Being connected to staff at a university is often a rewarding experience, if any of the salvages on this website are anything to go by. Universities are a hot-spot of electronics and information technology, and from time to time they get replaced. That’s when the “fun” begins.
Today, we take a (small) leap back in time, with this 3.5″ multi-format internal card reader, originally installed in a Dell with an Intel E4300 CPU. This is a Teac branded model, of the same shell size as a 3.5″ floppy drive, model number CA-200.
I suppose, at that time, 3.5″ bays weren’t seeing much action, as the majority of users decided not to outfit their machines with floppy drives, so Teac (a big supplier of floppy drives – their FD-235HF are almost everywhere) needed something to sell. This unit claims to be manufactured in September 2007.
The front of the unit has a single green LED to indicate activity, and supports CompactFlash (and Microdrive), Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital (SD), miniSD, Multimedia Card (MMC), Reduced-Size MMC, Smartmedia and xD. You can tell from its support of Smartmedia, it is a very dated reader – the majority of readers don’t support SM anymore as they were “straight” dumb flash cards of only up to ~128Mb.
The drive itself doesn’t use the floppy bus – instead, it uses a smaller header plug with a custom pin-out to a USB header on the motherboard. The drive side connector is pictured above.
The other end of the cable leads to the standard 2.54mm spacing pins used by most motherboards for USB headers. Note that it consumes two ports, even though its only wired to use the data for one port. It does consume power from both ports, and it seems to also wire up the keying pin to ground (possibly, as some motherboards use it as a USB front panel connected detection pin).
Inside the Reader
To my surprise, they spent a lot of metal on the case, to house a tiny reader board. That might just be because they wanted to ensure it would mount in all 3.5″ bays securely. There’s a small board in the back for the connector, with the main reader in the front board, secured by two screws.
The rear of the board shows the chipset – SMSC USB2228 along with a PMC 1Mbit parallel flash memory chip for the firmware Pm39LV010-70VCE. The chipset doesn’t seem to proclaim the ability to talk to SDHC cards, and it was well before the SDXC standard, so lets see what happens.
I suppose, if one wants a guideline of speed, many current cards will read from 22Mb/s – 90Mb/s on modern USB 3.0 card readers, and the fastest USB 2.0 card readers often managed 16Mb/s.
Kingston 2Gb SDSC Unclassed
It seems there is no problems reading the 2Gb unclassed SDSC card, although its performance reached only 10Mb/s. For comparison, the Transcend RDF-8 reached 14.33Mb/s.
Samsung 32Gb SDHC Class 10
Surprisingly, I did not expect the reader to recognize and work with SDHC cards, but this one does. SDHC specification was only finalized in 2006, just a year prior to the manufacturing of the reader. The performance was similar, averaging out at 12Mb/s. The card is capable of 23.24Mb/s on a modern USB 3.0 reader, and about 16Mb/s on a USB 2.0 reader.
Kingston 128Gb SDXC UHS-I Class 10
Surprise surprise, it was capable of working with the SDXC card as well. It’s not really that surprising after all, because it turns out that SDXC is merely the “removal” of a restriction of the number of bits that could be used for device size in the SDHC specification. Think of it as removing an ‘artificial’ limitation. But the other part is the file-system, but that’s handled by the OS anyway, so it’s moot.
Surprisingly, this reader is quite functional, averaging 11.8Mb/s. It’s definitely no speed demon, as the card is capable of 48.27Mb/s on a UHS-I bus, but its compatibility is above expectations.
A-Data Speedy 8Gb CompactFlash
This card is not a speedy card at all – it’s actually a non-UDMA card that can really only get to about 15Mb/s on a regular USB 2.0 card reader. It managed just 9.1Mb/s.
Lexar Professional 200x UDMA 16Gb CompactFlash
This card is UDMA capable, and can transfer closer to 30Mb/s on capable readers (mostly about 20Mb/s on USB 2.0 readers). This one managed only a hair better than the non UDMA card, at 9.4Mb/s.
It is a surprising finding, as the compatibility of this card reader was better than expected. It seemed to work just fine for SDSC, SDHC and SDXC cards, rather unexpectedly. But unfortunately, its speed was relatively poor by modern standards. If you’re still running one of these relics, maybe it’s time for an upgrade?