Memory Cards, Part 1: CompactFlash From 8GB To 64GB

Professionals rely on high-speed CompactFlash cards. Today we're looking at a handful of different options from Lexar, Samsung, SanDisk, Silicon Power, and Transcend with capacities up to 64GB and speeds up to 600x (as high as 90 MB/s)

Professional equipment like digital SLR cameras require professional storage products. While CompactFlash capacities will soon reach 128GB, the fastest models tend not to be the largest. When we requested some of the fastest CF cards for review, what we received were mostly 16GB models (admittedly still fairly roomy). We benchmarked them to find out how these downsized speetsters stack up.

The speed ratings for memory cards are derived from the speed basis used with audio CDs: 150 KB/s. This is referred to as single or 1X speed, and memory cards, along with other storage products, use a multiple to characterize performance. The latest generation of high-performance CompactFlash cards reach 600x performance, representing 90 MB/s. A few products claim 667x (100 MB/s), but these aren’t widely available yet.

CompactFlash comes in two physical formats, Type I and Type II. Type II allows cards to have a thickness of up to 5 mm, while Type I is limited to 3.3 mm. Practically all CF memory cards are Type I. While type alone doesn’t have an impact on performance, future revisions of the CF standard (beyond version 4.1) are expected to be based on a serial interface, whereas all existing CF products come with an integrated UltraDMA interface. UltraDMA/133 was introduced with CF standard 4.0 and paved the way for today’s performance. The move to serial should allow for even greater results.