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Review of SanDisk Digital Media Cards - Speed and Class Make a Difference

By Joyce Chow

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Does paying more for a memory card really make a difference?  In our search for maximizing the capabilities of our digital cameras, HD video and 3D video equipment, we've tested multiples and found some surprising revelations in our review of SanDisk SDHC™ memory cards.



SanDisk Extreme® Pro™ SDHC™ UHS-I Card

If you want to shoot like a pro or just sound like one when every shot counts and speed and reliability are everything, seek the SanDisk Extreme® Pro™ SDHC™ UHS-I memory cards. New Power Core™ Controller technology provides faster shot-to-shot performance (up to 45 MB/s), more continuous burst mode shooting and the ability to capture full HD video UHS Speed Class 1 like never before. It is very reliable and durable in that we have used chips that have seen better days yet they still continue to function as expected.


Extreme speed up to 45 MB/s speed means you’ll get the shot you want with more continuous burst mode shooting and rapid transfers to your computer. Extreme Full HD video speed enabled by UHS Speed Class 1 lets you capture fast-action video in full high definition, even in 3D.  In shooting HD video, the difference is that slower chips may cause shorter shooting durations due to slower write speeds.


Full HD video (1920x1080x30fps), HD & 3D video support may vary based upon host device, file size, resolution, compression, bit rate, content, and other factors.  It has available capacities of 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. The performance/speed is up to 45MB/sec write/read speed.  You are able to store a variety of digital formats, including RAW and JPEG photos, high-definition videos, music and more.


Fast, big, and reliable, but check whether you'd gain from the card before buying. The card's speed would be useful in two cases - faster shoot rate when the camera can write 200x in continuous shooting, or faster download to computer when the card reader can read 200x.


Unless you checked if your camera can go beyond 100x (e.g. Canon 450D does 100x top, a 16GB SanDisk Ultra II card would be a better deal - you'll get the same performance and card size for less than half the price.


SanDisk Extreme® HD Video SDHC™ UHS-1 Cards

The SanDisk 16 GB Extreme HD Video 30 MB/s Edition SDHC card is Speed Class 10 and UHS Speed Class 1.  It supports transfer speeds of up to 20 MB/sec in HS mode. It supports a SanDisk proprietary mode that is capable of transfers up to 30 MB/sec in a few Nikon cameras (D90). Other cameras readers are probably  unable to take advantage of the higher speed mode.


Since very few devices currently support the UHS interface or SanDisk's proprietary 30 MB/s Edition mode, practically speaking, there is probably very little difference between any of these cards. But I haven't seen these cards benchmarked head-to-head in HS mode, so I can't say how their performance compares.


We took 2776 pictures taken in 960 seconds in a controlled test indoor with the Sony NEX-5. Outdoors in two different digital cameras including the Sony NEX-5 and a Canon EOS Rebel T1i, we found that the smaller Sony was able to click off pictures as long as you could hold the trigger down when set on its sports setting and multiple shots setting. On the Canon it was more like batch shooting then recycle then shoot but still faster than you would normally expect.


SanDisk Ultra® SDHC™ Cards

This type of card is the most popular, most compatible memory format for digital cameras.  Get the best from your high end camera or camcorder with better performance and higher storage capacities. Fast read speeds of up to 20MB/second but write speeds are lower in this Class 6 chip.


Rugged, high-performance cards with the speed and reliability you need to capture any moment, under any conditions. When we were shooting sweep panoramas with the Sony NEX-5, this card worked well while the other cards were shooting too fast for the panoramas.  If you're shooting HD video, this disk is ideal.


Used in identical situations this chip was much slower taking pictures by at least two thirds compared to the others.  You couldn’t get it cranked up to speed no matter what the setting was. When it came to HD video thou the chip was equal to that of the Extreme.


A word of caution on all chips that you might purchase including the above is that no matter how fast they are supposed to be that it is the optimum speeds listed on the chips.


We have used the Sony past its capability and the camera has gotten so hot we could not hold it any longer.


Is the extra cost of the extreme chip worth it?  If every shot counts when you're shooting sports action, pets or trying to catch the first steps of your child yes. If not then the lower costing SanDisk Ultra® SDHC™ Card is best for you.

Published on Dec 08, 2011

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