Friday, February 15, 2008

Vista & ReadyBoost: speed is king & size does not matter

Hello everyone, now that many of us have Vista machines, some of you might have thought about boosting the performance of those machines. (Now why would anybody want to do that to such a (yawn) fast setup).
One reliable source of boosting the speed of the machine would be to plug in a usb drive into the back of the machine and set it up to assist ReadyBoost.

But beware! All drives are equal! Just some are more equal than others!

The most important thing to remember is that speed matters. And the speed of your drive is no different. If the vendor does not state it to be ReadyBoost compatible or “enhanced for ReadyBoost” then don’t even bother. The read & write speeds won’t be fast enough to get a performance gain and Vista will simply refuse to use it for its snazzy new feature.
That said, just having it say compatible will not necessarily make you feel an enormous performance gain. The “hidden” speed is important. The actual read & write performance of the stick will greatly influence how fast Vista responds on opening up complex apps like Photoshop or running Virtual Machines.
I tested a Transcend 2A stick against a DSE stick and found both to read at the same speed, but the Transcend 2A one wrote 4 times faster. Much better performance when plugged in than the DSE one.

So what to look out for? Make sure the drive claims to be ultra fast. Super performing or even publicly announces read & write speeds. Only few providers do that, because only few providers can actually boast about their performance.

Here are a couple I have found to be good in the past
Transcend 2A series. Skip the V series, they are cheap and slow. The 2A series is fast and responsive.
Apacer HT203 and HA202 are very good bets.

Sadly, the DSE USB stick you can get in Dicksmiths is not the best option, as it merely passes the minimum requirement for having the “enhanced for ReadyBoost” insignia. If you can get your Hands on a fast Apacer or fast Transcend, you’ll be much happier.

The last question you might ask is “do I need a big stick?” And here I’m happy to tell you that size does not matter for a change...:-) With 4GB of Ram and only being able to see 3GB of that I set my ReadyBoost cache to 3.5GB. Looking at the Performance Counters while testing out different scenarios I found a maximum of 2GB being used at any one time.

Final line: a fast performing 2GB USB drive will give you much more umpf than a slower 4GB at the same price.

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