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Friday, December 7, 2012

SanDisk Pushes the SD Card Speed Barrier


I love photography. I might be horrible at it, but my fondness for recording my experiences runs unabated by my lack of talent. It closely compliments one of my other loves, travel. Anyone who knows me, and knows how much I love to travel, has probably heard me say that I don’t buy souvenirs when I travel. The only souvenir I like to take home with me is my photographs. They allow me to capture memories that I’ll still be enjoying long after a cheap souvenir has been relegated a storage bin.

To be sure that I don’t miss a shot, I like to have both a nice camera and a fast memory card. I’m not an expert in the memory card space, but I've long been happy with the speed and reliability of SanDisk cards. Not long ago, I purchased the SanDisk Extreme Pro 16 GB SDHC UHS-1 card (wow, that’s a mouthful). It might be overkill for some, but I like knowing that if anything is slowing me down, it’s not something I can easily control like the memory card. So how fast is it?

This particular SDHC card is touted as having a maximum 95 MB/s read speed and a 90 MB/s write speed. This places it at the very top of the speed range for today’s SDHC/SDXC cards. To experience these “extreme” speeds, you’ll need to make sure that your camera can make use of UHS-1 rated SDHC cards. Also, you’ll want a USB 3.0 card reader (internal or external) to benefit from those transfer speeds when copying files to a PC or Mac. The older USB 2.0 standard tops out at 60 MB/s and will act as a bottleneck for this card, but USB 3.0 can handle up to 600 MB/s. If your PC doesn't offer USB 3.0, you might be able to install a PCI Express card like I had to.

I always hesitate to believe marketing claims of memory card speed as real-world performance tends to be much lower than advertised. Having a USB 3.0 card reader allowed me to really test out the speed of this card (in a very unscientific manner), and while it was understandably slower than the marketing claim, I came away pleasantly surprised. While transferring a 1.4 GB zip file between the card and my Intel 520 Series SSD, I experienced consistent read speeds in the 85 to 87 MB/s range, and write speeds around 75 MB/s. That’s pretty fast by my standards, and easily adequate for most photography needs.

87.3 MB/s Read Speed 

75.5 MB/s Write Speed

Memory card speeds are rapidly improving, and costs per gigabyte are rapidly decreasing. If you need a memory card today, I encourage you to pick this one up ($40 for 16 GB at the time of writing). If you don’t need one, wait six months and buy this for half the price, or buy an even faster card. 

Check out my photography work at: www.emmanuelcanaan.com/