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.
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).
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.
Kingston 32Gb Ultimate UHS-I SDHC
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 –
… 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
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.
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.