Quick Review: Kingston 32Gb Ultimate SDHC and 128Gb SDXC

Many people might be on the look-out to buy some more storage in the form of SD cards, whether it be for their camera, or for hobby purposes (say, the Raspberry Pi). Increasingly large sized SD cards are now becoming available at prices I could have only dreamed of less than ten years earlier.

My first SD card was a 128Mb card, for about $100. Now, the world record is held by Lexar’s 256Gb SDXC card, which also (probably) also holds the record for most expensive SD card ever.

Kingston SDHC and SDXC cards

This holiday season, I decided to pick up a few more SD cards for my photography and hobby uses. It’s generally known to be risky to shop on eBay for flash memory, but if you do stick to a known good brand, with sellers that have reputable feedback and a price that’s not unreasonably cheap – you can still get a good deal.

I purchased two different types of Kingston cards for my use – both were verified as genuine through the Kingston “head” hologram on the card, and via the verification form online.

The Kingston 32Gb Ultimate UHS-I SDHC card was chosen for its reasonable capacity, reasonable price and good speed. This is the card you would choose for high speed burst photography, and fast downloads to your computer. It’s so fast, according to the package, you really need a USB 3.0 reader. The price wasn’t bad either, about AU$38 for 32Gb which is about what you’d expect to pay for a UHS-I class card.

The second was a Kingston 128Gb Class 10 SDXC card. One thing to note is that cards greater than 32Gb are SDXC, and thus should use exFAT as the filesystem, and may have compatibility issues with older SDHC devices. This card is a monster, costing just about AU$100. Considering it is 1000 times larger than the card I bought for the same price less than 10 years ago, it’s a good deal. It’s the card you would choose when capacity, rather than absolute speed is your number one priority (although being Class 10, it’s no slouch either). It would be great to use with cameras for extended unattended time-lapse shooting or for “no-change” shooting in RAW+JPEG all day.

Performance Check Methodology

As for every memory card I purchase, I have to test them before commissioning them for use. In the case of some questionable counterfeit purchases, there may be “false” capacity cards going around. Testing was performed using my Transcend RDF8 USB 3.0 reader/writer on my Windows 7 desktop with an NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 controller.

The first thing I do is to do some benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark to ascertain the read/write speeds.

The next thing is to fully fill the cards with random data using WinHex. Then I read the whole card back three times and ensure the data is constant. Then I check all sectors have random data, up to the last one, instead of 0x00 or oxFF (which you might see in fake capacity cards).

Once all that is done, I use HDTune to check the speed across its surface, before finally using SDFormatter to do a full surface erase and size adjustment which readies the card for final use.

This isn’t so much a stress test, however, truly bogus cards will fail this at several points. If the card passes, it’s got to be at least somewhat good. You may experience unusual problems which stem from reader to card compatibility issues, which is why if a card fails, I always test it with at least two different readers with different chipsets to get a clear verdict on it.

Performance Data

Kingston 32Gb Ultimate UHS-I SDHC

Kingston-Ultimate-SDHC32Gb Kingston-Ultimate-SDHC32Gb-READHDT

The card working with the Transcend RDF8 posts some mighty good results. It’s now the fastest card I’ve owned. It meets and exceeds the write speed specification, which is great news. The read speed is below the 90MB/s printed on the card, however, that’s likely to be down to the combination of card and reader. Another reader may well achieve the printed result, but it’s still very fast to read. I can’t imagine doing a 32Gb download in just 8 minutes!

Just for fun, if you shove it into an older USB 2.0 reader (a good Transcend one as well), you’ll get this –

Kingston-Ultimate-SDHC32Gb-READHDT_USB2

… so do think about investing in a new USB 3.0 card reader and having USB 3.0 if speed is essential in your workflow.

Kingston 128Gb Class 10 SDXC

Kingston-SDXC128Gb Kingston-SDXC128Gb-HDT

The large capacity of this card is real and functional, although you do pay a premium in terms of speed for the large capacity. This may be because of the use of higher density (and less durable) triple-level-cell flash memory. The likelihood that you would wear it out before it’s entirely obsolete is unlikely though. The speeds themselves aren’t too bad – read speeds are still outside that of USB 2.0, so a USB 3.0 reader is recommended. It measured about 45-48Mb/s which exceeds the printed 30Mb/s by a good margin. The 17Mb/s write speed is also quite welcome, as it’s also exceeding the Class 10 marking by a significant margin.

Compared to the Ultimate series card above, it’s much slower in comparison. Durability and compatibility haven’t been tested, but one must be cautious as some devices may have trouble with such large cards.

Conclusion

It turns out that these Kingston cards may be a worthy buy for you – both the performance and capacity enthusiasts. The prices are reasonable, and the performance was mostly as stated on the label. It’s also a good reminder that you might consider upgrading your reader to take advantage of the speeds these newer cards can offer, and to ensure compatibility with SDXC cards.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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2 Responses to Quick Review: Kingston 32Gb Ultimate SDHC and 128Gb SDXC

  1. Clemens Eisserer says:

    Interestingly, the Ultra card shows horrible random write speed, something very important for storing small files.

    • lui_gough says:

      That is somewhat true, although in my experience, most of the cards I have are worse on the 4k metric. It seems to be the case with newer ‘large’ cards and high performance cards that they are focussing on sequential performance, arguably the more important one for their target market of HD video and DSLRs where images can be 10-20Mb in size.

      Unfortunately, this means buyer beware for those who wish to use it for running an OS (e.g. Linux) on embedded projects like the Raspberry Pi because performance will heavily depend on the random small block access speed. Also, it seems, there can be penalties from interleaving read and write requests with some cards that can make them run even slower, but as yet, I’m not aware of a benchmark which factors this into account.

      The irony is that a quality 4-8Gb cards will probably be cheaper and faster for those purposes, if space is not the issue.

      – Gough

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