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By Chris De Herrera 
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COMPACT FLASH CARD SHOOTOUTJim Christian Photo

By Jim Christian, Copyright 1999
Version 1.01,  Revised 8/28/99
Associate Editor of Windows CE Mag at http://www.hpcmag.com
and Compuserve (GO) Palmtop Sysop

Shop unique and cheap iPhone cases on DHgate.com

Introduction

Thinking about buying a compact flash card to add programs on it as well as backup to it? Think they're all the same? Well maybe, read on.

Card technology has gone a long way. I have a color 16 MB + 16 MB HP 680LX Jornada with an 80 MB Lexar compact flash card in the CF slot for programs and a 16 MB Simple CF (w/adapter) in the PCMCIA slot for database backup. Add those together and that's a whopping 138 MB device that I stick in my coat pocket. Whoa! Good stuff is happening for us power users who need that type of capacity.

But should I have bought one of the hot new Simple Technology cards, or the Lexar who touts being the fastest, or the old standby Scandisk? What do Viking and HP have? Which one is the fastest? Who's the cheapest? What about a used one? How do I know any of them will work in my unit? Good tough questions, and here's some answers.

Testing

For these tests I collected the following cards that I have. Many were bought from Shore Systems,  whom has a good card information site as well as some the Sandisks were loaned to me from others.

1. Viking Components 45M compact flash card, serial #0003757101. Made in 1998.
2. Simple Technology 16M compact flash card, serial #90000-00695-024. Made in 1998.
3. Lexar 32M compact flash card, no serial number. The card has 4X written on the front. Made in 1998.
4. Lexar 80M compact flash card, no serial number. The card has 8X written on the front. Made in 1999.
5. Sandisk 20M compact flash card, 1997 era.
6. Sandisk 10M compact flash card, 1997 era.
7. HP 10M PCMCIA card, #F1013A, made in 1993.

All the manufacturers web sites said they would work with my HP 680, my wife 's HP Casio E-105 and my son's HP 660LX. Are we a PDA family, or what? The test was a technical no-brainer and consists of only backing up my HP 680 to each one of the cards. The parameters were:

1. The HP was installed in an HP docking station with the AC adapter attached.
2. Another test was the done but the PDA was running on half empty batteries.
3. The built in HP 680 backup program was used.
4. All taskbar startup programs were closed and the unit was soft reset before each test.
5. The following databases were backed up:
    a. 1,441 Contacts
    b. 318 Appointments
    c. 65 Tasks
    d. 20 Inbox's
    e. a few smaller databases

The total backup file size was 772K as read by the Properties of the backed up file.

The time to backup each card were as follows:

  1. Sandisk 10M - 11 seconds
  2. Simple 16M - 12 seconds
  3. Viking 45M - 18 seconds
  4. Lexar 32M - 23 seconds
  5. Lexar 80M - 25 seconds
  6. Old (made in 1993) HP PCMCIA 10M - 27 seconds
  7. Sandisk 20M - 32 seconds

Analysis

There was no discernable time difference between whether the unit was on AC power or a battery, although I never recommend backups to be done, if possible, on batteries due to the loss of backup data that could occur if the unit goes down due to insufficient battery current.

So what did we learn? Is the highly touted 4X and 8X speed Lexar faster? Maybe not, on this small database file. Does card capacity make a difference? Probably. What about this years latest model vs. a few years ago? Hmmm. startling to me. I also learned that this awesome HP 680 accepted all the cards I threw at it without one bitch. Great job, HP!

My thoughts are that they are all OK if you're backing up only your Pocket Outlook databases. The 16 second difference between the fastest Sandisk at 11 seconds and the big, old, slow HP PCMCIA card at 27 seconds is a hardly anything to be concerned about. Also I have over 1,400 Contacts and yours are probably half that. So you can probably halve the average down to 10 seconds for you.

Recommendations

My recommendations? Pick the capacity you need, find a financially solid manufacturer that has good telephone and web support like the above, and buy on price. Check the suppliers, also, that advertise in our magazine. Don't forget the used market as these devices very seldom fail and people like me are always upgrading to a larger card.

