SD host adapter for desktop computer?

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SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:31 pm

So, I've just learned that there's a piece of equipment that's being used in common, everyday laptops that I just can't figure out how to procure and use in my desktop: an "SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller".

The use case is copying pictures off of an SD card from my camera. I've started using Transcend UHS-1 SD cards:

http://www.amazon.com/Transcend-Speed-Class-Memory-TS32GSDHC10U1E/dp/B008CVHLT2/

While my camera may or may not be capable of using the UHS-1 speed of this card, I'd like the "copy the pictures off" step to be as full speed as possible.

While on a trip, I'd use my laptop's built in SD card reader to copy pictures. I was very pleased with the speed: it was clearly faster than older cards. When I returned home, I used this, attached to an ASRock Z87 Haswell mobo (so, Intel USB controller):

http://www.amazon.com/Transcend-Super-Multi-Card-Reader-TS-RDF8K/dp/B0056TYRMW

I also tried this using an ANKER Y-3201 reader, also from Amazon, but it actually had worse performance characteristics than the Transcend reader.

The copying process using this card reader wasn't as "smooth" as it was with the laptop. Windows didn't get the estimated time right, the rate seemed to go up/down, the whole process took longer, etc. I even tried plugging the reader into the USB ports on the back of the case, on the mobo, rather than using the ASRock supplied front case ports, but it didn't make any difference.

So, I broke out the ATTO Disk Benchmark. I know it probably isn't perfect, but it shows what is happening here.

Here is the result on the laptop:
Image

And here is the result on the USB 3.0 Transcend reader:
Image

While both end _up_ at the similar speeds, the laptop is much faster with the smaller smaller size reads/writes. And while you'd think that, since I'm copying large .jpg and .cr2 and movie files, I'd just be copying large files, and the high speeds would be prevalent, the slow speeds with the smaller data sizes really seem to be affecting the whole process.

So, I did a bit of digging. I had assumed that the SD card reader would just have been a USB device in the laptop, but it wasn't. It is identified as an "SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller". I can't find much information about such devices. There appear to be a couple of them made, one by Ricoh, and one by O2Micro. I haven't found any available for sale.

Does anyone know of any way to get a "SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller" device that can be installed in the front panel of a tower case?

The only other thought I had was an ExpressCard, with a front-panel ExpressCard slot, but those seem to be getting scarce as well.

Anyways, I was just curious because these SD Host Controllers were something I really didn't know existed, and don't know how to buy, and I'd really like this file copy process to be as fast/reliable as possible.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:47 am

So I have this exact same reader - first things first - update the firmware. There's a bug that can destroy your data (supposedly, I just updated to be sure but never hit the problem).

I'll fire up ATTO tonight and see if it exhibits the same behavior but off the top of my head I remember it performing quite well overall.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:56 am

Thanks for the hint on the firmware. I had already grabbed that tool, and my reader had been shipped to me with the newest firmware already.

For fun, I'll try the USB reader on the laptop. I don't have very many UHS-1 cards to try, two identical Transcend cards is about it.

EDIT:
The laptop's Ivy Bridge based USB 3.0 port showed the same performance graph in ATTO for the Transcend reader as the desktop's Haswell USB 3.0 ports. So I don't think the problem is with my desktop. I'm guessing this is just normal USB stuff...USB has overhead associated with the data transactions.

Which is why I want an SD Host Adapter in my desktop. :)
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 1:11 pm

I used to have a PCIe multi-card reader that IDed as a Ricoh SDA compliant. It accepted up to four SD cards and did some RAID and bootable hijinks. I took it out of a Dell, and wouldn't have parted with it for the world. I've never seen anything quite like it at retail. Mine died a few months back. :(

Sorry for the negative news.

