Category Archives: Windows gadgets

A Twist on Dual SATA Drive Docks

I’ve got a couple of nice dual SATA drive docks here at the office. They’re from a Taiwanese job builder named Inatek, model FD-2002. Right now, you can pick one up for under US$30 on Amazon (see preceding link). I’ve used them with great success for drives of all sizes, up to and including 8 TB (Toshiba X300 Performance: ~US$176). Right now, I’ve got one of them populated with 2 4TB HGST Ultrastar drives (~US$95). Until yesterday, I had the 8 TB Toshiba drive paired with an HGST Ultrastar 3TB drive (~US$40, a truly great deal price/performance wise). Then the twist came into play.

A Twist on Dual SATA Drive Docks.dock

Turns out there’s a limit to how much storage will work in one of these low-cost dual drive docks. I hit that limit yesterday!
[Click image for full-sized view. Image Source: Amazon.]

What’s the Twist on Dual SATA Drive Docks?

Turns out that the bigger the drive’s capacity, the hotter it runs. Putting the 8 TB and 3 TB drives in juxtaposition worked fine, until I started using the 8 TB drive heavily. Then, all of a sudden, the 3TB drive started popping in and out of service. Not good! I’m not sure if it was an issue related to the power draw to the drive dock (more than it could handle seems pretty likely to me). OTOH, it could’ve just gotten too hot to keep working. When I took the 3 TB drive out of the dock, it was uncomfortably warm in my hands. I replaced it with a 2.5″ form-factor SSD drive and that combination has been running without a hiccup for almost 24 hours now.

Let this be a gentle warning, dear readers! If you want to pair up storage devices in low-budget dual drive docks, you may want to limit yourself to no more than 10 TB of total storage. Apparently, I hit some kind of wall when I attempted to make steady, serious use of 11 TB (8 + 3) in such a device yesterday. I’m tempted to try it again with a fan blowing on it, to see if lowering operating temps will permit it to keep working. If not, I’ll be more or less convinced it’s a power supply limitation. We’ll see!

 

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Interesting Win10 Gadget Conundrum

I can’t help it. I still love Windows Gadgets. They came in — and went out — with Windows 7, supposedly because of security considerations. I’ve never had, nor heard of such issues in the wild. My old friend and security guru, Deb Shinder, also uses Gadgets. She feels the same away about their demise. Helmut Buhler created 8GadgetPack to bring Gadgets to Windows 8. He’s kept up with them, and they work well with Windows 10. (His current version is v29.0, released in May 2019, so it’s pretty up-to-date.) Each time you upgrade Windows, it sees Gadgets and kills them off. So he’s also written a “Restore Gadgets” routine that recognizes this act, and restores the pre-existing Gadget set-up after each OS-based cancellation. Lately, though, I’ve been posed an interesting Win10 Gadget conundrum.

What’s the Condundrum?

The two following screenshots show the puzzler I’ve been dealing with lately. Notice the display at the bottom of the two CPU Meter Gadget windows that follow. It’s a CPU utilization graph, that shows per-core utilization percentages. The graph on the left-hand-side fills up the entire Gadget panel, while the one on the right-hand-side fills up only about two-thirds. After the most recent Nvidia driver update (which applies to the left-hand item) the Gadget on that PC went from a partial graph area (which applies to the right-hand item) to the full graph area. The PC from which the right-hand item comes is a Surface Pro 3 that uses built-in Intel graphics circuitry that’s built into the i7-4650U processor in that machine. The PC on the left is my production desktop, as the i7-6700 CPU should indicate.

Interesting Win10 Gadget Conundrum.both

Careful inspection shows the utliization graph at the left fills the full Gadget frame, while the one on the right fills about two-thirds of the same area. What gives?

Here’s the conundrum: I’m pretty sure that there’s something in the nexus between .NET and the GPU driver that’s causing the CPU utilization display area issue. Installing Nvidia’s latest GeForce driver (Version 431.60, which shows a 7/23/2019 release date (but which I just installed today, 8/5/2019) on my production PC fixed the issue. It still persists on all of my systems running Intel on-chip GPUs.

A Minor Niggle Still in Search of a Fix

This is the kind of mystery that guarantees lifetime (or at least ongoing) employment for Windows wizards, gurus, and mavens. I’ll keep messing around with those Intel drivers until I find one that works like it’s supposed to. This has been going on at least since last February or thereabouts, though, so Intel’s obviously under no pressure to catch up with this minor and niggling little GUI detail. It gives me something to do when I get bored, so I can’t complain. And so it goes, here in Windows-World!

