Here I am at The P2 Blog’s ultra swank and modern test center, where I’ve been putting the new Sonnet QIO through its paces, to see how fast it can offload P2 cards.
I’ll cut to the chase: not so fast.
What happened? This little device had so much promise, but in reality, it’s a slow poke. I connected the QIO to a two year old Macbook Pro, and then slipped a 32GB E series P2 card into one of the QIO’s two P2 slots. Then I copied the card to a series of different drives — an eSATA drive connected directly to the Sonnet, and also a FireWire 400 drive connected to my Mac’s FireWire 400 port, and then a USB2 drive connected to the Mac’s USB2 port. All drives used the same drive mechanism, and had the same amount of free space available. Here’s what I got:
- 32GB card to eSATA drive: 20 minutes, 16 seconds
- 32GB card to FireWire 400 drive: 20 minutes, 2 seconds
- 32GB card to USB2 drive: 22 minutes, 10 seconds
Compare that to a Panasonic Rapid Writer, which could copy the same 32GB card in about 10 minutes. Or, better yet, compare the Sonnet’s speeds to Panasonic’s PCD35 five-card reader, which can copy a 32GB card to a FireWire 800 drive in 5 minutes and 45 seconds! The Sonnet is even a little slower than a Duel Systems P2 card adapter, which has been shipping for a few years.
To be fair, the QIO did beat out an old Panasonic PCD20 USB2 card reader. A few months ago, I used the PCD20 to copy a 32GB card to a FireWire 800 hard drive, and that took about 28 minutes.
Still, the QIO copies P2 cards far slower than their top data rate can manage. Also, since the QIO reads the P2 card so slowly, you lose any advantage to hooking up a fast eSATA hard drive to write the card data. The eSATA drive just twiddles its thumbs waiting for the P2 card data to creep along, which is why my tests show a FireWire 400 drive matching an eSATA drive, even though eSATA is supposed to be almost 3 times faster than FireWire 400. Even a lowly USB2 drive almost matched the Sonnet’s eSATA connection.
Sonnet acknowledges the slow P2 copy times on its web site, stating an expected 25MB per second data rate when copying a single P2 card. But Sonnet’s web site also claims that you’ll see a 50MB data rate when copying two P2 cards simultaneously (one P2 card in each of the QIO’s two slots). So I tried that, and found the copy times were even slower — by about 20% — when copying two cards to the same eSATA hard drive. Next, I attached two eSATA drives to the Sonnet (out of 4 possible) and then copied one P2 card to each drive, simultaneously. At that point, I got a combined data rate equal to my single card tests, but a far cry from the 50MB per second rate that Sonnet suggested.
Still, the $999 QIO might be worthwhile for some users. It’s run crash-free for 3 days, which is something I can’t say for an alternative like the Duel Systems Adapter. And it gives you the ability to offload two P2 cards at once, which is rare. Plus, it also accepts multiple CF cards, SDHC cards, and Sony SxS cards, so it has versatility if you deal with lots of different card formats (strangely, CF and SxS cards copy much faster than P2 cards do, even though my E Series P2 cards are just as fast...or faster). And the QIO lets you attach up to four eSATA drives to a laptop (20 drives with port multiplication!). That's all appreciated, and I'll be factoring it into a non-P2-centric review I'm writing for StudioDaily.
But, really, given the huge installed base of P2 cards out there, I don’t understand why Sonnet didn’t bother to improve P2 performance. Had the QIO been able to offload a 32GB card in 10 minutes or less, it would have been a hot commodity among P2 shooters….