I think the thing you'd really want is a native PCI/PCIe interface, but every card reader I've ever seen at retail was a USB unit. I used to have some laptops that used a daughterboard for the SD reader, and the interface to the main board was USB, those would work, but I don't know if it would hit the performance target you are looking for.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 1:54 pm

Too bad you don't remember more info or have it with you to pull numbers off of. It sounded interesting. All the stuff I find is either things that look like USB controllers and the SD part feeds from that like thus:

http://www.costcaptain.com/mm5/merchant ... MgodFEoAWg

Or ExpressCard or mini PCIe devices for laptop use. If you had an adaptor for one of those, you might be in business.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:33 pm

Yeah, I'd looked down the ExpressCard route. I found some front panel ExpressCard devices, but those have also gotten rare. There still seem to be one or two out there. Maybe I'll give that a try.

But yes, I'm looking for an SDA Compliant Host Adapter that connects PCIe, not USB.

It is really strange to me that such a thing for the desktop market doesn't seem to exist.

Forge: The Ricoh PCIe device: what did it actually look like? Was it a front panel device with a weird cable to a PCIe card? Or was it a PCIe card that had card slots in it in the back port?

EDIT:
Wow, so I can find this ExpressCard reader. which is $40:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/786857-REG/Sonnet_SDXC_UHSI_E34_SDXC_UHS_I_Pro_Reader_Writer.html

And this ExpressCard adapter, which gets middling reviews (and may not support hot-plug, although I was under the impression that modern systems could do hot plug PCIe, if they were physically capable of it, so it might work now):
http://www.amazon.com/Koutech-ExpressCard-Docking-Station-Express/dp/B00513M54A

And that's $45 + $7 shipping, only available from the manufacturer, and they only have 6. Out of stock everywhere else.

So, almost $100 to do this, and there might only be 6 left in the world.

So, apparently I'm just insane, or OCD.

Sigh.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:03 pm

kevbo wrote:So, apparently I'm just insane, or OCD.


Why not both? :D

In your use case, do you care about hot plug of the ExpressCard? I thought you liked your laptop solution and wanted a solution for the desktop.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:40 pm

Hotplug isn't what you need, you're not going to plug and unplug the PCIe card all the time.

Mine looked like a half height card with four (I think) metal cages on it that SD cards slid into. There was one on the backplane that might have worked for what you're doing, though on the back of the machine, not the front. Didn't think to write any info down off of it. It was a one-off Dell part, as far as I know, that was put on some older Poweredges when they first started supporting VMware ESXi (which prefers keeping the hypervisor on an SD card).

That Expresscard adapter looks intreresting, that's pretty close to what you're describing, though the price is rather high.

Personally, I'd just shop around for a high end USB SD reader with good reviews.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:56 pm

what about something like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Micro-SATA-Cables ... B0078PVL8U
It wouldn't be as nicely integrated, but I imagine you could rig it up for front panel access if you needed to

Otherwise, this seems well regarded, but still USB:
http://www.amazon.com/Lexar-Professiona ... B0050C9ZMC
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:44 pm

That link, it led to this, and this is vaguely similar to the card I was referring to earlier:

http://www.amazon.com/Secure-Digital-Me ... d_sim_pc_2
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:10 pm

I've also found this:

http://www.amazon.com/MP230-SDHC-SDIO-Card-Reader/dp/B008I6S2RQ/
http://www.bplus.com.tw/CardReader/MP230.html

which I found my way to by searching for the Ricoh part name for the SD controller, which appears to be "RICOH R5U230 PCIe bridge controller". What is interesting is that the Ricoh device actually takes a driver for Windows 7, so that may not be the actual controller chip in my Dell laptop here, which seems to be a Realtek RTS5209 (which I can't find a product page on). Although the Realtek product also has drivers, on Realtek's page.

This really seems to be a rabbit hole. I should probably just give up and be happy with the Transcend reader (which does perform well, for a USB device, just not as well as a directly attached thing). This really is the first instance in a long time of a piece of hardware I can buy in a premade system from someone that I can't figure out how to build into something I've built myself. And that makes me sad.

Thanks all.
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Re: SD host adapter for desktop computer?

Postposted on Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:28 pm

That BPlus site... OMG, I want one of those in the US, so very badly. So many projects occur to me.
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