PostScript Added August 6, 2019

OK, so I updated my Lenovo T520’s graphics driver last night, too. It includes both an Intel on-chip GPU (HD 3000) and an Nvidia Quadro NVS4200M independent GPU. I updated the Nvidia device to Version 392.56 later yesterday afternoon. This machine had also been subject to the “reduced display” layout shown above for the Surface Pro 3. But after I remoted into that machine this morning, I immediately noticed that the CPU utilization graph at the bottom of the gadget now filled the entire pane, to wit:

This time I loaded Core Temp so that the “not running” error message didn’t appear. Makes the utilization graph a little easier to see and appreciate. So somehow, updating the Nvidia driver (even though I’m not using it) fixed the problem. As a consequence, I’m rethinking my theory of what’s causing the problem. But on my Intel-only systems, the problem persists. I’ll keep working on it . . .

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Hey Lenovo! Thanks Loads!!

I got a nice surprise from FedEx last Friday, April 5. An early knock on my door brought a couple of welcome boxes. Courtesy of Jeffrey Witt, Director of Lenovo’s Global Product PR, those boxes housed a couple of 8th Generation i7-based laptops. Mr. Witt graciously acceded to a request I made late in 2018 for a Carbon X1 Extreme, and an X380 of similar vintage. Images and specs will follow, but first, I have another story about some older Lenovo laptops to tell.

A Tale of Two Predecessors

Windows 8 actually has roots back to 2010/2011. By early 2012 Windows 8 was on its way, and technical previews were available. I got hired by Pearson/Que in January to work on a book, Windows 8 in Depth. I also knew Windows 8 was bringing big changes, most notably with the introduction of touch and the tile-based Start Menu. By the end of February, I knew I needed at least one touch-screen unit and one more test machine on which to run Windows 8 Technical Previews. That was the first time I corresponded with Mr. Witt, who was already involved with trade press folks and evals/loaner units. That time around, he helped me get a pretty deep discount on the two machines I bought for my Windows 8 work:

  • X220 Tablet: Sandy Bridge i7-2640M Dual Core CPU with Intel HD Graphics 3000, 500 GB spinner, 4 GB RAM, touchscreen, fingerprint scanner. Today, it has a 256 GB Plextor mSATA SSD, 16 GB RAM, and a SATA 256 GB SSD.
  • T520 Laptop: Sandy Bridge i7-2640M Dual Core CPU with Intel HD Graphics 3000, Nvidia Quadro NVS 4200M, 500 GB spinner, DVD player, 8 GB RAM, fingerprint scanner. Today, it has a 256 Plextor mSATA SSD, 16 GB RAM, OCX Vertex 4 128 GB SATA SSD, Seagate SATA III 1 TB spinner (replaced the DVD player with a SATA drive module).

I still use both of these machines daily. Considering that they’re now over 7 years old, that’s a real testament to their durability and usability. As I check my Windows Enterprise Desktop blog for Techtarget, I see 41 mentions of the T520, and 58 mentions of the X220 Tablet dating from April 2012 through February 2019. I have really *loved* these machines, and taken them from Windows 7 to 8 to 8.1 all the way to the current build for 1809 (Build 17763.404) on the T520, and the current Insider Preview 1903 (Build 18362.30) on the X 220 Tablet. Until the X1 Carbon Extreme showed up last Friday, the T520 had been my primary “road laptop.” It’s gone on every business trip I’ve been on since I bought it, and many of my personal trips as well. (My Surface Pro 3 and my late, lamented Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 also went along on many, if not most, family vacations.)

Say Hello to the New Kids in Town!

OK then, time for some specs on the new machines. But first, I have to gush about the Carbon X1 Extreme. I think it’s faster and more powerful than my production desktop. My son has completely fallen in love with it and uses it for homework every night. This involves a lot of web surfing, and lots of interaction with various Google platforms elements (Docs, Sheets, and so forth, standard in his school district). He still gets 5-6 hours of battery life out of the machine, which means he can pretty much work untethered. He’s also raved to me about its video playback capabilities. I’ll take his word for it: I’ve had no real time to explore these systems in detail yet:

  • X1 Carbon Extreme: Intel 8th Generation i7-8850H (6 cores, 2.6 GHz) with Intel UHD Graphics 630, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4GB, 32 GB RAM,  one each Samsung MSLVBxx NVMe 1 TB and 500 GB SSDs, fingerprint scanner and Windows Hello Face recognition, and more. From what I see on Amazon, this machine retails for around $2,600-2,700. It weighs far less than its predecessor, at a svelte 1.84 kg/4 lbs 0.7 oz.

