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Hard-reset restore
The hard-reset restore benchmark involves completely wiping the memory on the handheld and then syncing it with the PC using BackupBuddy. As I've mentioned, BackupBuddy allows for all settings, software, and files to be restored after a hard-reset. For the sake of testing the full capacity of the handheld, I filled the memory to 99% capacity (8120 of a possible 8192 kilobytes).

The results are striking. While the USB doesn't manage to reach its claimed 4X speed advantage, it does slog through the test 3.2 times faster than the serial connection. One thing to notice with this test is the incredible length of time it takes to do a complete hard-reset restore on an 8MB handheld. This isn't the kind of thing you're going to want to be doing very often, not only because it takes so much time, but also because you'll lose everything since your last hotsync.

The serial cradle really hurts here, taking 2421 seconds—or over forty minutes—to complete the synchronization. The USB cradle's twelve minute sync time isn't anything to write home about, either. It's clear that a hard-reset restore is an exercise in patience whichever cradle you use. That said, finding and reinstalling all the hacks and software not normally backed up could easily take forty minutes, so the convenience outweighs the large sync time.

Twelve minutes is obviously preferable to forty, regardless. In the unlikely event you have to do a hard-reset restore, the USB cradle is obviously what you want to be using.

Full AvantGo refresh
AvantGo is one of the most useful and popular applications for the PalmOS (PocketPC versions are also available). AvantGo allows you to download web content onto your handheld, and is a must for anyone who wants to catch up on his web reading when not at the computer. The problem with benchmarking AvantGo is that its default is to only refresh web content which has changed since the last synchronization. Because AvantGo depends heavily on the speed of the net connection used, tests were done on a cable modem connection in the early morning hours when download speeds would be the most consistent. Additionally, AvantGo was set to refresh all of its content rather than just updated pages. While this resulted in the entire cache being refreshed, it ensured that the same data would be synced each time. The test was conducted with a more typical handheld configuration with 41.1% free memory.

USB obviously wins this race, but the margin is much smaller than what we saw with the hard-reset restore. Coming in at only 2.33 times faster than a serial connection, the USB cradle doesn't get close to the theoretical 4X speed gain. Of course, the nature of AvantGo makes the Internet connection an essential part of the speed equation. The benchmark syncs a full complement of AvantGo pages—470 individual pages in total. While the USB cradle does halve the speed of a hotsync, we're dealing with a more common syncing process that only takes 1:41 with the USB and 3:55 with the serial cradle. An extra 2:10 might not be that big of a deal for a full AvantGo refresh, considering a full refresh is rare to begin with.