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10 SDXC/SDHC Memory Cards, Rounded Up And Benchmarked

10 SDXC/SDHC Memory Cards, Rounded Up And Benchmarked
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The latest flash-based SD memory cards with UHS-I deliver up to 63 MB/s throughput. Users who want to exploit that performance need to pay attention to a few details, like making sure they upgrade to a USB 3.0 card reader. Which card is the fastest?

SD memory cards have been on the market since late 2001, and nowadays they can be considered the storage backbone for the entire consumer electronics market. Devices like GPS units, tablet PCs, and digital cameras rely on SD memory cards.

It’s certainly appropriate to call SD cards the medium of our digital life when we're away from the PC, and we decided to look at some of the latest offerings for advanced users.

There are several reasons to revisit popular SD memory card products every once in a while. The capacities of these products shouldn't be an issue, as memory cards always provide the storage space for which they're rated. In other words, they don't suffer from the same sort of mislead marketing that we've seen from some SSD vendors. If they do, then they are typically broken, incorrectly partitioned, or improperly formatted. You will see them same variance due to binary conversion once you plug a card into a reader device and the operating system treats 1 KB as 1024 bytes (known as 1 KiB), since vendors still typically advertise 1 KB as 1000 bytes. This is normal, though.

However, performance can differ quite a bit. Last decade, SD cards maxed out at only a few megabytes per second. Today’s products cover everything between 5 MB/s and more than 60 MB/s, which means that, more than ever, it's important to choose the right SD card for your intended purpose.

Depending on how you want to read to or write from your SD card, it is also very important to use a reader device that actually supports fast speeds. Many USB 2.0 multi-card readers top out somewhere between 20 MB/s and the typical bottleneck of USB 2.0, which is realistically around 32-35 MB/s. If you want to really utilize 30+ MB/s of bandwidth, then you need a USB 3.0 card reader. As a side note, relying on a card reader built-in to your PC or notebook doesn't mean you're working around that USB 2.0-imposed limit, as most integrated devices actually employ USB 2.0.

For most folks, it's probably not as important to have the fastest SD memory hardware as it is to own a capable processor and graphics card. However, we want to make clear that the cost difference between average performance and great performance in this segment can be quite minimal. Let’s say you are going to invest in a decent 32 GB memory card and a suitable card reader. That combination is going to cost $50-70 anyway. Wouldn't you want to spend an extra $10 to transfer pictures from your digital SLR in half the time? We would.

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  • -2 Hide
    douglasmeier , May 24, 2011 6:53 AM
    How yesterday can you be. Lexar has a USB 3.0 Card reader (http://www.lexar.com/products/lexar-professional-usb-30-dual-slot-reader?category=213) that supports SDXC UHS-I and CF UDMA cards (dual slots that work simultaneously and can write from one card to another) for $50. This isn't a cheapo card reader and is designed for professional photographers/videographers but has a theoretical max of 500MB/sec* These claims conflict with the published limits of the yet unavailable UHS-II cards which max out at 312MB/s. The 60MB/sec limit (per Lexar) is the USB 2.0 level. *the 500MB/s is their claim
  • 2 Hide
    tavix , May 24, 2011 8:45 AM
    Where are the Panasonic cards???
  • 1 Hide
    San Pedro , May 24, 2011 9:26 AM
    tavixWhere are the Panasonic cards???

    I was wondering same thing.
  • 1 Hide
    damianrobertjones , May 24, 2011 9:30 AM
    What I'd like to know, is that does leaving these cards in a laptop use battery life when the machine is OFF? It does on my Envy 13, resulting in a flat battery (probably a bug) and possibly on the TM2 as well.
  • 4 Hide
    damianrobertjones , May 24, 2011 9:33 AM
    __-_-_-__VERY disapointed not to see other cards. easy to for kingstone to be first! competition sucks. But there are way better!!!! I wonder how much kingstone paid tomshardware for this.just one example: 16GB Delkin Elite633 SDHC UHS-I 95MB/s read & 80MB/s write


    Maybe Toms asked others to provide cards and they didn't. it's not always as negative as you think!
  • 2 Hide
    briggsy147 , May 24, 2011 12:04 PM
    Ha, running a system off of one of these is exactly what I'm doing. I've got my Open Pandora OS on a Samsung Plus. I can't actually tell the difference between that and running the OS from the internal NAND memory of the machine.
  • -6 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 24, 2011 12:21 PM
    1KiB = 1000 bytes, not 1024!
  • -2 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 24, 2011 12:32 PM
    Quote:
    In the end, Kingston’s Ultimate XX line only has one weekness

    Indicating the minor errors as I read the article :-)
  • 1 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 24, 2011 12:41 PM
    Sandisk extreme pro is probably the only type of card to put an OS on. Not only does it have faster IOPS, it also has a better ECC, which is vital for an operating system to work on!

    I'd not put any operating system on any other SD card; I've done it before, and it generally would take a couple of months before software read errors would appear!
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , May 24, 2011 1:49 PM
    Hmmm this is slower than what some compact flash cards have to offer. I bought on intending on using it as a cheap ssd for a old ibook.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820208529

    90mb/s read isn't to bad :)  not the fastest out there but certainly good. As for SD card in this review seam a little high but very nice roundup.
  • 0 Hide
    puddleglum , May 24, 2011 4:12 PM
    ProDigit101KiB = 1000 bytes, not 1024!