  • X380 Yoga: Intel 8th Generation i7-8650U CPU (4 cores. 1.9 GHz) with Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16 GB RAM, Samsung MSLVB10 NVMe 1 TB SSD, fingerprint scanner, and more. Checking Amazon again, I find a typical retail price of around $1,500 for this unit. This one weighs in at 1.6 kg/3 lbs (in round numbers: it’s just a hair under 3 lbs, actually).

It’s really far too early for me to do much more than ooh and aah over the latest laptops in my stable. As I have more time and opportunity to work with them, I’ll be writing about them in more depth. So far, the only thing I miss on the X1 Carbon is an RJ-45 port for direct Ethernet plug-in (but I’ve got a USB 3.0 GbE dongle already anyway, so no biggie; Note added April 9: the unit has a built-in I219-LM GbE NIC–and surprisingly, so does the X380–but you have to buy a special cable to get from its compact proprietary port to an RJ-45. Might be worth acquiring, though). I’m planning to acquire some big (256 GB+) SDXC devices for both machines, to further extend their storage. Another big difference with these newer models is soldered-in RAM (so no memory upgrades). But it’s a tradeoff for their enhanced compactness, I know.

I’ll close with a big THANKS to Mr. Witt and his RTP-based team. I really appreciate the opportunity to work with these machines, and hope to accomplish as many great things with them in the years to come as I’ve done with the T520 and the X220 Tablet. Now, if only i had time to really work them out. . .

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512 GB microSD Cards Are Coming!

Saw a fascinating announcement over on NeoWin this morning. UK company Integral Memory has announced release of a 512 GB microSDXC card next month (February 2018). No pricing information is available just yet. Even so, NeoWin speculates it will probably cost somewhere around US$249. Personally, it’s astounding that we can now pack half a TB onto a circuit card smaller than my thumbnail. That’s the same size, if not bigger, than all the SSDs I own. So buckle up kids: 512 GB microSD cards are coming, and will be here soon.

512 GB microSD Cards Are Coming!

The inexorable march of technology lets more than a few angels dance on the head of this particular pin, eh?

Get Ready: 512 GB microSD Cards Are Coming!

According to its legend and its maker, the card complies with the Video Speed Class 10 (V10) standard. That means users can record HD video to the device in real time. According to NeoWin, this card supports transfer speeds of up to 80 Mbps. That’s 20% slower than the 400 GB SanDisk card that ruled the size roost at 100 Mbps. Integral’s spokesperson, marketing manager James Danton, explains the target audience for this device. “The need to provide extended memory for smartphones, tablets, and a growing range of other mobile devices such as action cams and drones has been answered.”

At about the same price as a fast 500 GB SSD (a Samsung nVME 950 Pro goes for under $249 right now, while a 960 Pro goes for about $300), one wonders who really needs this device. But the appetite for storage is always there for some segment of the marketplace. I do get its appeal, particularly for GoPro and other mobile cameras that depend on ultra-compact flash storage.

As Capacities Climb, Older “Big Guns” Seem Smaller

I guess this size jump also explains why 128 GB microSDXC cards are cheap now. I bought one each for my Dell Venue Pro 11 and my Surface Pro 3 back in 2014 or 2015 when they were still pretty pricey, too. I’ve gotten good use out of those devices (but have neither the need nor inclination to buy up to this level). You can find them now for under $70 (quite a bit cheaper for slower media). When I bought mine, they were over $100 each.

Samsung is expected to release a 512 GB microSD card of its own manufacture sometime soon, too. I expect it will just be a matter of time before a 1 TB version comes down the road. Then, these pinnacle products have to step down a rung. Maybe then I’ll think about buying up!

