Quick Review: *FAKE* Sandisk Ultra 128Gb UHS-I MicroSDXC Card

The holiday periods around Christmas are a big time for shopping and spending, and one of the hottest items is undoubtedly electronics. Unfortunately, for those who aren’t as wise or careful, it’s also an opportune time to be scammed with the supply of sub-standard counterfeit products at reasonable looking prices. Part of the whole idea stems from the fact that gift-givers often don’t keep receipts, won’t return products, and won’t test them until it’s too late. By then, the seller has probably absconded with the money, never to be seen again.

It’s definitely advisable to practice some caution – don’t fall into deals which are too good to be true. I really needed a 128Gb microSDXC card to pair with another gift to myself, that will have to wait to be reviewed. Knowing the price for flash memory is ~$0.50/Gb for SSDs of that capacity, the fact a 128Gb microSDXC card was available for AU$80-ish didn’t seem too outlandish. Pressed for time, and looking for a deal, I decided to go with an undisclosed Australian eBay seller with very positive (99.5%) feedback. Having learnt from my last trip with fake flash, I decided to opt for something in full retail packaging to avoid the “bulk” packaged scams. This is what I received.

Unpackaging

I received a single padded envelope with the retail package inside. A quick glance at the retail packaging might look convincing, but it had me worried.

DSC_9749Having previously reviewed several Sandisk genuine products, this review of a 32Gb Ultra provides you a good idea what the genuine package should look like.

Significant differences include:

  • Different package hanging cut-out tab in the top.
  • Poor colour printing in the background with changed colour and saturation on the smartphone and almost invisible “reflection” of the clock text. Greys are too dark in the printing.
  • Slightly thin text in the Full HD logo on the top.
  • Crooked cardboard cutting at the top edge, with it tapering upwards towards the corner.
  • Slight font thickness differences in the blurb text.
  • Changed size of “speed” label underneath the capacity.
  • Poor fit (crooked) of the plastic card carrier in relation to the box – card carrier appears to be different with only very little “excess” plastic off the edge, so that the edge of the carrier is visible from the front.
  • Sandisk logo is not properly centred on the bottom.

 

DSC_9750

A flop over to the rear confirms the fear of a fake with poor quality printing that’s too thick and not centred. It’s even on the verge of being cut-off on the right edge. This is not characteristic of Sandisk quality gear. Another key issue is the use of the SDHC logos on this package, when it should be the SDXC logos as the card is >32Gb capacity. (The comparison Ultra 32Gb has SDHC logos, as appropriate because it’s an SDHC card).

I was pretty sure the card wasn’t genuine at this point, but to prove it beyond reasonable doubt, it has to be unpackaged and tested.

DSC_9751

A close look at the plastic carrier doesn’t seem to inspire confidence. From unpacking other Sandisk products, normally, the carriers have larger “wings” around the sides to stop them from moving around in the package.

DSC_9752

In this case, the plastic only just covers the card storage locations, which seems a little suspect.

DSC_9754

DSC_9753Close examination of the card reveals an unusual white fabric like cloth edge, and what appears to be a glossy “label” applied over the base card. This results in a white edge all the way around the card, which implies it has been remarked.

The rear of the card isn’t marked in normal Sandisk markings, which normally include the country of manufacture, in a neat small font further away from the card edges. The contacts also appear to be scuffed, implying it may have been tested, used or modified prior to packaging. This is at a level above normal expectations.

DSC_9755 DSC_9756

A careful examination of the adapter reveals that it is of sub-standard quality. Regular Sandisk adapters have their printing well aligned, and guide rails inside the microSD slot void itself. Furthermore, they have sharply defined notches, instead of the ragged edges seen above. Another deviation is the bend in the adapter’s contacts in the top right hand corner of the second image, and a lack of laser etch text which adorns the rear of genuine Sandisk adapters.

Further examination was performed by retrieving the card’s manufacturer defined registers (CID and CSD). These hold information pertaining to the card itself and should be programmed at manufacture.

Size: 128,849,018,880 bytes
CID: 0020204e2f412020103144a22300ecfd
CSD: 400e00325b590003bfff00000a4000b7

The CID values can be compared with other genuine Sandisk cards in my collection:

035344534430324780019acc7600844b SANDISK 2Gb Blue SDSC
035344535530314780401c751300637d SANDISK ULTRA II 1Gb MicroSDSC
0353445355363447801013d98600d6d3 SANDISK ULTRA 64Gb UHS-I MicroSDXC
035344534533324780231f9dcd00dc7b SANDISK EXTREME 32Gb UHS-I microSDHC
03534453553332478000e4b46c00e123 SANDISK ULTRA 32Gb UHS-I microSDHC
30534453553034470027901eaa00b97f SANDISK 4Gb Class 4 microSDHC

Note that most if not all Sandisk genuine cards have their first 2 octets (the Manufacturer ID) set to 03 or 30 (although the 30 may have been a typo on my behalf). In fact, checking the manufacturer ID of 00 in my database matches none of the cards I own, and therefore does not come from a reputed manufacturer, let alone Sandisk. The value of 00 may even be reserved and not allocated to any manufacturer – this is something only the SD Foundation would know.

