Introduction

We throw 8 SD cards from 6 manufacturers at a battery of tests to show you if all SD cards are made equal. Throw away those speed ratings, this is the real deal.

To show off my advanced age, I remember the day when I saw my first 3.5” diskette. It wasn’t the increased capacity that amazed me, rather it was its portable size! Finally I could bring a copy of King’s Quest wherever I went without worrying about having it broken or bent in my pocket!

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While I still don’t own a pair of rocket boots (Popular Science sure got that prediction wrong!), portable storage media has come a long way since the venerable 3.5” disk. Today we have thumb drives, micro hard drives, and of course the plethora of memory cards – I don’t think any magazine editor from 10 years ago would have ever anticipated a DVD-worth of data fitting into something 1-inch square.

The SD card format has been around for almost 1 decade now and made its debut in 1999. Secure Digital / SD cards have emerged as one of the leading storage form factors in the past 4 years, and a quick search on our Pricegrabber Service shows that SD cards are the most popular storage type.

Today on PC Perspective, we are going to take a look at eight different SD cards from six different manufacturers.

  1. PNY 60x 2GB
  2. PNY 100x 2GB
  3. ATP 60x 2GB
  4. Sandisk Ultra II 2GB
  5. OCZ 80x 2GB
  6. OCZ 150x 2GB
  7. Corsair 4GB SDHC (SD Class2)
  8. Kingston 10x 1GB

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Not pictured: Kingston 1GB 10x SD card.

Cutting through the ratings

On any given SD card package you will invariably encounter statements like “50x performance!” or “10 MB/s”. Basically SD cards are rated as multiples of 150 kB/s (which is the same way ratings on CD-ROMs are given). So 66x speed rating is 9900 kB/s or approximately 10 MB/s.

Speed Rating

Actual Speed

60x

8.8 MB/s

66x

9.7 MB/s

80x

11.7 MB/s

133x

19.5 MB/s

150x

22.0 MB/s

We’re going to throw away all the manufacturer’s specifications and do our own testing to see how each of these SD cards stack up. To test these cards we test using an integrated SD card reader on two different notebooks, and a USB card reader.

  • Host Adapters: Ricoh MMC Host Controller (on Asus Z96J), Texas Instruments Controller (on Compaq V2410)

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  • USB card reader: SDHC reader (packaged with Corsair 4GB card)

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Tests:

  • SiSoft Sandra Read and Write tests on Ricoh and USB readers
  • HDTach on Texas Instruments reader (Corsair 4GB omitted)
  • HDScan on Texas Instruments reader (Corsair 4GB omitted)
  • Custom file copy test on Ricoh and USB readers

The reason why we’re testing using both a host adapter and the USB reader is to reveal any differences in performance. Also, the USB reader is the only way we were able to test the 4GB Corsair module since it is unsupported by the standard built-in SD card readers (they do not support SDHC).

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