If you want to push me into picking a brand for you I guess I would suggest you first look at Lexar due to their (1) interest in improving speed, (2) good controller technology and compatibility, and (3) I have never had one not work flawlessly in 6 Windows CE devices I have owned. Your mileage may vary.

There is a time where you might need the fastest card, though. BSquare is now shipping a gorgeous backup program named BUseful Backup Plus. It backs up your complete unit including all of your databases, all of your installed programs, and wherever they are located, the main memory or the cards memory. It even backs up the registry, something that the built in HP 680 program doesn't say it does. I timed the "backup and verify" speed of 41.4 M (the program compresses the backup) and 1,299 objects and it took 29 minutes on the Viking 45M, which has many programs installed on it. A 50% faster card would make a lot of difference but do we sit and stare at the screen while these backups are going on? No, not me, I head for a cola. My above recommendations stand.

I recommend all owners have a CompactFlash card to load programs on and backup to. Previous tips and pointed you on whom to buy as well as other ideas. But now that you're going to buy one what are the items one needs to think about. Here are a few:

  1. I have found little, if any, speed degradation if a program is executed from a card so load most of your programs there, if you can.
  2. If you have a card modem with add-on programs that need the modem, you'll need to load them in main memory, as you'll have to remove the CF card to install the modem.
  3. Don't think that all the program will be installed on the card, far from it. Many programs put up to 1/3rd into the Windows directory in main memory, eating up you precious memory.
  4. Consider buying 2 cards, one for the backups that you keep in your desk, and the other for programs and doc files.
  5. Buy a larger card than you think you need. Believe me, you will use it.
  6. Buy at least two backup programs and alternate their use. Reason: I have tried to do restores before and have gotten corrupted backups - don't ask me why.
  7. If you run out of main memory your card probably won't be accessible, as the card program requires main memory.

Here's another good use of a card. Say you're traveling and your Windows CE PC Companion crashes. No problemo, you say, I have a backup. So you do a Restore, as I did once on an airplane, and the Restore is corrupted! I don't have anything and my desktop backup is 5,000 miles away, yikes, what do I do?

No problemo, again. Just carry your Contacts, Appointments and Tasks on the card in an .xls format. Go to your desktops Outlook - File - Import/Export and send them to you desktop in .xls format and then drag them to your card, while Mobile Devices is running. Always have a backup and in multiple ways! P/PC users will have to buy a spreadsheet program, of course.

A CompactFlash card shouldn't impact battery life but to prove it to myself I did the following: turned the backlight and volume all the way up and started HUM playing MP3 files from my 40MB Lexar CF card. The 68 minutes of tracks were set to repeat. I got 2.5 hours before the low battery warning came up. The test time was within a few seconds w/o a card.

My wife's Casio E-105 and 40 MB Lexar CF card was then tested with a Casio Mobile Audio MP3 Player looping on an MP3 file in the internal memory, headphones plugged in, maximum volume, and screen turned off. There was no CF card inserted. The same test was done, but with the CF card inserted w/MP3 playing off the CF card. The results were essentially the same at 3 hours when the first "low battery" warning came on.

Conclusion

So what did we learn? CompactFlash Cards make essentially no battery time difference when operating, although one would think they would draw a little more current during a reboot. Also, the batteries were fully charged before each of the above tests. Here's another thing that happened to me once. I had loaded a lot of new programs to my card to test for you and all of a sudden, no card! Here's the reason. when one adds programs to a card it also adds files to your main memory, typically in the Windows folder. Upon checking available main memory I was out of it. The solution was to move the memory bar right to free some up. Bingo. All the programs came back.

Lastly, check out the CompactFlash Association and at the Handheld PC Magazine article for more information on CompactFlash cards.

Jim Christian

Associate Editor of Windows CE Magazine
Compuserve Win CE Sysop in their (GO) Palmtop forum
MSN Associate Windows CE Forum Manager
Contributing Editor to Chris De Herrera's www.pocketpcfaq.com web site

For a complete roundup of Backup programs, check out the Backup & Restore FAQ.


