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Video review: SD card to IDE adapter

philscomputerlab

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I thought this review of a SD card to IDE adapter is most suitable for early Pentium machines.

Here is the gist: Prices of these adapters have come down, I got this one for 10 Australian dollars shipped from eBay. The adapter supports DMA and I had no problem with a 386, Pentium III and Core 2 auto detecting SD cards. On the 386 I had to use EZ-Drive to break the 500 MB limit, but this is normal.

The adapter maxes out at around 25 MB/s transfer rate, which is plenty of speed. Access time is basically zero and the SD cards I used do very well with reading and writing small files. ATTO and Crystal Disk benchmarks are in the video.

I had some issues with running a second device on the same IDE channel, but on the 386 this worked fine. The adapter doesn't have a master / slave jumper, so that is likely the reason.

At least were I live, SD cards are readily available at the super market or post office, whereas CF cards have to be ordered in. Prices also seem lower with SD cards, this is likely just a numbers game.

I used this adapter in 4 machines all up and haven't had a single issue. I can also recommend using it for Windows because of the excellent small file performance.

Here is the full video review:

 

eeguru

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Nice video. Glad to see someone gives more than 2 seconds of thought to proper presentation planning and post editing.

When you plug in cables, please support the bottom of the board with your other hand. When you flex the board like you are doing, you run the risk of cracking or damaging traces and/or component solder. PCBs effectively have copper wires (foil). And like any wire, if you bend it enough, it will fatigue and eventually separate.
 

philscomputerlab

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Thanks :) I'm still learning lots but working hard to improve.

I'd really like a proper motherboard tray that I can mount boards onto. When I work with newer gear and bigger coolers, they do bend the board quite a bit. Any ideas?
 

eeguru

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Thanks :) I'm still learning lots but working hard to improve.

I'd really like a proper motherboard tray that I can mount boards onto. When I work with newer gear and bigger coolers, they do bend the board quite a bit. Any ideas?

If you wanted something that would sparkle in your videos, try frontpanelexpress.com. You can get hole positions from the ATX specification. Then use fpexpress' easy tool to create an aluminum plate with ether threaded holes or pressed-in studs (adding plastic spacers yourself). Add some in-filled engraving with your blog signature and bingo... a nice center piece for review videos. They might even do it for free since you have quite a bit followership already. Doesn't hurt to ask.
 

GiGaBiTe

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I had some issues with running a second device on the same IDE channel, but on the 386 this worked fine. The adapter doesn't have a master / slave jumper, so that is likely the reason.

The adapter could be set to cable select, which requires a special CS enabled IDE cable to work properly.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/IDE_PATA_CS_CABLE_SELECT_CUT_IMG_0660.JPG

Here's a page on how to modify a 40 wire IDE cable for cable select:

http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/ide-cable-select.html

80 wire cables are harder to modify since the wires are smaller and you have to figure out which is a ground wire vs an actual signal wire.
 

GiGaBiTe

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Something I'd be interested in is the longevity of SD cards used in such a configuration. I'm not sure if many SD cards have wear leveling and old operating systems can be pretty hard on solid state media since they read and write to specific locations frequently.
 

Moondog

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Good point about long term usage. As SD card may serve better as extended drive storage rather than a primary system drive.
 

philscomputerlab

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I'm sure someone out there must have already looked into this?

I will use the adapter in some of my future build projects and see how I go with reliability and anything else worth reporting.

I'm just using it with a Pentium III 1 GHz, Matrox G400 and V2 in SLI.

One thing I really like is that I can shut down the computer, put the SD card into my desktop, and load drivers, benchmarks, tools and games so much faster than USB or Ethernet.

On that machine, comparing it with a 80 GB SATA drive, the SD card just kills it. It's a lot more responsive, boots faster, installs faster, shuts down quicker. All the good stuff.
 
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GiGaBiTe

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The SD card is probably faster from the lower access times, but an ATA100/133 hard drive is going to have more raw throughput unless you have one of those expensive UHS class SD cards.
 

philscomputerlab

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The SD card is probably faster from the lower access times, but an ATA100/133 hard drive is going to have more raw throughput unless you have one of those expensive UHS class SD cards.

On a Pentium III access time sure beats transfer rate. I mean 25 MB per second, as if the Pentium III has any hope of processing that :D Unless you are copying files around, but then you run into other small pipes like USB or networking performance.

