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November 25th, 1997

The Skinny

[The Bottom Line:]
Speed Doubler 8 provides good disk, copy, and emulation performance improvements. Its additional copy and delete features, such as smart replace and file synchronization, are also useful, as is the Copy Agent, Hot Keys, and Keyboard Power. There is very little not to like with this package.

Easy to install, easy to use. Provides improved performance in terms of disk speed, copying files, and emulation. Copy Agent is truly useful, as are the customizable keyboard shortcuts. Low price.

Faster emulation not as useful as it once was. Faster file copy does not work with At Ease, or with copy operations initiated through Apple Events.

Speed Doubler 8.0.1
Processor: 68k and PowerPC
Memory Needs: 8MB
Hard Drive Space: 1MB
Price: $49
Publisher: Connectix Corp.

by: Oliver Dueck ([email protected])

Although Connectix updated Speed Doubler less than a year ago, the company has already released a significantly reworked version of the utility. The new version has been engineered specifically for use with Mac OS 8. Don't be fooled by the name; you won't actually have a system that is twice as fast overall when Speed Doubler 8 is installed. However, SD8 noticeably improves performance in several key areas, and it also sports some useful non-performance related components.

Surprisingly, Speed Doubler 8 ships on a single floppy disk, and installing it adds just two files to your system folder: an extension and a control panel. Configuring SD8 is simple, thanks to the tabbed window design found in the control panel.

Our testing showed that Speed Doubler dramatically improved disk performance on our test systems. On a PowerBook 3400, MacBench disk test results were 40% higher with SD8 installed. This increased speed is due to SD8's intelligent disk cache system. According to the documentation, Speed Doubler uses algorithms and techniques to decide which hard drive information should be held for future requests.

Another useful speed improvement comes from Speed Doubler 8's faster file copying, both locally and over networks. We ran a variety of tests, duplicating files and copying them to and from floppy disks and Iomega Zip media. In all of our tests, we experienced better performance with SD8, but in many cases it was only minor (ten percent improvements). The biggest gain in speed came when we copied over 2300 small files to a Zip disk; copy time dropped from almost seven minutes to just five. For users not running Mac OS 8, Speed Doubler allows multiple copies to run in the background.

SD8 offers many other copy enhancements that are not performance-related. For example, you can synchronize folders so that all the files in two folders are the same and up to date. A smart replace feature examines files and replaces only those files that are different. You can also choose to automatically delete locked files and wipe out all traces of deleted files when emptying the trash.

A new feature in Speed Doubler 8 is the Copy Agent, which allows the user to schedule copies. Creating a copy job is simple; choose what you want to copy, where to copy it to, when to copy it, and how to copy it (normal, smart replace, or synchronization). This makes it easy to back up your files to either a local drive or to a server.

On systems with PowerPC processors, Speed Doubler provides faster 68k emulation. When Speed Doubler was first released a few years ago, this was a very important feature, as there were still many popular applications which were not PowerPC native; nowadays, not many people use non-native software. Nevertheless, we dug up an old copy of MacDraw Pro, and were quite impressed with the results. Overall, performance was much improved. For example, launching the program took just 5 seconds, compared with 13 seconds without SD8 installed.

The Mac OS's emulator translates every instruction each time, while Speed Doubler 8 compiles it the first time, so it can be executed immediately on subsequent times because it has already been translated. This technique, called dynamic recompiling, is responsible for SD8's greatly improved emulation.

Also new to SD8 are Keyboard Power and Hot Keys. Keyboard Power underlines one letter in each menu name and item, and allows you to navigate the menus from your keyboard. For example, to save a file, you would press control-shift-F, causing the File menu to come up and stay up. Then, you would press S to save the file. You can also navigate the menu with the arrow keys.

Hot Keys allows the user to create keyboard shortcuts for typing text strings, launching applications, opening documents, switching between applications, and typing the current date. For example, you could have the function keys open certain applications, or you could create Hot Keys for your e-mail signature and mailing address.

Is it worth dropping $50 on Speed Doubler 8? The answer is most likely yes. The improved performance is certainly good, and the copy schedules, smart replace, and synchronization features are all helpful as well. If put to use, the Keyboard Power and Hot Key components can be a great time saver. If you want to use Speed Doubler and have upgraded to Mac OS 8, you will have to upgrade to Speed Doubler 8 as well.

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