What are your comments on CompactFlash Compatibility?
Please post them on the Forums


Date:
27 Sep 1999
Time:
09:24:20
Remote User:

Comments

I have a Helwett Palm top 620 lx Neet to knoww how to axcess my flash cards. E-mail is [email protected],without hooking up to lap top.


Date:
01 Oct 1999
Time:
09:00:55
Remote User:

Comments

Jim,


Date:
01 Oct 1999
Time:
09:03:52
Remote User:

Comments

Jim,

I recently had problems with my Casio E-11 PPC with a Lexar 8MB 4x Compact Flash Card that I got for my Epson Camera. When I used the Lexar CF, my E-11 repeatedly lost pen calibration. I replaced the Lexar with a Pretec and a SanDisk CF card (8MB and 10Mb respectively), and the problem went away. I am also using Radio Shack AAA NiMH, so the battery set I am using may not have quite enough amperage to keep the CF card and the PPC voltage high enough. [email protected]


Date:
03 Nov 1999
Time:
21:50:22
Remote User:

Comments

I have a Philips Nino 319 with a modem. I am having trouble getting the modem to work. I have the setting to wait for dial tone before dialing. After a short delay, the unit dials. Can you guide me to a place that will help me trouble shootmy modem.

[email protected]


Date:
14 Dec 1999
Time:
08:50:02
Remote User:

Comments

I have a HP 690 Jornada H/PC fitted with a 48 mb Simple Technologies CF card. Backing up and restoring the contacts databases using the built-in HP backup program presents no problems. However, I cannot do a full backup & restore without getting corrupted backups. The same problem also occurs on my friend's HP 690, also fitted with a Simple Tech CF card. Strange, but Bsquare's Buseful backup+ gave me no problems. Any ideas?


Date:
01 Feb 2000
Time:
19:21:44
Remote User:

Comments

Loving the SanDisk 48Mb card I put in my LG Phenom II. I like having lots of room for Pocket Streets maps, AvantGo pages and PalmBible. No problems yet although for some reason the CF card seems to slow down Windows Explorer a bit. *shrug*


Date:
02 Feb 2000
Time:
13:27:52
Remote User:

Comments

I have a Jornada 680e with the upgrade which gives me 32mb of memeory. and I have two mb compactflash cards plus two 8mb with other info on. However I have not got half the information that you seem to have on yours and I am only left with 128kb at the present moment. Because you seem the ideal person to help any ideas [email protected]


Date:
02 Feb 2000
Time:
14:43:27
Remote User:

Comments

I have a Sandisk 20 MB and when used in either slot of my NEC MobilePro 770 the machine locks up when the cover is closed. Any suggestions? I have to reset each time.


Date:
11 Feb 2000
Time:
09:45:41
Remote User:

Comments

I got a simpletech 64 MB card for my Casio E-100 and found that both simpletech and casio agree this card won't work in my Cassiopea. Guess what, it doesn't. Beware


Date:
21 Feb 2000
Time:
20:28:45
Remote User:

Comments

What is the difference between a Type I and II Compact Flash Card


Date:
02 Jun 2000
Time:
14:29:01
Remote User:

Comments

I had lots of trouble trying to get a CE 2 Casio E-105 to "find" mp3 files on a Sandisk 128M CF card. I finally just returned the whole unit after talking through a lot of tests with tech support from the company that sold it to me. The OS just did not ever detect files on the card, although the same card provided music in an HPC 2.11 NEC 780 just fine. The new CE 3.0 E-115 sometimes finds the card: not all applications seem to do it: Hum does, Media Player doesn't. You need the latest free Hum from the web site, though. I am having trouble with the Hum player not working and having to reinstall it though. Doug ([email protected])


Date:
03 Jun 2000
Time:
10:30:12
Remote User:

Comments

Just have to follow up on my previous comment: It seems to make a real big difference to the Casio Pocket PC if you put files on the cf storage card within a folder entitled My Documents for some reason. There is a comment about this in Hum's help, and when you do this, then Windows Media Player can play mp3 straight off the storage card. So when you are stuck, this is a good thing to try. Doug ([email protected])


Date:
19 Jun 2000
Time:
08:00:47
Remote User:

Comments

Doug, THANK YOU for that tip. I to, was about to return my storage card. If it wasn' for you tip I would be cardless. Thanks again. Richie([email protected])


Date:
21 Jun 2000
Time:
18:49:50
Remote User:

Comments

BOY, DO I APPRECIATE THE INFORMATION YOU SUPPLY ABOUT P/PC'S. IM NOT GREEN, IM A BARELY A SPROUT. LOT OF THIS STUFF GETS QUITE COMPLEX AND I AGAIN APPRECIATE YOUR TIME AND EFFORT.

