ReadyBoost on a Sony Vaio SZ notebook

Recently, I was researching trying to find the best option for adding flash memory to my Sony VAIO VGN-SZ381p notebook to take advantage of the Vista ReadyBoost feature.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good information on which flash memory options were best for the Sony SZ. With flash memory being so cheap these days, it’s conceivable to get a 2GB USB or SD card for ~$40 and ideally leave it in my notebook fulltime.

According to the ReadyBoost information, you need flash memory that has at least 2.5 MB/sec for 4kb random reads and 1.75 MB/sec for 512kb random writes.

The Sony SZ series notebook have a few different options for connection flash memory.

First it has the conventional USB 2.0 ports so you can use simple USB keys. I don’t like this option since all USB keys would protrude from my laptop forcing me to remove it every time I shut it it down.

Second connection option is through the ExpressCard slot through a 5-in-1 memory card adaptor which supports Memory stick, Memory stick Pro, SD, xD and MMC.

The third option is through a dedicated Memory Stick DUO port on the left side of the notebook.

To do my tests, I used the built in Vista tool winsat which can be run from the command-line as follows:

Read speed:

winsat disk –read –ran –ransize 4096 –drive <drive_letter>

Write speed:

winsat disk –write –ran –ransize 524288 –drive <drive_letter>

Notes:

  • Substitute <drive_letter> with your drive letter without the colon. So ‘D:’ would be ‘D’.
  • You have to run the command line as administrator in order to use the winsat to measure read and write speeds.

Here are the tests I’ve done so far:

Sony VAIO VGN-SZ381p
Card Size Port Read speed Write speed Notes
Sony Microvault 2GB USB 2.0 3.25 MB/sec 3.76 MB/sec This card is freakin’ tiny. I
bought one of these just to keep in my wallet and it has come in handy
so many times it’s not even funny.
Sandisk Ultra II SD Plus 2GB USB 2.0 3.31 MB/sec 3.77 MB/sec
Sandisk Ultra II SD Plus 2GB Sony 5-in-1 card reader through
ExpressCard
1.25 MB/sec 1.37 MB/sec Same card as the one used in the USB 2.0 port (previous row). The Sandisk SD Plus cards have built-in USB 2.0 connection.
Sandisk Ultra II Memory Stick Pro Duo 2GB Native Memory Stick Pro Duo 3.97 MB/sec 3.16 MB/sec Plenty fast for ReadyBoost and it integrates well with the Sony SZ. Pop it into the Memory Pro Duo slot and you don’t even know its there.
Transcend 150x SD 4GB Sony 5-in-1 card reader through
ExpressCard
1.19 MB/sec 1.14 MB/sec I previously tested this card on
a few other notebooks and this one was a rocket. The card reader thru
the ExpressCard port is to blame for these results.On a Toshiba Tecra M4 the results were 4.35 MB/s and 5.72MB for read and
write respectively.

For the Sony SZ laptops, the clear winner in my tests were the Sony 2GB Microvault and the Sandisk Ultra II Memory Stick Pro Duo. The ExpressCard port was just too freakin’ slow which can be clearly seen on the impact of testing the Sandisk Ultra II SD Plus card in both ExpressCard and USB 2.0 ports and seeing 2.5x performance increase in the latter.

I ended up sticking with the Sandisk Ultra II Memory Stick Pro Duo since it inserts into the notebook without any part of the card sticking out. I can now keep the card in there full-time and enjoy all the ReadyBoost loving.

If you have ReadyBoost working with any other cards on your Sony SZ, help others out by running the 2 winsat commands I listed above and leave the results for read and write speeds in the comments.

Update: Found a great ReadyBoost compatibility site by Grant Gibson. It’s not specific to the Sony SZ so the tests I’ve done above will still be useful to Sony SZ owners. For everyone else, check out Grant’s site.