Lexar Workflow card reader speed tests

The “deep hibernation” of Rob Galbraith’s Digital Photography Insights website, including his CF/SD/XQD Performance Database, in 2012 left a huge void in the resources available to photojournalists. For as long as I can remember that was the definitive reference when trying to find the fastest flash cards and readers for use by working photojournalists and sports photographers.

I used to love spending time talking with other photographers on the Galbraith forums and comparing the data compiled by Rob and his team. We purchased the Lexar Professional Workflow system here at the newspaper this year and in the spirit of those old times I decided to test out the speeds when connecting it in the various configurations available. Read on if you’re interested in the results.

We use Canon cameras and Apple computers at The Daily News and in what seems to be a common paradox among photographers I know, we like Lexar card readers but exclusively use SanDisk flash cards.

The Equipment:

I also tested a brand new SanDisk reader and our previous reader of choice, the Lexar Professional FireWire 800 CompactFlash Card Reader, to see how they compared.

My primary goal in running the test was to see how much variance in speed was introduced by using the Lexar HR2 hub compared to connecting the readers directly to the computer. I was also curious about the difference between using USB 3 and Thunderbolt 2. (I also tested for changes when connecting the hub through an Apple Thunderbolt Display but saw no noticeable difference compared to connecting directly to the MacBook Pro.)

I also tested the write speed but that is rarely as important as read speed when ingesting cards on deadline. I’m sure my methods aren’t as scientific as those Rob Galbraith used but here is the data:

Card ReaderConnectionFlash CardRead (MB/s)Write (MB/s)
Card ReaderConnectionFlash CardRead (MB/s)Write (MB/s)
Lexar Professional Workflow CR2Thunderbolt 2CFast516.5212.8
Lexar Professional Workflow CR2USB 3CFast422.6216.2
SanDisk Extreme PRO CFast 2.0USB 3CFast421.7212.0
Lexar Professional Workflow CR2Workflow HR2 Hub (Thunderbolt 2)CFast359.8212.5
Lexar Professional Workflow CFR1USB 3CompactFlash150.8130.0
Lexar Professional Workflow CFR1Workflow HR2 Hub (Thunderbolt 2)CompactFlash149.8130.1
Lexar Professional FireWire 800Thunderbolt to Firewire AdapterCompactFlash81.656.4

As expected, the CFast cards on Thunderbolt 2 are by far the fastest. However I was surprised by how big of a hit the transfer speed took when utilizing the HR2 hub. It is especially convenient sitting on my desk at the office but I see no reason to drag it out into the field on assignment. While still twice as fast as using CompactFlash cards, if you are in a really big hurry skip the hub and connect directly to your computer.

As you can see the old venerable FW800 reader gets easily trounced by the newer readers and will immediately get relegated to backup status.

Hopefully these results were useful, feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts.

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