BILLY, CLEVELAND, OHIO


Date:
18 Jul 2000
Time:
22:17:09
Remote User:

Comments

I have seen a compact flash card with a jumper, but it never worked, it was for a digital camera. I want to load mp3s to a compact flash card, but I am worried that it will take too long to copy. Are there any such devices out there that will copy mp3s and data files to a comppact flash card in a shorter time?


Date:
20 Sep 2000
Time:
09:09:21
Remote User:

Comments

Is there a reason you did not include IBM's CF Microdrive in your performance comparison?? I would also be interested in a battery comparison test between CF memory cards and IBM's CF Microdrive.

Any information would be appreciated.

Dale Ratliff [email protected]


Date:
20 Sep 2000
Time:
14:46:22
Remote User:

Comments


Date:
20 Sep 2000
Time:
14:50:47
Remote User:

Comments

Does anyone know where I can get a new high capacity(64-128 mb)compactflash card for my Ipaq within a reasonable price range. also, how much does flash memory normally cost. E-Mail: [email protected]


Date:
20 Sep 2000
Time:
18:20:16
Remote User:

Comments

need info.nino 500 as music player thank you . alberto m d


Date:
01 Oct 2000
Time:
17:16:33
Remote User:

Comments

My CF card is all messed up, and my HPC is the only device I own which can access the CF card. Is there any way to format the CF card using my HPC?

[email protected]


Date:
25 Oct 2000
Time:
05:16:49
Remote User:

Comments

Dear Jim I have Cassiopeża A-11A 6 mb.. May I use 16 mb compact flush memory card and ż want to know what is the different PCMCI card


Date:
06 Nov 2000
Time:
21:41:26
Remote User:

Comments

Jim, I have at this time a Nino 300 and need to be able to connect it to a win98/2000 network with possible LINUX networking, i did check out the reviews and stuff on the CF cards for networking but i am still muddy as to which i could actually us in my machine as it is running Win CE 2.0 if you could help me with this i would be very grateful my e-mail is [email protected] Thankyou with kind regards Peter


Date:
19 Nov 2000
Time:
16:46:55
Remote User:

Comments

Please inform us where is the best price homepage we can purchase compact flush from


Date:
03 Jan 2001
Time:
20:32:20
Remote User:

Comments

i have finally found perhaps the forum i have been searching for, for weeks. actually, i too, am running win ce on my NEC Mobile Pro 800 and I just bought a 340mb IBM microdrive that fits into the CF type II. when it asks to format i click yes but then i get an error number 31 in the formatting and according to hints from IBM spec sheet, I need to contact the system provider for a solution. i have spent hours on windows ce website, with microsoft's website, NEC's website, and IBM's website and i still can't get it to work. the mobilepro 800 recognizes the microdrive in properties but i can't format it and use it. i read there is an install of an "atadisk.dll" that could work. i tried that for my MIPS 4000 chip but couldn't get it to work. i know the drive is not faulty because i tried it on a digital camera and it worked and stored data without a request to format it. I did, however, get a reponse from IBM that i think is the answer: They responded to me:"That type of error will occur if the device that you are using the microdrive in doesn't supply enough power for the microdrive to run correctly. The drive needs 3.3v in order run correctly. You will have to contact your OEM, or your system manufacturer in order to get a resolution to this problem." NEC says they don't support more than 64 mb compact flash so that's the answer. I'm going to next try to get pc adapter and see if it works in pc slot. If not...anyone want to buy a great NEC Mobile Pro 800 with all the stuff(software, cables, box, books,and a 4 year full transferrable warranty, everything included, even if the screen cracks) for $600.00 plus s and H.? it sells for $899.00 or more on the web etc. and I have barely used it. or perhaps someone wants to buy a perfectly great IBM 340 mb microdrive for cf II slot(type 2) for $249.00 plus s and h? it sells for at least $279.00 to $300.00 on the web etc. i any one can help, or if anyone interested in buying either item, please e-mail me at [email protected] ps: i hope i haven't offended anyone with this paragraph re: selling of either item.