This alone is another indicator that the card is not a quality item, and not a Sandisk item. Along with this, it seems the CSD has been tampered with to indicate the card as 128Gb in hardware, thus it doesn’t appear to be the wrong capacity even when re-formatted (as opposed to repartitioning scams which are easily undone).

Performance Testing

Another sure-fire giveaway of a bad card is a bad performance result. Due to the size of the card, it takes quite a while to test, so it took a whole day to collect the following results.

HDTune Pro with Transcend RDF8

hdt-rdf8-clean

The card shows an unusual difference in read speed near the beginning which is not repeated in a pattern, which implies something wrong with the flash. The read speed is only a paltry 21.6MB/s which implies it’s operating in Class 10 transfer modes, rather than UHS-I as indicated in the package. Traditionally, Sandisk cards under-promise and over-deliver, as can be seen in the table of previous readback tests where Ultra cards consistently delivered 44Mb/s+ on the same equipment.

HDTune Pro with Kogan RTS5301

hdt-rts5301-clean

You might scream “compatibility issue” but it’s not. Here’s it tested with another USB 3.0 reader which has qualified many cards, even up to 128Gb size, and the performance is within a whisker. The performance doesn’t show the variance in performance, but just because the whole card is read does not mean it’s working properly.

CrystalDiskMark with Transcend RDF8

cdm-rdf8

Testing with CrystalDiskMark only utilizes the first 1Gb of the card, and was successful. The results achieved are uncharacteristic of Sandisk Ultra cards, with the worst 512kb and 4kb write performance delivered to date. No other card, even un-classed, has achieved such poor write results at both 512kb and 4kb transaction lengths. Again read performance sequentially falls far below the 42Mb/s achieved by other genuine Ultra cards.

CrystalDiskMark with Kogan RTS5301

cdm-rts5301

These sentiments are echoed when tested with a second card reader. This is not what you should be seeing from a Sandisk Ultra card.

H2testw with Transcend RDF8

failed-h2testw

The proof is in the pudding. This card is not a genuine 128Gb card and only has about 5Gb of workable flash media. The rest of the data is “overwritten” in an endless loop, with the first 64Mb protected so the file-system doesn’t appear corrupted but the files definitely are. The full write and read exposes the poor performance of the card which fails to meet 10Mb/s on either writes or reads and cannot be considered Class 10!

The full log is below:

Warning: Only 122847 of 122848 MByte tested.
The media is likely to be defective.
5.1 GByte OK (10771712 sectors)
114.8 GByte DATA LOST (240818944 sectors)
Details:114.8 GByte overwritten (240818944 sectors)
0 KByte slightly changed (< 8 bit/sector, 0 sectors)
0 KByte corrupted (0 sectors)
64 MByte aliased memory (131072 sectors)
First error at offset: 0x0000000148ba0000
Expected: 0x0000000148ba0000
Found: 0x0000001df77a0000
H2testw version 1.3
Writing speed: 7.86 MByte/s
Reading speed: 8.17 MByte/s
H2testw v1.4

This test took over 8 hours of my time to complete. It’s conclusive. I’ve even verified this with a hex editor which shows data repetition/overwriting, and by filling the card completely with other files and checking their contents.

After the test filled the card, an HDTune Pro test was run with the card, and the speed inconsistency can be seen to align exactly with where you would expect it to be based on the H2testw result. This is not a coincidence.

hdt-rdf8-written

Counterfeit Item Protection

It is at this time I should remind readers of their rights under Paypal’s Buyer Protection. If you’ve purchased something counterfeit from eBay by PayPal, you are covered by buyer protection. The policy has specific clauses in relation to counterfeit products:

Under Section 4.3 Potential Buyer Risks:

COUNTERFEIT ITEM CLAIMS

If you file a claim about a counterfeit item you may be required to:

  • Obtain documentation from a qualified third party to substantiate your claim and/or
  • Destroy the item and provide evidence of this at your expense; or
  • Make the item available for the seller to collect at their expense.

It is against the law to possess or sell a counterfeit item.

Under Section 4.4 Potential Seller Risks:

ITEMS MAY NOT BE RETURNED If your buyer files a claim about a counterfeit item they may be required to:

  • Obtain documentation from a qualified third party to substantiate their claim and/or
  • Destroy the item and provide evidence of this at their expense; or
  • Make the item available for you to collect at your expense.

The payment may be reversed.

It is against the law to sell a counterfeit item.