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Time Boosts (New) Wireless Hardware Throughput

A couple of days ago, my son mentioned that Internet speeds on his PC weren’t terribly impressive. So we went up to his room, and visited the Microsoft Store in Win10. While there we installed the handy “Speedtest by Ookla.” And indeed, the initial results weren’t impressive. 33.5 Mbps download speed, and 14.1 Mbps upload speed. Right now, my wired desktop churns out 335.5 download, and 20.93 upload, so I could feel his pain. It also led me to speculate that a new WiFi adapter might improve the situation. In fact, that’s why I entitled this post “Time Boosts (New) Wireless Hardware Throughput.” Continue reading Time Boosts (New) Wireless Hardware Throughput

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Inateck Offers Nice 2.5″ Drive Enclosure

A couple of months ago, entirely out of the blue, I got an email from a representative of Inateck, an apparently Taiwanese company that does business as “F&M Technology” in both the USA and Germany. It informed me about the company’s range  of 2.5″ drive enclosures, described on the product category page as “Tool Free USB 3.0 HDD Enclosure.” After some additional email back-and-forth with that person, I found myself in possession of two different and related products from Inateck:

1. One instance of product FE2010, an “Ultra slim 2.5 inch HDD Enclosure” (list price $19.99, but I can find suppliers for this item only on eBay at prices from $17.27 to 22.14)

FE2010

2. One instance of product HPD-BU, a nice little ballistic nylon zip up case in which to store item 1 (available at Amazon for a mere $6.99).

HPD-BU

What’s the Deal Here?

I’m always on the lookout for good deals on helpful hardware, especially for taking work on the road with me. I’ve purchased various 2.5″ and 3.5″ drive enclosures over the years, usually so I can pack ’em up and take ’em with me when I’m out the door on business. Often this means setting up in a conference room at a law or technology firm, or working in a hotel room somewhere (one time, this meant burning extremely expensive online minutes on a Disney cruise ship in the western Caribbean). That’s why I’m so interested in compact mobile gear that’s easy to set up and use, and as portable as possible.

What I really, really like about the Inateck enclosure (FE2010) is that its tool-free design is neither flimsy nor weak. It’s made of plastic, but the plastic is fairly thick and sturdy. A snap-together cover slides on rails away from the circuit area on the main half of the assembly where the drive plugs into a standard SATA power and data connector. It is easy to insert and remove using just finger pressure, but the device holds up well when transported. I took it with me on recent out-of-town trips to Dallas and Houston with family, for use with my Surface Pro 3 hybrid tablet. It behaved quite nicely on both jaunts, despite inexpert help from some enthusiastic tweens in carrying luggage and the computer bag and with device set-up and teardown. The enclosure also comes with a short (~12″) USB 3.0 cable with a standard USB Type A connector on one end (for plugging into a computer) and a compact, proprietary USB connector on the other (for plugging into the drive enclosure).

The incredibly cheap carrying case (HPD-BU) is a real bargain at $7, and accommodates the drive enclosure perfectly. It offered excellent protection for my traveling rig while on the road and is well worth its cost. It features a hard shell design that offers added rigidity to safeguard its contents from knocks and drops.

I purchased my last 2.5″ mobile drive enclosures from Newegg in 2013. They’re made by Vantec, model NexStar 3, and are old enough to feature USB 2.0 with eSATA for higher-speed connections. As I recall, I paid about $10 for them and they included a micro-USB to type A cable (with a second type A connector for extra power on laptops that may offer only limited USB power on a single connection) along with a flat sided zip-up ballistic nylon case in black. A similar USB 3.0 model is available at Newegg, also for $19.99 (discounts sometimes available: right now price is $2 lower), and includes no case.

All in all the Inatek FE2010 offers good functionality, easy access and use, and is a reasonably sturdy traveling drive enclosure. If you can find a good deal from a reputable retailer (or eBay merchant), it’s definitely worth buying. Don’t be flim-flammed by the company’s performance claims on this device, though: I believe they’re comparing USB 2.0 to 3.0 performance. I found no speed difference between using the same drive between my Thermaltake Superspeed 3.0 drive caddy and the Innatek enclosure, both plugged into the same PC and the same USB port.

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FCC: Allow Consumer-Owned Set-top Boxes!!

Sounds like a pretty boring blog post title, eh? “FCC: Allow Consumer-Owned Set-top Boxes!!” really means that instead of paying for devices one MUST rent from cable TV providers over and over again, consumers will be able to choose and buy the devices they want only once. According to Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the New York Times, consumers currently pay an average of $231 a year to cable companies to rent their set-top boxes. In the wake of a pending FCC proposal, however, all that could be about to change.

set-top-box

If consumers can choose their own set-top boxes, why not make a media PC one of their viable choices?
[Image Credit: LIfeHacker.com]

As is normal for the process of changing or adopting new rules for regulatory agencies like the FCC, this proposal must be commented on and debated before it can be finalized. In a very unusual move, President Obama commented in favor of this particular proposal, despite it being “rare for the president himself to speak out on a pending matter” in the words of the NYT article. He’s in favor of opening up the set-top box business, increasing competition, and giving customers more options and features from which to choose.

