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eSATA Performance of Various Cardbus Controllers

Click here to view the original article discussing poor Cardbus performance on the Lenovo T61

The Lenovo T61 performs extremely poorly in eSATA Cardbus (Also known as PCMCIA or PC Card) performance. Notebooks that are seven years older than the T61 perform seven times faster. At the heart of this problem is the Cardbus controller. The cardbus controller provides the logic for cardbus peripherals to communicate with the rest of the computer.

The Lenovo T61 uses the latest, fastest, processor and memory in this comparison, yet it has the poorest Cardbus performance. This is extremely significant for anyone wishing to utilize high speed eSATA storage devices. Fortunately the T61 has a newer peripheral interface called ExpressCard. The expresscard slot provides more bandwidth, and lacks all performance limitations found in the Cardbus interface. But UNFORTUNATELY those who opt for the memory card reader option on the T61 have no ExpressCard, and they are left with only the poorly performing Cardbus interface.
This article details the testing of various cardbus controllers on various notebook computers to show how the performance of the Ricoh cardbus controller used in the Lenovo T61, and probably many other computers, performs significantly worse than most other cardbus controllers.

Testing Method

Cardbus (PCMCIA) controllers manufactured by Ricoh and O2 Micro found in several laptops are compared in this article. Three different cardbus to sata bridge asics from Silicon Image and Initio are used. The bridge devices are the Silicon Image 3112 and 3512 and Initio 1620. A Seagate 160gb hard drive, model ST3160815AS, was benchmarked with HD Tune (version 2.54) to measure the maxiumum performance of the Cardbus interface. An Expresscard device was tested to show the maximum atainable speed with the hard drive.

Here are the sata to pci bridge devices that were used for the testing:
Interface Expresscard Cardbus Cardbus Cardbus
Make / Model SIIG SC-SAEE22-S1 StarTech CBESATA2 Vantec UGT-ST350CB LyCOM ST109
Card Image
Controller ASIC Silicon Image Sil3132 Initio INIC-1620TA2 Silicon Image Sil3512 Silicon Image Sil3112
ASIC Image
Max Performance**
Laptop Model
Laptop Released
75.1 MB/sec
Lenovo T61
75.1 MB/sec
Compaq n620c
75.1 MB/sec
Toshiba Satellite 2508
75.1 MB/sec
Toshiba Satellite 2508
** This is the maximum performance when testing with a 160GB SATA Hard drive. Actual maxiumum performance is likely higher with faster drives.


HDTune Results, Maximum Transfer Rate
Computer Cardbus Controller
Hardware ID
Cardbus Silicon Image 3512: Cardbus Silicon Image 3112: Cardbus Initio INIC-1620TA2: Expresscard Silicon Image 3132:
Lenovo T61 Ricoh R/RL/5C476(II) or Compatible
VEN_1180 DEV_0476
14.0 MB/sec 14.0 MB/sec 10.9 MB/sec 75.1 MB/sec
Dell X300 Ricoh R/RL/5C476(II) or Compatible
VEN_1180 DEV_0476
16.6 MB/sec 16.5 MB/sec 12.6 MB/sec No Expresscard Slot
Compaq n620c O2Micro OZ5933
VEN_1217 DEV_6933
40.5 MB/sec 38.5 MB/sec 75.1 MB/sec No Expresscard Slot
Toshiba Satellite 2508 Toshiba ToPIC100
VEN_1179 DEV_0617
75.1 MB/sec 75.1 MB/sec 74.6 MB/sec No Expresscard Slot
Dell D600 O2 Micro, Inc. OZ711EC1
VEN_1217 DEV_7113
34.9 MB/sec 34.4 MB/sec 63.0 MB/sec No Expresscard Slot

Notice that the seven year old Toshiba 2805 laptop outperforms all other notebooks.

The Dell X300 and Lenovo T61 show the same cardbus controller in the device manager, yet they both have different ASICs, perhaps this explains the slight difference in performance.

The Dell X300 uses the Ricoh R5C591, as seen in this image:

The Lenovo T61 uses the Ricoh R5C847:


According to Wikipedia, "The speed of CardBus interfaces in 32 bit burst mode depends on the transfer type; in byte mode it is 33 MB/s, in Word mode it is 66 MB/s, and in DWord mode it is 132 MB/s". The cardbus controller used in the T61 does not even reach the 33 MB/sec barrier, yet other notebooks are able to coast past 66 MB/sec. This can only bring me to one conclusion: there is some flawed logic in the Ricoh controllers.

It is interesting to note that the performance is rather inconsistent with all notebooks tested. Perhaps this means that few Cardbus controllers are created with exact specification adherence in mind.

On a seven year old laptop, the Initio and Silicon Image based cards perform over SEVEN TIMES faster than the brand new Lenovo T61. The bandwidth is limited by the hard drive used in the test rather than the SATA or Cardbus interface.

It seems clear that the Ricoh cardbus controller used in the Lenovo T61 and Dell X300 are significantly slower than other cardbus controllers.

The T61 uses a Ricoh R/RL/5C476(II) or Compatible Cardbus Controller. The default microsoft driver was used for all testing.

"PC Card", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PC_card, last modified 2008-4-3, at 23:42, accessed 2008-4-14 17:32

Revision History
4-14-2008 - Page Initially Created

Click here to view the original article discussing poor Cardbus performance on the Lenovo T61

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