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Data Storage Hardware

Is It Worth Paying Extra For Fast SD Cards? 164

Barence writes "Are faster grades of SD memory card worth the extra cash? PC Pro has conducted in-depth speed tests on different grades of SD card to find out if they're worth the premium. In camera tests, two top-end SD cards outshone the rest by far, while class 4 cards dawdled for more than a second between shots. However, with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots. What about for expanding tablet or laptop memory? A regular class 4 or 6 card that's capable of recording HD video will also be fast enough to play it back on a tablet. The only advantage of a faster card for media is that syncing with your PC will be quicker. However, a faster card is recommended if you're using it to supplement the memory of an Ultrabook or MacBook Air."
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Is It Worth Paying Extra For Fast SD Cards?

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  • As an avid amateur photographer I once tried lower-end, slower SD cards. The wait between shots of ~1 second (disregarding the camera buffer) means you cannot even preview your shots during that time. Instead you get to wait with a nice blinking LED on the back of the camera until the preview is ready. I found this nearly unbearable after only a dozen or so shots and when I got a chance I immediately spent the money on a faster card that allows previews basically immediately. NOTE: I am using a D800, so your mileage may vary on this... with 36mp RAW files I was waiting several seconds to just preview a shot.
  • by RedBear ( 207369 ) < minus punct> on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:24PM (#42992179) Homepage

    It's very odd to me that they seem to have left out Lexar completely from this little test. Back when I was really into digital photography I spent a lot of time on DPReview and Amazon and B&H Photo looking for the best deals on the fastest CompactFlash and SD cards. The top competitors seemed to always be the SanDisk Ultra/Extreme lines and Lexar's Professional cards. Kingston has usually done well also, but the most prominent/popular over the years have always have seemed to be SanDisk and Lexar.

    Even 2-3 years ago I remember Lexar having "300x" cards competing with the SanDisk Extreme lineup. Just now doing a quick search on Amazon shows Lexar "600x" SD cards available, so it's not like they've dropped out of the market.

    Maybe somebody at Lexar pissed off the editor of PC Pro? I can't imagine why else you'd leave one of the fastest cards on the market out of a speed test. Hmm...

    Oh, yeah. PC Pro. Why the f**k am I even reading Slashdot anymore?

  • Re:Uhm, yes and WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:41PM (#42992277)

    "And don't even think about recording 1080p or 720p@60 without a class10 UHS1 type card."

    Do it all the time with a class 6 in a T4i DSLR and many of my GoPro 3 black edition cameras. In fact Gopro recommends only Class 6. You are simply parroting the camera sites that are wildly incorrect.

    I can even record 4K on the gopros to a Class 6.

  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @08:23PM (#42992523) Homepage Journal

    For Photography, work out your budget, figure out what you need for your style of taking pictures, and buy the best memory you can afford for your needs. If you can get by with class 4 or class 6 memory, great. If you find that you need class 10, try out some of the budget options noted above and see if they serve your needs.

    For other uses, you may very well find that a slower card actually works better for you than a 'faster' card. Class 10 is great for streaming large volumes of data onto the card, but experience has shown in the microsd cards that if you need to do a lot of small file manipulations, read and write, etc. a class 4 may outperform a class 10 card. This is of interest to people doing cyanogen mod implementations running off of the sdcard, but is a completely different use case from a photographer shooting high res photos, or a videographer shooting HD video.

  • Re:yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @09:30PM (#42992847)

    It will when you record highres video

    From the article (first page, you should have spotted it)

    It may seem counter-intuitive that capturing still images requires a faster card than shooting video, but Full HD footage isn’t as space-hungry as you might imagine. Despite the “high-definition” terminology, each HD frame has a comparatively low resolution of just over two megapixels. Plus, since consecutive frames of a video are often extremely similar, clever compression techniques can be used to store moving images efficiently. A data rate of 4-6MB/sec is ample for continuous shooting.
    Still photographs have a far higher resolution: a typical consumer DSLR may capture around 12 megapixels of detail, and high-end models often record more than 20 megapixels. Each scene may therefore contain ten times as much information as a comparable video frame

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @06:17AM (#42994451)
    Class 10 is a measure of sequential write speed. Nothing more. Cards which are tuned for high sequential write speed (i.e. class 10 cards) suffer from low random 512k and 4k read/write speeds. And cards which are tuned for better random 512k and 4k read/write speeds suffer from lower sequential write speeds. It's a trade-off made when designing the card.

    Here are the CrystalDiskMark scores I got for a 32 GB class 4 card I have:

    seq: 22.9 MB/s read, 4.3 MB/s write
    512k: 22.0 MB/s read, 1.3 MB/s write
    4k: 3.3 MB/s read, 1.3 MB/s write

    And here are the benchmarks for a 16 GB class 10 card I have:

    seq: 21.8 MB/s read, 12.0 MB/s write
    512k: 21.5 MB/s read, 0.9 MB/s write
    4k: 5.7 MB/s read, 0.008 MB/s write (not a typo)

    So if you're recording video or a burst of photos from a camera, yes you want class 10 (or one of the "pro" cards which write even faster). But if you're going to be using the card to read/write lots of small files, like on a phone or tablet, you don't want class 10. For those devices, the sweet spot is around class 6, or maybe a good class 4.

    try hauling a few gig of files on or off your ebook reader on anything less than a class 10

    I've actually done something similar on both the above cards. I have an ~4 GB sheet music library (put it together when it wasn't clear if IMSLP would survive the copyright challenges). Most of the files are 100k to 1 MB PDFs, with a smaller number of 1-10 MB PDFs (small in number, but not in total MB). Average size is just under 1 MB. Copying the whole thing to the class 4 card took about 30 minutes. Copying it to the class 10 card took about 4 hours.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!