My favorite comment in the story comes from Jason Furman, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, who also issued a statement backing this new FCC proposal:

Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years on a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want — including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps — in one, easier-to-use gadget.

To these plans, I would add the following plea: Open up the options to include a REAL media center PC. When Microsoft came out with Windows 7, they included Windows Media Center with the ability to handle TV and all kinds of other media. Ultimately, this effort failed because (a) the cable TV industry required PCs to incorporate CableCard devices to access cable TV signals directly, (b) the cable TV providers were put in charge of issuing CableCard devices to customers, and (c) the CableCard options available for Media PCs basically required the OEMs to build them in during system construction and were made difficult and expensive to obtain, integrate, and operate. As a result, media PCs mostly flopped, except for a die-hard audience limited to the tens of thousands in numbers in the USA who were willing to jump over every hurdle and figure out all the ugly technical details to make this technology work.

In the wake of this pending rule change, there would no longer be a reason to force such absurd hurdles on integrating set-top box function into PCs. There’s no reason why that functionality couldn’t be built into a PCIe adapter, so that it could be easily plugged into and integrated with a PC. Shoot, a company like Intel with its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) boxes could integrate this capability right into such a small enclosure, and it would make a perfect media PC. This would allow users to set up and operate a genuine Media PC environment that integrates streaming media, optical media, plus cable, satellite and broadcast TV. It could lead to a genuine renaissance in PC-based media consumption, and might even give a boost to the whole PC business. Instead of spending $200 on a set-top box, consumers could spend $4-500 on a set-top PC that would provide complete media controls (and the ability to plug in storage and other devices via USB). In exchange, they would enjoy a rich media management experience that could include all forms of digital media orchestrated around the biggest display device in most homes: the big-screen LCD or projection TV.

I say: “Let’s go for it!” I would love to see this happen and the improvements in media consumption that could result. I’m writing the FCC to express my approval for the proposal. If you feel the same way, I urge you to do likewise, through the FCC’s “Send Us Your Comments” page.

fcc-filing

Here’s the text of my FCC comment as filed this morning.
[Click on image for full-size view.]

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Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader Misadventure

According to my records, I purchased my Surface Pro 3 in October 2014, along with the Type Cover available at the time. Mostly, I’ve been pretty happy with that hybrid tablet PC, but its Type Cover has always driven me to distraction. The touchpad, in particular, was trying, and the keys were closely spaced, so my typing accuracy suffered when using it. But what really kept me away from direct use of the device as a “laptop replacement” was my tendency to accidentally brush the touchpad while typing, often resulting in highlighting and deleting whatever it was I was trying to input at any given moment. For somebody whose keystrokes are literally his living, this was simply unacceptable. My wife and son love the machine, though, and it proved an able travelling device when a simple plug adapter was all that proved necessary to use the charger (and the device) for their extended trip to Germany this summer.

sp3-typecover sp4-type-fing

SP3 (old) Type Cover left/top; SP4 (new) Type Cover right/bottom.

When I learned that MS was releasing a new Type Cover along with the Surface Pro 4 earlier this fall I was mildly interested. But when I learned the following bits of information, my interest changed to a fully-formed “buy” decision:

  • The new Type Cover is backward compatible with the Surface Pro 3 even though built for the Surface Pro 4.
  • The touchpad is much larger, made of smooth, strong glass, and easier/more ergonomic to use.
  • The keys on the keyboard, though slightly smaller, are more widely spaced and offer a better feel while in use, all intended to promote faster, more accurate keyboard input.
  • A fingerprint reader version that works with Windows Hello is also available, as an added-cost ($40) option.

As fingerprint readers go, $40 is kind of pricy: most laptop makers charge $10 to $20 for these devices when they’re available as added-cost options, and USB models are readily available for $11 to $15, as this Google Shopping search shows.

While we were out and about on the weekend before Thanksgiving, visiting the mall at The Woodlands, TX, I dropped into the Microsoft Store and plunked down $160 of my hard-earned cash for the new Type Cover with fingerprint reader, even though it is currently available only in black (other colors are in production but probably won’t be out until late December or early January). I unplugged the old Type Cover and plugged in the new one when we got to our host’s home that evening and sure enough, it was quite a bit easier to use, enabled more accurate typing, and I didn’t have any touchpad problems or issues like those I experienced when using the previous version. I also quickly realized I had no idea how to set up the fingerprint reader, and a cursory pass through control panel widgets and settings options didn’t lead me anywhere useful, either. Realizing I had to do a little research to figure out which way to proceed, I shelved the fingerprint stuff until after I returned home late Monday (11/23) afternoon.