tia, meziggy "so much to learn and do...so little time"


Date:
08 Feb 2001
Time:
19:27:10
Remote User:

Comments

Does anybody know the battery consumption on 340MB Microdrive? Heard that 1GB MD is better and only required minimal power than 340MB MD.


Date:
05 Jun 2001
Time:
09:24:43
Remote User:

Comments

Does any Wireless CF card solution now? I mean it can fit 802.11b.


Date:
05 Jun 2001
Time:
09:27:22
Remote User:

Comments

Does any Wireless CF card solution now? I mean it can fit 802.11b. Pls. advise your commands. [email protected]


Date:
20 Sep 2001
Time:
21:29:12
Remote User:

Comments

this is a great article. But can you tell me where to find a used market for compact flash cards? I have looked and looked, and have been unable to find one.... TIA


Date:
06 Jan 2002
Time:
19:39:18
Remote User:

Comments

I have 2 Taiwanese made CF 128M (IPROC)& 256M (PQI). Testing with Mp3s & videos files, I found that both can hang after 7 songs and only work again after reset. The PQI has additional tracking issue with AV files. I'm using E115. What is really at fault ? Kindly answer email to [email protected] before Feb 2002. thanks


Date:
12 Feb 2002
Time:
18:22:17
Remote User:

Comments

dear sir, i have casio e100 cassiopeia i lose my softwear please adwise me how to use my pocket pc&please send me your latest palmtop's cataloge to my address sh m shahid v/404 naswari bazar rawalpindi 46000 pakistan [email protected]


Date:
16 Aug 2002
Time:
13:00:57
Remote User:

Comments

wish to know how long it takes to down load to my comp


Date:
06 Jan 2003
Time:
22:37:57
Remote User:

Comments

Hi Great reading - I do have one issue and that is with bSquare what ever became of them fax software and more - can't find any thing on their web site that even mentions that they are in the software business. Can some email me with some comments to this. Bill [email protected] thks bby


Date:
08 Feb 2003
Time:
09:41:59
Remote User:

Comments

Where can I buy the lowest priced, good quality CF Card and CF Modem Card? Thanks and more power! ed de guzman miami, fl


Date:
08 Feb 2003
Time:
09:51:33
Remote User:

Comments

Are all compact flash memory cards the same? Meaning, will one work in any device that use CF memory cards? Where can I get information on the different kinds of handheld memory? I have read that there are now 6-in-1 card reader/writer and even a 7-in-1? Thanks for your prompt reply. ed de guzman miami, fl


Date:
10 Feb 2003
Time:
21:51:56
Remote User:

Comments

SOS! Where can I buy the lowest priced compact flash modem and compact flash memory and SD cards for my BE-300? Thank you! ed de guzman beautiful Philippines


Date:
11 Mar 2003
Time:
14:28:17
Remote User:

Comments

Could you add to your article. My currect case is this. I bought a 256 Mb CF Lexar Media card 12x wow is right but I've been using a 125 4x same Lexar and my Cassiopeia E-125 is asking for "The name of the device driver for this card and gives me an entry line. The vendor sold me the card for $27 + $10 S & H and sent it bare in a priority flat (yikes!) I was looking for a communications link to Lexar when I saw your fantastic article. I need your comments on this situation. Think it will work? [email protected]


Date:
10 Dec 2003
Time:
11:44:21
Remote User:

Comments

how long does flash card memory stay resident without degredation if no power is available ?


Date:
30 Sep 2004
Time:
01:14:33
Remote User:

Comments

difference between Compact Flash Card and Pen drive? Advantage / Disadvantage for using Compact Flash Card instead of Pen Drive for storing data from data logger of Product and same downloading in a PC through USB Port

I reserve the right to edit or remove your entry if I feel it is inappropriate. 

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