Home > Articles > Hardware > Upgrading & Repairing

Upgrading and Repairing PCs Tip #10: Comparing Flash Memory Devices: Which Is Best for Your Needs?

  • Print
  • + Share This
In this excerpt from the 22nd edition of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Scott gives you a list of issues to check before purchasing flash memory-based devices.

Find more tips from Upgrading and Repairing PCs here.

From the book

As with any storage issue, you must compare each product’s features to your needs. You should check the following issues before purchasing flash memory-based devices:

  • Which flash memory products does your camera or other device support? Although adapters allow some interchange of the various types of flash memory devices, for best results, you should stick with the flash memory type your device was designed to use.
  • Which capacities does your device support? Flash memory devices are available in ever-increasing capacities, but not every device can handle the higher-capacity devices. Check the device and flash memory card’s websites for compatibility information. In some cases, firmware updates can improve a device’s compatibility with larger or faster flash memory card standards.
  • Are some flash memory devices better than others? Some manufacturers have added improvements to the basic requirements for the flash memory device, such as faster write speeds and embedded security. Note that these features usually are designed for use with particular digital cameras only. Don’t spend the additional money on enhanced features if your camera or other device can’t use those features.

Only ATA Flash cards can be attached directly to a very old laptop computer’s PC Card slot. All other devices need their own socket or some type of adapter to transfer data. Figure 9.4 shows how the most common types of flash memory cards compare in size to each other and to a penny.

Table 9.2 provides an overview of the major types of flash memory devices and their currently available maximum capacities.

Figure 9.4 SmartMedia, CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, xD-Picture Card, and Sony Memory Stick flash memory devices. Shown in relative scale to a U.S. penny (lower right).

Table 9.2 Flash Memory Card Capacities

Device

Minimum Capacity

Maximum Capacity

Notes

Compact Flash (CF +)

16MB

512GB

Along with SDXC, highest capacity; supported by most professional digital SLR cameras.

SmartMedia

16MB

512MB

Used by early Fujifilm and Olympus digital cameras.

MultiMediaCard (MMC)

16MB

4GB

MMC cards can work in most SD slots.

RS-MMC

128MB

2GB

Use adapter to plug into MMC slots.

Secure Digital (SD)

16MB

2GB

SD cards do not work in MMC slots. Used by most brands of consumer-level digital cameras.

Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC)

4GB

32GB

Devices that are compatible with SDHC can also use SD cards, but not vice versa.

Secure Digital eXtended Capacity (SDXC)

64GB

512GB

Along with CF+, highest capacity; devices that are compatible with SDXC cards can also use SDHC and SD cards, but not vice versa. Uses exFAT file system.

CFast v1.x

4GB

128GB


XQD v1.0

32GB

64GB


CFast v2.0

64GB

256GB

Backwards-compatible with CFast v1.x

XQD v2.0

32GB

128GB

Backwards-compatible with XQD v1.0

MiniSD

128MB

4GB

Use adapter to plug into SD slots.

MicroSD, Micro SDHC, Micro SDXC

128MB

128GB

Use adapter to plug into SD/SDHC/SDXC slots. Capacity limits follow same rules as full-size SD/SDHC/SDXC cards

Memory Stick

16MB

128MB

Developed by Sony and licensed to other vendors. Proprietary—not recommended.

Memory Stick PRO

256MB

4GB

The enhanced high-speed version of Memory Stick with digital rights management support. Proprietary—not recommended.

Memory Stick PRO Duo

256MB

16GB

Reduced-size version of Memory Stick PRO. Proprietary—not recommended.

Memory Stick PRO-HG

1GB

4GB

Duo-sized, high-speed version of Memory Stick PRO for use in camcorders. Achieves 480MBps transfer rate. Proprietary—not recommended.

Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX

4GB

32GB

Boosts performance to 50MBps transfer rate. Uses exFAT file system. Proprietary—not recommended.

ATA Flash

16MB

2GB

Plugs directly into a PC Card (PCMCIA) slot without an adapter.

xD-Picture Card

16MB

2GB

Use the same brand as your digital camera for the best results. Proprietary—not recommended.

USB flash drive

2GB

1TB

Some include password-protection and write-protect features.

I normally recommend only devices (cameras, PDAs, and so on) that use Secure Digital (SD/SDHC/SDXC, including SD variants like MiniSD or MicroSD), CompactFlash (CF), or USB flash memory. Any of the others I generally do not recommend due to proprietary designs and higher costs as well as limitations in capacity and performance.

Secure Digital has become the most popular format in modern devices. It is reasonably fast and is available in capacities approaching those of CF, and in smaller MiniSD and MicroSD formats, which are physically compatible with the full-sized SD using adapters. SD sockets also take MMC cards, which are basically thinner versions of SD. Note that the opposite is not true—MMC sockets do not accept SD cards.

CF+ is the most widely used format in professional devices. It offers the highest capacity, in a wide range of speeds in a reasonably small size.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account