Once I went looking for the proper set-up, I found it almost immediately: Settings, Accounts includes a panel called Sign-in options. On a properly-equipped PC running Windows 10, you’ll see a Windows Hello item in that panel (it often requires a bit of scrolling down to find) where you can enroll or manage fingerprint data suitable for login (and other authentication) purposes. I’ve been working with fingerprint readers for years, and both of my Lenovo notebooks and my Fujitsu Q704 tablet all have them installed (I even wrote a mini-review for the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader for the 2006 Tom’s Guide Holiday Buyer’s piece). But though I was able to enroll my fingerprints — or so I thought — the reader was not able to read any of them. I found myself wondering if I didn’t have the 10/26 Firmware Update that added support for the Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader to the system (I did) or if the fingerprint reader might be somehow defective (it wasn’t).

What was defective, it turns out, was my understanding. If you take a close look at the image for the Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader above (right/bottom) you’ll see that the sensor occupies a pretty sizable surface area (it’s square, with dimensions of just under 0.5″x0.5″ or 1.27cmx1.27cm). Having been trained on fingerprint sensors that are about the same width but only 0.125″ or 0.32cm high, which require dragging a finger across them to enroll that data for the device to use later on, I was using the same finger dragging technique on this fingerprint reader as well. However, the device simply wanted me to lay my finger down on the sensor without moving it for registration and subsequent recognition. Until I stumbled onto this information (the registration prompt says “Press your finger against the fingerprint sensor, and then lift it,” which is what ultimately clued me into what I was doing wrong) the fingerprint reader wouldn’t recognize my fingerprints. Given a proper fingerprint registration, of course the device worked like a charm.

Duh! Sometimes what we already know causes us to ignore what we need to learn. Suitably chastened by my experience here, I’m sharing it in hopes of preventing others from falling into the same trap. Live and learn — if we can — has to be the watchword for this cautionary tale. Consider yourselves warned, and please benefit from my mistake! No need for concern: I’ll eventually recover from the embarrassment…

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Samsung UFDs Muddle Through the Middle

In early September, I agreed to live with and review some Samsung USB 3.0 flash drives (to which I’ll refer from here on out as UFDs). Around the second week of the month, they arrived, and I was allowed until early December to play with and keep them for purposes of sharing my impressions and observations. Alas, I have dithered long enough that these items have already been reviewed at a number of sites, including one of my personal faves: Les Tokar’s The SSD Review which featured some pretty comprehensive coverage on September 18 in a story entitled “Samsung’s Newest Flash Drives Reviewed.”

Samsung-USB-3.0-Flash-Drives

Samsung FIT at front center; Samsung Bar at right rear.

My own observations of these Samsung devices are consistent with his, but not quite as flattering. These drives are neither exceptionally cheap (for that kind of thing, check out the Mushkin Atom drives in capacities from 8 to 64 GB at Newegg, at $7 to $25) nor exceptionally fast (there are many options of this kind available, including devices that actually use SSD controllers to access their Flash RAM, but I am fond of the Mushkin Ventura Pro line, at Newegg for $25 for 32 GB and $34 for 64 GB).

What I have from Samsung is a 32GB Fit drive ($16 for 32GB, $27 for 64 GB, Newegg) and a 16 GB Bar drive ($13 for 16 GB, $28 for 64 GB, Newegg). The performance is somewhat better than the Atom models, but not enough to offset the price difference between them. And the performance difference between the Samsung and the Ventura Pro models inclines me to to favor spending somewhat more to get a nice jump in performance (particularly on the write site of the read/write action that is file I/O).

This is a tough product niche with a lot of different products from which to choose, many at each rung of the price performance ladder. I will say that Samsung’s 5-year-warranty on its UFDs is better than most other vendors’ warranties (the Atom and Ventura Pro drives get 2 years, by way of contrast, and 1-2 years seems typical for most such products I’ve seen). It seems to me that Samsung will either need to lower its prices further, or find some way to bump its UFDs’ performance, if it wants to grab major market share in this crowded field.

My final assessment of these products is: if you can get a better-than-Newegg deal (especially if it’s cheaper than for Mushkin Atom items of similar capacity), jump on it. If not, you may be better served by looking around for something faster at the same or a slightly higher price (Nir Sofer’s USB Flash Drive Speed Tests are a great source for such data, BTW).

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