As a result, if the item is counterfeit, you should be able to contest this for a full refund. This is all without posting the item back unless the seller pays to collect it or have it posted. The only burden is a need to prove the item as counterfeit, and to destroy the item on their instruction and document it.

IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO SELL A COUNTERFEIT ITEM!

Conclusion

Through diligent documentation, it is proven beyond a doubt that this item is a counterfeit. The packaging was poor and did not match up to that of a genuine product with colour differences, layout differences and poor alignment. The card itself was not correctly marked and showed signs of remarking, the adapter was below standards and did not have the expected mark text on it. Even the manufacturer’s data in the CID register did not define the Vendor ID correctly to be Sandisk (03-hex). The card underperformed for speed, and was also not capable of handling the amount of data it was advertised for.

At the moment, I am in discussions with the seller to resolve this problem. I hope it will be resolved to my satisfaction – I will not shy away from opening a Paypal case if necessary.

ADDENDUM: The seller was very apologetic and offered to resolve the problem immediately to my favour. The items have been removed from the market and the supplier is being contacted.

UPDATE

Well, I couldn’t get to sleep. I got my money back, and I have the item on hand, but it’s utterly useless to me. One niggle was in the back of my mind – what lies underneath the label like covering on the card? Only one way to find out – a sharp hobby knife.

DSC_9770

Savaging the card with a knife isn’t as easy as it seems. Whatever glossy print material they used seems to be quite like the coke-bottle labels – they’re very thin and slippery. Attacking it at different locations with a sharp knife allows us to remove some of it. On genuine cards, marks are always applied to the surface of the card itself, and no knife can remove them. The fact a knife has this property is a dead giveaway that this is NOT genuine.

DSC_9771

Slowly, and persistently, more of the plastic overprint is removed. Unfortunately, nothing seems to show underneath. Better finish the job anyway …

DSC_9773

Et voila! The remarking has been removed off the card. The identity of the original card is still unknown. The reason for this is that the card has been carefully ground down so as to roughen the surface to improve adhesion of the remarking label, as well as to ensure the whole remarked card is not too thick for insertion. The grinding away of the material has taken away any original manufacturer prints on the card, if any!

And now … I can probably go to sleep.

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!
This entry was posted in Computing, Flash Memory and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Quick Review: *FAKE* Sandisk Ultra 128Gb UHS-I MicroSDXC Card

  1. stuART says:

    Hi

    Excellent ‘investigation’. I’ve stopped short of scraping the ‘layer’ off,.. so far… but I was getting there. Yesterday/today I have been testing two of these – one is about an 8GB card, the other around 16GB. Both have MMB3D08BUACA-GE PRINTED (not etched) on the back. They both write at approx 5MB/sec and read about the same. SLOOOOOOW!!! Can’t delete some files etc etc etc… all the usual signs as you’ve identified are present. Plus 0-byte files in Android and Android can’t delete files/folders on one of the cards – doesn’t know what to do with the file/MBR structure, and 47 files in lost.dir (I have about 7 tablets and 4 smartphones – never seen a file in lost.dir til yesterday). I noticed the ‘funny’ ‘paint’ on the upper surface too whereas, normally, it should have the Sandisk printing directly onto the card ‘plastic’ substrate – I showed it to my son under my 10x mag. eyepiece – yet there is a greyish edge to the ‘silkscreened’ overlay. I must have about 40 microsd cards at the moment – none are like this. Plus the adapter is cr4p quality! Based on one of your observations though, I have got a REAL BIGGY of a REVELATION to tell you AND everyone else… these sellers (at least this one) has got REAL ‘CLEVER’! He/they didn’t count on ME, though! :-> MY packaging is GENUINE! See if you can guess what I’m going to tell you regarding the packaging being genuine? I noticed one of your observations too, but it didn’t click til I just found your blog. It is to do with the ‘wings’ being ‘smaller’ on the plastic packaging. In your case, your packaging is clearly ‘duff’, but mine is genuine (or extremely well copied). It was puzzling me why I had fake cards in genuine packaging… that were SEALED!; I was forming the hypothesis that Sandisk themselves were only able to get 128GB on a micro card by implementing some kind of compression utility into the controller chip (and maybe this is the case with all ‘fake’ cards or ALL micro sd cards in general, and nobody knows it, yet) and the ‘fake’ cards were/are in fact faulty/grade 2 ‘genuine’ rejects. We already know that reject chips have been sold (or allegedly ‘stolen’) and sold on again for decades – this may explain why you suggest the speed is somehow deliberately limited (I’m sure it can be programmed to do so, and, if so, this would ‘allow’ the writing/reading to keep pace with any compression algorithm without causing issues for the OS). If Coca-Cola can keep their recipe secret for decades, perhaps there is a secret ‘recipe’ inside memory cards… and even modern CPUs. Oh, the position of the X and the class 10 symbol on the ‘painted’ layer are also slightly off from pictures of genuine cards. I’ve been at this for 18 hours of MY TIME too! 7uck3r5! I should charge the seller at least £360 for my time + 30% Care and Conduct inc. resources. Anyway, when I cut open the package across the top along the dotted line, and extracted the blister pack, I noticed a little split in the edge of one of the wings – I didn’t do this, and I thought “Hmmm… why has this got a split in it – unusual!?” Well, I’ve figured out this ‘seller’s’ ‘strategy’, and why the blister pack and wings are smaller. This is so that one can cut (with nail scissors, say) and ‘pull’ out the genuine blister pack and card with adapter and easily insert a smaller blister pack WITH A FAKE CARD ‘lengthways’ into the sealed packaging (shame I can’t insert a video here) – the smaller wings (which would usually reach into the inside edges of the packaging, and which are sometimes slightly pinched by the sealed edges of the packaging) are able to rotate inside the packaging, just missing getting stuck in the inside edges when passing the ‘diagonal-points/corners’… and the blister pack then simply ‘pops up’ into the cut-out, appearing as though the whole package is a genuine and sealed package and card etc. I have tried this, and it is a ‘piece of cake’ to do. This would also explain why some of the edges of the cut-out are ever-so-slightly-frayed, and not instantly unnoticeable… and why there is a little split in one wing of the blister pack. VERY ‘CLEVER’, I must say! Then blame the ‘Buyer’ for corrupting/damaging it. This way, they can keep, and sell, the Original card (as OEM/plain packaging, and rightfully claim ‘genuine’) and make two lots of profit by ultimately making both appear and be genuine… with all liability resting with the Buyer of a ‘consumable’ product. A third or additional, and equally likely, possibility here is that genuine, pre-sealed packaging is being stolen from the genuine printing factory and fake cards are then easily inserted. It didn’t get past me! Not after many years in retail, and catching many ‘customers’ (to put the shoe-of-corruption on the other side’s foot) out who tried all sorts of tricks to get refunds including opening up electronic music keyboards and desoldering wires to fake ‘genuine’ product-failure. The first thing I always look at are the screws…

