These days there are so many different types of memory cards on the market its difficult to work out which one is the right card for you. To help with this daunting task we have hassled our technical boffins to share their extensive knowledge of memory cards in an easy to understand Memory Card Guide.
What is a memory card and how does it work?
A memory card is a storage device that has no moving parts, this type of memory is referred to as Solid State memory. Internally the device operates electronically instead of mechanically and as a result is incredibly more robust then a Hard Disk drive that is found in your PC. Solid state memory can write and erase data electronically. The main advantages with Memory Cards are their size, durability, ability to store data without power and they are extremely portable. These features make the memory card the ideal storage solution for devices such as Digital Cameras, Digital Video Recorders, MP3 players, PDA’s, gaming consoles such PSP’s and Nintendo DS and of course your mobile phone.
Over the years there have been many different types of memory cards brought to the market, as technology has progressed the physical size has decreased dramatically. At present the smallest memory cards available are approximately the size of your little finger nail, and are now available in capacities of up to 32GB.
We have listed below the different types of memory cards available today:
What type of Memory Card do i need?
In the world of Memory Cards not all memory is created equally, its important to know what to look for in terms of features and most importantly what type of card is right for your device. Our Technical Experts have really excelled themselves and have managed to spare some time from their busy schedules to give a brief description of each Memory Card type and features to look out for.
What speed of memory card do I need?
Memory cards come in varying speeds and class ratings, this essentially is the read and write speed of the memory card. This effects the transfer time of files to your PC from your memory card and can affect other things like lag times between taking photos with your digital camera. High performance memory cards will reduce the lag times between taking photo's and the time taken to transfer files to and from your card to your PC. USB drives are also available in various speeds and along with memory cards the main advantage is to decrease the time taken to transfer data. Windows Vista and its ReadyBoost technology can also utilise high speed USB keys and the extra storage by using it as additional memory cache and increasing the performance of your PC . If you want to take advantage of this we recommend using the fastest memory available to ensure you get the full benefit.
High performance memory is more expensive so its important to work out if your device will benefit from the extra speed before spending your hard earned cash! If you need some help with this our Memory Card Zoo customer service team will be able to advise you.
Size: 43 x 36 x 3.3 mm (Type I) 43 x 36 x 5 mm (Type II)
There are two types of Compact Flash (CF) memory cards on the market, Type I and Type II. The difference being that Type II is 2mm thicker then Type I. Both Type I and II CF cards share an identical electrical interface with 50 pins. Type I CF cards are compatible with Type I and II compatible devices whereas Type II CF cards only fit Type II card slots. The most common type of CF card on the market today is the Type I CF memory card.
Compact Flash cards are made from Non Volatile and Solid State memory, they consume very little power and support both 3.3V and 5V operation which make them ideal storage solution for professional Digital Camera’s, portable, desktop and pocket PC’s, PDA’s and more.
Current capacities range from 256MB up to 32GB although capacities below 1GB are being fazed out. Compact flash is available in a variety of speeds of which we have split into three categories, as shown below:
Standard: Approx 3MB/sec read and Write Speed
High Speed: Approx 10MB/sec Read and Write Speed
Professional: Approx 20+ MB/sec read and write speed
View all available compact flash memory cards from www.memorycardzoo.co.uk
Size: 24 x 32 x 2.1mm
Secure Digital (SD) memory cards are quickly becoming the most common form of flash memory on the market with hundreds of companies around the world supporting the format. The SD card has the widest compatibility amongst devices which makes it extremely popular amongst consumers.
SD cards use metal connecter contacts instead of a plug and pin mechanism like Compact Flash cards use. The metal contact system is less likely to be damaged during use making it a more robust memory format. In addition SD memory cards have a write protect switch which is located on the top left hand side of the card. When the switch is placed in the lock position all data on the card is write protected, meaning it cannot be erased or modified. The unlock position makes the SD card writeable and data can be transferred to the card as normal. It should be noted that not all SD cards feature a write protection switch as it is deemed optional by the Secure Digital Association Guidelines. It is uncommon however to find SD cards without the switch, all the major manufacturers such as Sandisk, Kingston, Lexar, Fuji, Toshiba produce SD cards with this feature for the consumer market.
Content protection technology is also in use within Secure Digital Memory Cards to enable secure distribution of commercial media to protect against illegal copying. This technology is called Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) and is used for such things as Music, Video, eBooks, etc.
