cenatek SSD ExpressCard
- Fast read/write times (for an ExpressCard), Works with ReadyBoost
- Design ill-suited for frequent insertions, ReadyBoost only useful with low specifications
While not quite as speedy as its name suggests, the Cenatek RocketDrive is a reliably fast ExpressCard that performs its primary functions well.
To the dismay of old school PCI fans, ExpressCards have successfully muscled their way into the Flash storage arena; replacing CardBus slots on nearly every current notebook on the market. In much the same way that you'll eventually have to succumb to Windows Vista, this means that it's only a matter of time before you're forced to replace your obsolete PC cards and upgrade to the new technology. It's just as well then, that the latest SSD standard offers several significant advantages over the previous incarnation, including increased bitrates, less power consumption and the ability to boost Windows Vista's performance using ReadyBoost.
The Cenatek RocketDrive Micro is a decent option for those who want to upgrade their Flash memory along with their notebook, offering 8GB of additional storage tailor-made for Vista machines. We were particularly impressed by the RocketDrive's fast write speeds, which put many of its competitors to shame.
For comparative purposes, we have been using the same notebook model for our ExpressCard reviews; an Acer Aspire 4920G-3A2G16 with 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a T5450 1.66GHz CPU and Windows Vista Home Premium. This helps to ensure our testing is accurate and fair across the board.
As we have come to expect from 34mm ExpressCards, the RocketDrive Micro fitted quite poorly into the Acer's intended slot. This is due to the fact that ExpressCard slots are designed to fit two different form factors, 34mm and 54mm. When using a 34mm card, this makes for an unnaturally large opening, with no clear indication as to whether the card should be inserted to the left, right or centre of the oversized slot. By the time the RocketDrive clicks into place, it has all but disappeared from view, which is sure to make technophobes nervous on their first few attempts. In addition to this, the outer edge of the card occasionally caught on the slot's upper lip, making it difficult to push inwards. Having said that, we much prefer the card's snug insertion to protruding USB Flash drives, which take up additional space and look ugly by comparison.
To assess the Cenatek ExpressCard's read/write speeds, we dragged and dropped a folder containing 397MB of JPEG files from the notebook onto the card, and vice versa. It took the RocketDrive one minute and thirty-six seconds to transfer the files onto the device, which works out at around 4.8MB per second. When compared to the 32GB ExpressCard SSD (which achieved a woeful write speed of 0.6MB per second), this is quite a good result, though it still falls below some USB Flash drives we've tested.
Read speeds were equally speedy, taking just 24 seconds for the same files to be transferred from the device to the Acer notebook. Again, this isn't all that impressive by USB Flash drive standards, but it remains one of the best results we've seen from an ExpressCard.
Like many other ExpressCards we've reviewed lately, the RocketDrive is being marketed as a performance-booster for Windows Vista rather than an external memory device. According to Cenatek, the drive is capable of accelerating your computer by up to 30%, thanks to Vista's ReadyBoost tool which caches data directly to the ExpressCard for faster loading times. In our experience, we have found that ReadyBoost only offers a genuine improvement in machines sporting 1GB or RAM or less, though powerful notebooks should still benefit from reduced battery consumption, due to reduced hard drive access.
Interestingly, Cenatek has also manufactured a RocketDrive desktop adaptor for PCs which lack an ExpressCard slot. The adaptor is sold separately and needs to be installed internally to a PCI cover plate. (You can also plug the adaptor in externally via a USB cable, which will be handy for older notebooks.)
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