    I think the author was pointing out the difference between marketing kilobytes which is a power of 10 (10^3) versus computer kilobytes which is a power of 2 (2^10). Marketers have been advertising storage as a power of 10 for a long time now. What is new is that they are using KiB to indicate 2^10 and KB to indicate 10^3. This is suppose to replace the old designation based on case (mB for 10^3 and MB for 2^10) since people aren't always careful or aware of the case meaning.

    I'm not personally in favor of the new meaning, but the marketers have won out. You can see these KiB, MiB, ... definitions in wikipedia and some newer OSs.
  • 1 Hide
    yyrkoon , May 24, 2011 4:14 PM
    __-_-_-__VERY disapointed not to see other cards. easy to for kingstone to be first! competition sucks. But there are way better!!!! I wonder how much kingstone paid tomshardware for this.just one example: 16GB Delkin Elite633 SDHC UHS-I 95MB/s read & 80MB/s write

    tavixWhere are the Panasonic cards???


    Except there are flaws concerning your statement.

    First, the Lexar, and Sandisk memory cards have been around for more than 2 years. e.g. they are not based on some brand new technology. As a matter of a fact. I am willing to bet all the cards except the Kingston are all based on a few years old technology.

    Secondly, This is read only in a card reader, and not write capability in a camera. So if you're wanting to use this in a camera. Your camera wont perform any better.

    Most professional photographers will probably still use either the Lexar, or Sandisk memory cards. Mainly because they have been thoroughly tested in professional camera systems, and have been found to perform very well. Well, that is to say, those that even use SD card based Camera systems. Which will probably not be very many( except perhaps in secondary cameras ). Most photographers wanting/needing performance, will probably use a system that allows them to use CF media for the best performance.

    Transferring pictures to a computer after having taken them in a camera is often a far distant second concern. However, assuming this is important. Perhaps you could/should consider investing that money into CF media instead. Where is makes the most sense.

    For boot media, there are plenty of other options that make more sense( including, but not limited to CF media ). But in the event that you *have* to use SD media. Chances are very slim that the given system will support the latest/greatest cards to take full advantage of their speed capabilities.


  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 24, 2011 4:49 PM
    How come San Disk Extreme, Class 10 is now in the bulk of the class 10 cards, while in the previous benchmarking article it was clearly standing out?
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/compactflash-sdhc-class-10,2574-8.html
  • 0 Hide
    willwayne , May 24, 2011 10:05 PM
    ProDigit101KiB = 1000 bytes, not 1024!


    1 KB = 1 kilobyte = 10^3 = 1000
    1 KiB = 1 kibibyte = 2^10 = 1024
  • 2 Hide
    dalethepcman , May 24, 2011 10:36 PM
    The writer has come to a rather odd conclusion. In every test except peak read the Sandisk pro is similar or better than the Kingston. At half the price I would highly recommend the Sandisk over the Kingston any day.
  • 0 Hide
    douglasmeier , May 25, 2011 12:52 AM
    yyrkoonExcept there are flaws concerning your statement.First, the Lexar, and Sandisk memory cards have been around for more than 2 years. e.g. they are not based on some brand new technology. As a matter of a fact. I am willing to bet all the cards except the Kingston are all based on a few years old technology.Secondly, This is read only in a card reader, and not write capability in a camera. So if you're wanting to use this in a camera. Your camera wont perform any better.Most professional photographers will probably still use either the Lexar, or Sandisk memory cards. Mainly because they have been thoroughly tested in professional camera systems, and have been found to perform very well. Well, that is to say, those that even use SD card based Camera systems. Which will probably not be very many( except perhaps in secondary cameras ). Most photographers wanting/needing performance, will probably use a system that allows them to use CF media for the best performance. Transferring pictures to a computer after having taken them in a camera is often a far distant second concern. However, assuming this is important. Perhaps you could/should consider investing that money into CF media instead. Where is makes the most sense.For boot media, there are plenty of other options that make more sense( including, but not limited to CF media ). But in the event that you *have* to use SD media. Chances are very slim that the given system will support the latest/greatest cards to take full advantage of their speed capabilities.

    As I pointed out earlier. Lexar nows sells a USB 3.0 card reader that supports SD (in all its flavors, including UHS-I versions) and high speed CF media with two slots that even allow for reading/writing from one card to another. At only $50 from a respected company like Lexar, if I was a pro photographer transferring a lot of RAW files, buying one of their card readers would be a no brainer.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 25, 2011 8:10 AM
    Tom, I think you have done a great job with this report, the mArket is a confusing jungle and your report will help greatly, any ideas for what can be done about all the fake cards out there?
    roger@abbeyland.co.uk
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 25, 2011 2:24 PM
    How does does the read/write performance of a very-high speed SD card compare on the listed USB 3.0 reader, the previously mentioned Lexar USB 3.0 reader and a selection of ExpressCard-based readers? I'm interested in a USB 3.0 reader, but without anything that currently has a USB 3.0 port, I'm stuck with some kind of adapter, so why not just skip to an ExpressCard version?
  • 0 Hide
    toughbook , May 25, 2011 4:43 PM
    The only companies I trust my data with is either Panasonic or Sandisk. For my ultra sensitive and secure data only goes on my IronKeys.

    Was Panasonic invited to this review?
  • 0 Hide
    toughbook , May 25, 2011 4:44 PM
    The only companies I trust my data with is either Panasonic or Sandisk. For my ultra sensitive and secure data only goes on my IronKeys.

    Was Panasonic invited to this review?
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