    Now, I’m off to get some sleep…

    Yours diligently

    stuART beachman *_~

    • lui_gough says:

      Very astute observations, and my appreciation for the amount of time you’ve taken to note your experiences and ideas.

      You definitely have a rather interesting, but very plausible, hypothesis in regards to the size of the wings on the card carrier. Nothing would escape the realm of possibility I suppose, and your train of thought is definitely a possibility. It would make it extremely hard for a buyer to argue even when they have received a duff product based on purely pictorial evidence and would throw doubt on any disputes. That being said, a seller can only do that a few times before the pattern becomes too obvious.

      That being said, keep an eye out on here. In the next hour, I’ll post up a detailed posting of a real 128Gb Sandisk microSDXC – it does everything as I would expect, no surprises there! But the packaging has been updated for the latest product lines here in Australia, and are hence slightly different.

      – Gough

  2. shakalnokturn says:

    Nice review!

    A note on eBay / PayPal buyer protection, a little off-topic though…

    Not so long ago I was seeking some power depletion MOSFET transistors for an audio project, found some cheapish IXTH16N20D2 so I bought ten from a quite well known Chinese seller “HKUTS-omething”, never had problems before with the seller, always received working components be they fake or genuine.

    MOSFETs received turned out to be enhancement ones so obviously fake.
    Either that or IXYS has a serious marking problem at the factory, they never even bothered to reply when told I was buying fakes of their reputable components…

    Bought in France from China/HK trough eBay.com with PayPal, had proof, neither eBay nor PayPal would back me up or hear about fakes. The only way to get a refund was to return the merchandise. Kept their junk as proof gave negative feedback, it took that for the seller to consider refunding.

    From my experience on this problem and a few others you are alone on eBay, maybe buying in the US from an US seller and being ready for a court case you can get somewhere, otherwise buyer protection is a heap of bull$$$$. (There are rules to help the cash get around borders, stuff the rest!)

    Paul

  3. John Gingell says:

    loving this! ive got one of these fake 128Gb micro sd from a uk seller on ebay through paypal and i am in the process now of replying to his reaquest that i send him the card back to complete the refund process. im going to quote the paypal rules that you have posted here to see how he responds. if you are interested i will let you know the outcome if not thank you very much for making this post it has help me a lot in the attempt to return this useless piece of plastic

  4. Darcy says:

    I need some help. My sd card has all my contacts and conversations on it. I need the password to restore it to my phone. After i restore it, i’m throwing the fake sd card out. I was wondering if i could have any help on find out what the sd card password may be?
    Thanks

  5. malar9090fff says:

    You seem like a really tedious person

Error: Comment is Missing!