well within the class 4 specification.
Random 512k and 4k writes are slow like they are with most cards, but the 4k write speeds in particular were abysmal. Yes, that's the correct amount of zeros, I ran the test three times (0.007, 0.006 and 0.007). You're probably not going to do a whole lot of random 4k writes so that's probably the least important of the tests, but it's also the one that was drastically and substantially different from either of the other cards (0.964 for the Patriot and 0.604 for the Mushkin). Benchmarks were taken using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1c at the default settings.
Seq Read: 20.04 MB/s
Seq Write: 5.034 MB/s
512k Read: 19.59 MB/s
512k Write: 0.788 MB/s
4k Read: 3.292 MB/s
4k Write: 0.007 MB/s

Overall the Kingston 16GB microSDHC Card is pretty average; it works well enough in the generic tablet and is fast enough for normal use. However it loses points for having a 4k random write speed that was 100 times slower than the other cards, not including an SD adapter, and not including a protective case. Both of the other cards included these two small bonus items for the same price and managed to give us a faster card as well.
While this card isn't terrible, I would avoid it in favor of either of the other cards. Out of the two remaining cards, I would recommend the Patriot because it had significantly faster write speeds across the board and also had the largest formatted capacity out of the three cards to make it the clear winner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mushkin 16GB Class 4 microSDHC Card

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: Can record HD video. Comes with an SD adapter and a really handy carrying case
Cons: Average speeds; you can do better for the same price unless this is on sale

I picked up a couple of different brands of 16GB microSDHC cards for my nieces' generic Android tablets. Since they each got one, I figured I would be clever and get two different brands of cards so that I could compare them and see which was better. The cards I got were a Kingston 16GB microSDHC Card (SDC4/16GBSP) and this Mushkin 16GB microSDHC (MKNUSDHCC4-16GB) Card. I also previously reviewed a Patriot Signature Line 16GB microSDHC Card (PSF16GMCSDHC43P) that I picked up for a Motorola DROID 4 Phone, so that gives me a good variety of similar cards from different manufacturers.
All three cards are 16GB in size, they are all microSDHC and they are all Class 4 cards. Having similar sizes and speed ratings, you would think that they were all pretty comparable... but you would be mistaken as one of these cards is ahead of the others by leaps and bounds when it comes to performance. This review will focus particularly on the Mushkin 16GB microSD Card, though I will poke at the others for the sake of comparison.
First of all, the Mushkin card arrived in a nice blister pack. Opening it up I was presented with a familiar plastic case 2" wide by 1.5" tall plastic case containing the microSDHC card itself, as well as an SD adapter so that I could use the card in a regular SD card slot. I don't care if every one of my cards comes with an adapter, but it's sure convenient to have at least one on hand so any time a card does come with one is an added bonus.
The transparent plastic case is also pretty nice; it's fairly sturdy and has a latch on the right-hand side to make sure it stays closed and your precious cards don't come tumbling out and get lost. There are form-fitted notches inside the case that both the card and the adapter sit into so they're also not banging around inside the case. The adapter simply says "microSD Adapter" on it and is otherwise plain black, and features the standard write protect locking lever on the left hand side to prevent overwriting data. The card itself has the Mushkin brand name, microSDHC and 16GB written on it but is otherwise plain black as well. Both pieces have the standard notch in the top left corner to prevent them being inserted upside down or otherwise incorrectly.
Being a Class 4 card, this card should adhere to a minimum 4 MB/s speed for both reading and writing on a new empty card. This coincides with the sequential speed test in the below benchmarks. Your data will not always be written and read in order from a fresh card though, so I also find it important to check out the random speeds for 512k and 4k chunks of data to get an overall picture of how the card will perform for me.
The Mushkin 16GB microSDHC card comes preformatted with the FAT32 filesystem and has a total capacity of 15,464,398,848 bytes (14.4 GB). Windows 7 offered to let me use it for the Windows ReadyBoost feature; while that's not really useful these days with the price of RAM being so low, it at least tells me that the card meets the minimum speed requirements to be used as such. I've used Mushkin memory modules in the past and was happy with them, so I had high hopes for this card.
Benchmarking was done using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1c using the default settings. Interpreting the results we see that the sequential read speed and random 512k read speeds were good, which is to be expected. The sequential write speed was well over the 4 MB/s minimum as well, but the random 512k and 4k writes were average to slow. The Kingston card I picked up at the same time for the same price was pretty comparable across the board, but it had random 4k write speeds much slower (0.07 MB/s). On the other hand, the Patriot card had significantly faster write speeds across the board for the same price... as well as a larger total formatted capacity (14.9 GB as opposed to 14.4 GB).
Seq Read: 20.03 MB/s
Seq Write: 5.100 MB/s
512k Read: 19.26 MB/s
512k Write: 0.854 MB/s
4k Read: 3.713 MB/s
4k Write: 0.604 MB/s

