A Thought About ReadyBoost . . .

One of the new features meant to boost Vista performance is ReadyBoost, which is essentially “use flash memory rather than the hard drive.”

So far people have been underwhelmed by it, as evidenced here.

However, it should be noted that current tests are being run with current flash memory, the fastest of which isn’t too fast compared to that of hard drives. For instance, the Anandtech tests used a Corsair Flash Voyager, which has a maximum read/write output of 33MB/16MB a second.

That’s about as fast as it gets for flash at the moment, but the read rate is not much more than half that of a reasonably decent hard drive.

As we pointed out last month, the next generation of the best flash is supposed to get up to about typical hard drive speed.

Even with that kind of flash, ReadyBoost will still be no substitute for adding real RAM to the system, and whether it will provide any boost to non-RAM starved systems remains to be seen, but if the thought intrigues you, at least wait for the faster stuff.

However, that’s not likely to be the main problem with ReadyBoost; looks like another Sixpack disaster coming.

The marketing pitch for ReadyBoost seems to be, “Have no RAM in your old box (and you’re afraid to open it and put more in), but want Vista? No problem! Just buy and attach a USB drive, and you’ll be fine!”

Unfortunately, while the Flash Voyager doesn’t give a hard drive much competition, it is a speed demon compared to the average USB drive, especially the cheaper ones. You can very easily buy a multi-GB USB drive that runs at only a third the speed of the Voyager, and I make no claim that’s the worst out there.

And take three guesses what kind of drive your typical Sixpack will get to save a couple dozen dollars? Not like the makers exactly splash actual speeds on the packaging for the slow ones, or are above saying something like “USB 2.0! 480Mbps a second!!” Some of these folks won’t even own up to the speed even on their websites or manuals!

A slow USB drive may not be too big a deal when it’s just being used to move pictures or some files around, but when you’re using it as essentially your go-to hard drive, well it wouldn’t surprise me if the slow ones would actually decrease performance.

Yes, Vista is supposed to reject USB drives that are too slow, but their definition of “OK” is much lower than what I’ve described here. It seems to be meant more to prevent people from using older USB drives than using lousy new USB drives.

So beware, for yourself, and especially for others.


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