With the introduction of the SDHC format capacities are now possible up to 32GB in size, read more about this here: What is SDHC?
View all available Secure Digital memory cards from www.memorycardzoo.co.uk
Size: 24 x 32 x 1.4mm
MMC Mobile is very similar in size and shape to a standard SD card, the only noticeable difference is the slightly thinner plastic casing. The similarity with this and the SD cards can cause confusion and lead to problems. Especially seeing as an MMC card will fit into an SD card slot! This problem is limited these days though as the MMC mobile cards are gradually being made redundant and superseded. If you do have an old MMC card you may be able to use it in an SD compatible device, it’s worth a try if it will save you some expense in replacing it.
MMC can also be found in various sizes. Although these are pretty much defunct these days too. Without going into too much details these are RSMMC (Reduced Size Multi Media Cards), MMC Mobile (or MMC Plus), MMC micro, Mi Card and secureMMC.
Memory Stick Pro Duo
Size: 20 x 31 x 1.6mm
Memory stick flash memory cards were launched by Sony in 1998 and the format, although changing, is still going strong to this day. The initial memory stick was superseded by the Memory Stick PRO which allowed for higher capacities. Then to allow use in ever smaller devices Sony released the Memory Stick Duo and the Memory Stick Pro Duo.
These days it’s rare to see new, memory stick, devices using anything other than the Pro Duo variant.
The memory stick pro duo is slightly smaller than an SD card and one of its first uses was in the Sony PSP handheld gaming console. This leads me to the problem with this format and that is its close ties to Sony and its products. This ensures a lower adoption rate amongst device manufacturers than other formats such as CompactFlash and Secure Digital.
View all available Memory sticks pro duo at www.memorycardzoo.co.uk
XD Picture Card
Size: 20 x 25 x 1.7mm
The XD picture card is specifically designed for used in Olympus and Fuji digital cameras. XD originally stood for Extreme Digital and was developed in conjuction by Fuji and Olympus. These days most new Fuji and Olympus digital cameras will support other memory card formats such as Secure Digital as well as the XD memory card format.
There are currently two different variantions of XD card available, type M and type M+, the later being a High Speed version. These two formats theoritically can support capacities of up to 8GB, currently maximum capacity comercially avaialble is 2GB.
View all available xD picture Cards at www.memorycardzoo.co.uk
Worlds Smallest flash memory formats
Memory cards are shrinking!! Demand for smaller flash memory formats is being driven by the ever increasing plethera of memory hungry devices such as your Mobile Phone, MP3 players, PDA's, Sat Nav and more. As our e-gadgets become more sophisticated and compact by design it has been necessary to reduce the size of flash memory, hence the introduction of the Mini SD, Micro SD and Memory Stick Micro M2 cards.
The demand for this smaller format of memory card has risen dramatcially over the last few years and has now become more popular then traditional memory formats such as Compact Flash and Secure Digital.
Most Micro SD and Mini SD cards are sold with an SD adaptor allowing the flexibility of using your card in an SD compatible device. Similary Pro Duo adaptors are available for Memory Stick Micro M2 cards.
Size: 15 x 11 x 0.7mm
This is by far the most popular type of mobile memory currently on the market and is increasingly supported in more and more devices. It’s also the smallest available which helps manufacturers when they are trying to create ever smaller mobile phones and devices!
Amazingly these cards are now available in capacities up to 8GB with 16GB models on the horizon. To achieve these capacities any above 2GB use SDHC as the core memory architecture. You must ensure that your device supports SDHC to be able to use these, higher, capacities.
View all available microSD memory cards at wwww.memorycardzoo.co.uk
Memory Stick Micro M2
Size: 15x 12.5 x 1.2mm
The memory stick micro cards were produced by Sony and Sandisk in a joint venture. These are very similar in size to the microSD, only slightly larger, and adaptors are available so that these can be used in Memory Stick Pro and Pro Duo memory slots. These cards were brought to market in 2006 for use in the latest Sony mobile phone devices, allowing ever smaller mobile phones by reducing the size overhead of the memory card and its slot.
These cards have a theoretical maximum capacity of 32GB but at present the maximum is 8GB, with 16gb models to hit markets shortly.
The popularity of Sony’s mobile phone products will see this form factor progress in terms of capacity and performance.
View all available memory stick micro M2 memory cards from www.memorycardzoo.co.uk