13 Flash Memory Card Roundup: Does High Speed Really Matter?

Posted December 19, 2012 by Sam Chen in Reviews
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Performance

Synthetic Testing

For our synthetic testing today, we’ll be using Crystal Disk Mark 3.0.1 x64 benchmarking software. Memory cards are zero wiped and reformatted prior to any testing. Each memory card is tested using Kingston’s USB 3.0 Media Card Reader (FCR-HS3). Special thanks to Kingston for sponsoring us with the memory card reader for this article!

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Here’s a look at the sequential read performance for all the memory cards tested today. Overall, the results aren’t all that surprising as the cards with the higher speed ratings showed better performance, with the Lexar Professional 1000X CF card taking the crown here by a wide margin at nearly 150MB/s. Something else interesting to note here is that not all Class 10 SD cards are created equal. The top tier Class 10 SD cards were able to hit nearly 90MB/s sequential reads while the bottom tier Class 10 SD cards struggled to break 25MB/s.

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Moving into sequential write testing, we again see the Lexar Professional 1000x CF card taking the #1 spot. Again, notice the difference between the lower tier Class 10 SD cards and the top tier Class 10 SD cards. We’re looking at a difference of more than 70MB/s between the slowest and fastest SD cards tested today.

Real World Testing

memory-card-roundup-2012-custom-pc-review-1For our real world testing, we’ve decided to use Nikon’s new D800 DSLR camera as our testing platform. This beastly DSLR camera features a 36.3 MP sensor, which produces Nikon compressed RAW files between 40MB and 80MB – a perfect filesize to really push our ultra fast memory cards. In addition, it also is capable of using both SD (up to UHS-I supported) and CF cards (up to UDMA 7 supported), which can push the cards even closer to their limits.

Our testing today will consist of a 30 second burst of continuous high speed shooting in RAW mode. This will allow the DSLR’s internal cache to fill up, which means it’ll have to transfer the files out of cache before a new picture can be taken. At the end of our 30 second burst, we’ll record the number of pictures taken.

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Alright, so let’s take a look at the results from our real world testing. With our D800 in high speed continuous shooting mode, we can see that generally the lower tier memory cards are able to take around 25 photos in 30 seconds while the high speed cards will do about 40 photos in 30 seconds. Unfortunately, it seems like the camera itself tops out at around 40 pictures per 30 seconds, so even having ultra fast memory cards doesn’t yield much benefit over just purchasing a more mid tier memory card.

In addition to doing high speed shooting tests, I also did some HD video recording testing as well off the D800. However, the D800 only features 1080P recording at up to 24 Mbps, which doesn’t require a whole lot out of the memory card. Every card in our roundup today even including the ADATA Class 6 memory card was able to record HD video perfectly fine.


About the Author

Sam Chen

Editor-in-Chief

  • Russell Robinson

    This is a pretty good comparison, some people still think all sd cards are equal

  • Greg Zeng

    In my experiences, I’ve found flash card performance varies between individual items which seem similar: brand, model, size, speed, etc: batch & random variations.

    Speed often lessens, depending on hubs, expansion cables, and even which hardware port on my PC is used. It’d be interesting to see if bench testing within similar batch are consistent too.