It's not that this card is slow, it does fall within the SD Association Class 4 speed range, it's just that the Patriot card I had before was so much faster and identically priced. This card is perfectly average in every way and should work well in any device that requires a Class 4 card. It works well in the tablet and would work similarly well in a phone or camera, and is fast enough to write a streaming HD video recording from your device.
However, if you don't find it on sale somewhere I'd suggest picking up the Patriot card instead since it has significantly faster write speeds for the same price.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Silicon Power 32GB Class 10 microSDHC Card

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: Large capacity, good price, fast enough to record HD video from the phone
Cons: Comparable speeds to the Patriot class 4 card in my brother's phone

Since we had our son in May my fiancee has been taking loads and loads of pictures with her phone and quickly filled up the 8GB memory card she had. I decided that we would just skip getting a 16GB memory card upgrade and go straight for the 32GB card, which is the maximum amount officially supported by the Motorola DROID 4. I heard some people had luck with 64GB microSDXC cards if they were reformatted, but I didn't want to chance it. 

Newegg had a couple of cards in one of the email newsletters that week; one was a Team Group class 4 card for $16 and the other was a class 10 card from Silicon Power for $20. I have one USB flash drive from each company on my desk and I was unhappy with the speeds of both, so I decided to get the class 10 card for the extra $4. I figured if the speeds weren't up to par, they would still be good enough if I purchased the faster card to start with.
The card is a microSDHC card and comes with a microSD to SD adapter so that you can use it in things like laptops and printers that may have an SD card reader built in but not a microSD one. I do have a USB card reader that will take either one, but the old laptop we have will only take full size SD cards so it was nice that they included this. This also makes it possible to use the card in devices like cameras that take full size SD cards in the first place.
This Silicon Power microSDHC card comes pre-formatted with the FAT32 file system and has a total capacity of 31,902,400,512 bytes (29.7GB). It is a solid black, standard sized card (about 15mm long, 11mm wide and 1mm thick). It also has the standard notch on the right side so that it can't be inserted upside down. The included SD adapter is also notched for correct insertion and features the normal write-lock switch that you can slide down to make the card read-only until you slide it back up.
This card is designed for high-speed continuous shooting capability, and the class 10 speed rating means the card should write at a minimum speed of 10MB/s. Benchmarks were taken using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1c at the default settings. As we can see this card just meets the class 10 requirements for writing sequential and 512k random chunks of data. Good enough to write HD video streaming from the phone's camera anyway.
Sequential Read: 20.03 MB/s
Sequential Write: 11.90 MB/s
512k Random Read: 19.69 MB/s
512k Random Write: 11.38 MB/s
4k Random Read: 3.384 MB/s
4k Random Write: 1.321 MB/s

It's not a bad card and it does work well in the phone, but I'm a bit disappointed overall that the speeds aren't a bit higher considering it's a class 10 card. This class 10 card is comparable across the board to the 16GB class 4 Patriot Signature card that we picked up for my brother's phone; a little faster in a couple of the tests and a little slower in a couple others. It is fast enough that Windows offered to let me use it for Windows ReadyBoost when I inserted the card reader with the card in it.
The cards are RoHS compliant and fully compatible with the SD 2.0 standard. They have built in Error Correcting Code (ECC) and are rated for a minimum of 10,0000 insertions. They can be used in an operating temperature of 0ºC to 70ºC, and stored in temperatures ranging from -25ºC to 85ºC at between 8% and 95% humidity. These cards are assembled in Taiwan and feature a lifetime warranty. I'm fairly happy with the card in general, but I wish it was a little faster since it's barely an improvement over the class 4 card from Patriot. Three stars.