I build different systems all the time, so while I do benchmarks, in the end of the day you see straight away what really makes a difference by working on lots of different machines. And currently I'm really enjoying this SD card adapter. I will use it in an up-coming video project I'm working on :D
 

cthulhu

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On a Pentium III access time sure beats transfer rate. I mean 25 MB per second, as if the Pentium III has any hope of processing that

Huh? 25 MB/s is nothing. I can do 30+ MB/s on a Raspberry Pi over USB. A Pentium III is certainly a step up from that.
 

Chuck(G)

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I'm a little confused--did any P3 system come with on-board SATA? Or are you using some sort of an adapter?

At any rate, I don't know if I'd use an SD card for something like Windows XP, given the high write frequency of that OS. Linux, sure or even DOS or Win 3.x. Given the low price of SD media, I doubt that there's much write wear-leveling going on.

But for everyday "noodling", it's probably fine.
 

cthulhu

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Like I said, that isn't processing any data, just copying.

Even with processing a Pentium III can do much better than 25 MB/s. It entirely depends on what you're doing. As an example my Raspberry Pi can read from /dev/zram0 at 100-300 MB/s which is where my swap is stored. It's decompressing on the fly while doing this.
 

philscomputerlab

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I'm a little confused--did any P3 system come with on-board SATA? Or are you using some sort of an adapter?

At any rate, I don't know if I'd use an SD card for something like Windows XP, given the high write frequency of that OS. Linux, sure or even DOS or Win 3.x. Given the low price of SD media, I doubt that there's much write wear-leveling going on.

But for everyday "noodling", it's probably fine.

Sata? The controller uses IDE and the adapter converts a SD memory card to IDE interface.

EDIT: Oh, the 80 GB drive? I used a SATA to IDE adapter.

Yea, Windows 98 is as "modern" OS as I would use it. Working great so far, an upgrade over period correct platter drives. Windows XP, no way. SATA drives are cheap and easy to source for XP machines.

Even with processing a Pentium III can do much better than 25 MB/s. It entirely depends on what you're doing. As an example my Raspberry Pi can read from /dev/zram0 at 100-300 MB/s which is where my swap is stored. It's decompressing on the fly while doing this.

Yes, it depends on what you do, exactly my point. Benchmarks are great, but pretty meaningless for what I do. Like I said earlier, for booting, shutting down, installing and starting applications, the SD card beats a 80 GB drive hands down. That is on an ATA100 controller, 820 chipset, 1 GHz Pentium III.
 
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GiGaBiTe

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On a Pentium III access time sure beats transfer rate. I mean 25 MB per second, as if the Pentium III has any hope of processing that :D Unless you are copying files around, but then you run into other small pipes like USB or networking performance.

25 MB/s is nothing for a PIII system. The ATA IDE bus can run up to 133 MB/s, PC-133 memory is between 300-700 MB/s and AGP 4x is 1066 MB/s.

USB is a problem if you're using onboard USB controllers from the time, which max out at 1.5 MB/s. Though you can just add a PCI USB 2.0 card to get up to 60 MB/s.

Like I said, that isn't processing any data, just copying.

If the SD card is running in PIO mode then the CPU is most definitely involved in processing the transfer. DMA removes much of the burden, but the CPU is still involved in most cases in some lesser degree.
 

philscomputerlab

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I'd like to see that 60 MB/s on a USB 2 card please :)

I happen to have done a video on this topic:


Again, on a Slot 1 machine, ATA33 is the limit of the onboard controller.

My point with the processing, I put in another way. Let's say you have a Pentium III Slot 1 machine, an add-on SATA PCI controller with a 120 GB SATA drive. Now you use the machine with a Pentium II 233 MHz, then you swap the processor to a 1 GHz Pentium III.

Will there be a difference in responsiveness? Like boot times, how long it takes to install something, how long it takes to load up a game or a program?

Big time! That's what I mean with 25 MB/s for HDD transfer speed is plenty for a Pentium III.
 

Chuck(G)

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Sata? The controller uses IDE and the adapter converts a SD memory card to IDE interface.

EDIT: Oh, the 80 GB drive? I used a SATA to IDE adapter.

That's what I was talking about. Those things are useful, but one shouldn't expect a lot from them.

I've long thought that a SD to 8-bit XT adapter would be interesting. Should be pretty easy to do--just about any MCU that can do SPI should be able to handle it.
 
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