SD vs. SDHC vs. SDXC

Secure digital (SD) non-volatile memory cards are used in devices all over the world for storing data such as photographs, videos, and documents for transfer to other devices later on. According to the SD Card Association, “As the de-facto industry standard, SD technology is used by more than 400 brands across dozens of product categories and in more than 8,000 models.”

If you own a recently-made digital camera or pocket camcorder, there is a good chance it uses SD technology. There are two main types of SD cards out on the market to date. Standard (SD) and high-capacity (SDHC) are currently the frontrunners of the standard with mini and micro variations used more frequently in smartphones and other smaller devices.

If you have a device that is SDHC capable, it will accept both SDHC and SD cards. SDXC capable devices accept SDHC and standard SD cards as well. Some devices that support the older format have received firmware updates to accept SDHC cards as well. The SDHC standard was introduced in 2006 and was quickly adopted by hardware manufacturers for its higher transfer speeds and larger capacity, and for this reason most if not all SD-friendly devices made today accept the higher-capacity cards. Existing SDHC hosts will only support SDXC cards at up to UHS104 speeds.

Prior to SDHC’s release, some card manufacturers forced standard SD cards to a 4 GB capacity by changing the memory block sizes outside of the standard. This created a card that was rarely accepted by most devices and was quickly replaced when SD 2.0 standards were released.

SDXC cards are currently emerging and gaining ground as new devices come out. Because they use an exFAT file system, devices and computers need to have built-in support for the format. At the present time, operating systems supporting exFAT include:

  • Windows Vista SP1+
  • Windows 7
  • Windows XP SP2 and SP3 with update KB955704
  • Windows Server 2008 SP1+
  • Windows Server 2003 SP2 or SP3 with KB955704
  • Windows CE 6+
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard (Intel-based) 10.6.5+
  • Mac systems released in 2010

Currently, the maximum supported capacity on a standard SD card is 2 GB. This is due in part to memory block size limitations and industry-set standards.

SDHC cards can theoretically reach 2 TB in capacity, though industry standards currently set an artificial limit of 32 GB. It is believed that the standard will be revised at some point in the future to include larger capacity. One of the reasons SDHC cards have such a higher capacity is the decision to use sector-based memory addressing rather than bytes.

In 2009, SDXC was introduced that works with a newer standard allowing a maximum capacity of 2 TB. As of March 2011, the largest capacity SDXC card on the market weighs in at 128 GB.

Transfer Speed
Thanks to the SD standards, cards are given ratings in order to express their general transfer speeds. With standard SD cards, these ratings represent a maximum speed. SDHC and SDXC cards are rated by their average sustained transfer rate. Here are the current card ratings via Wikipedia:

  • Class 0 cards do not specify performance, which includes all legacy cards prior to class specifications.
  • Class 2, 2 MB/s, slowest for SDHC cards.
  • Class 4, 4 MB/s.
  • Class 6, 6 MB/s.
  • Class 10, 10 MB/s.

You can find these class numbers located on the front of the cards surrounded by a broken circle resembling a thin C. Class 0 cards are rarely sold currently. A class 2 card is great for standard-definition video and non-raw photography. Class 4 and 6 cards are capable of full HD video recording in addition to RAW format photography. Class 10 is geared for full HD and HD still consecutive recording.

More recently, a new speed class called UHS has emerged which boasts transfer speeds high enough to record real-time broadcasts and capture large-size HD videos. This classification is available on some SDHC and SDXC cards and is indicated by a U surrounding a 1 where a numbered classification would appear.

3 Tech Things You Can Spend Less On

In the search for a lower budget, people often search for ways to reduce little expenditures. Sometimes, the corners we cut may end up costing more down the line. Here is a list of typical tech expenses that can be reduced without coming around to hurt your pocketbook later on:

Multi-Format Card Readers
Flash media and card readers are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, some companies put a price tag on these that makes little to no actual sense. Why spend a premium on something that has no other purpose than reading the information on a card and delivering it via USB to your system? There are readers on the market that are available for a little as $10 USD that feature support for 74 different formats and include extra USB 2.0 ports for good measure.

Memory (RAM)
The funny thing about the RAM market is how incredibly diverse the pricing structure is. Brand names such as Corsair, Crucial, and Kingston have a solid reputation and high price points, but that doesn’t really mean they’re made with any better performing chips than the lower priced PNY, Patriot, or OEM brands. Often, off-brand RAM actually contains the exact same components made by the same manufacturer (Elpida, Infineon, Micron, etc.) and the only real difference is the packaging. Even if the off-brand memory goes bad a little faster than the big name brand, you’re likely still saving a significant amount in the long run.

HDMI Cables
If there is one market where people get absolutely ripped off and overcharged, it’s in multimedia cables.  HDMI cables are often overpriced and advertised with the average consumer’s lack of technical knowledge in mind. Digital signals are either on or off. There is no noticeable visual difference between a $200 cable and its $6 competition. All the gold plating and vacuum sealing in the world couldn’t magically improve the image coming out of a Blu-Ray player and in to a television sitting within feet of each other.

How to Save Money By Buying an Apple iPad Accessory

What I’m about to tell you amazed me when I first discovered this amazing feature. Would you believe me if I told you that Apple has an official accessory for one of their devices that actually saves you money and reduces your need to buy more accessories?

The iPad Camera Kit is intended to allow you to connect your camera and/or SD card to your iPad as an easy and quick way to transfer photos. With iPad’s exemplary line of apps centered around photo editing and pushing to photo sharing sites, it stands as a perfect companion to any photographer on the road with limited space for equipment. There is no question that this kit was considered one of the most sought-after accessories right after the iPad was announced.

What Apple doesn’t tell you is that the USB camera connector also works great with a variety of USB keyboards. If you’re using one with built-in audio controls (Apple keyboards especially), even these features work well while using the iPod application. This is a startling find considering Apple is also selling a $69 iPad keyboard dock that gives you pretty much the same result while requiring you to stick with the more pricey Apple branded peripherals.

You can also connect audio devices such as USB headphones, speakers, and microphones. Many of the smaller budget speakers on the market today are exclusively USB devices, giving the listener a cleaner sound than traditional analog audio (this is more apparent if you’re an audiophile, most people hardly notice a difference). In a sense, you could bypass spending upwards of $100 on an iPad speaker dock by simply plugging in your own set.

This means a simple $29 accessory saves you from having to throw down big bucks for their $69 keyboard dock, special proprietary audio devices, Bluetooth accessories, and more. This makes the iPad Camera Kit the most, and perhaps the only, Frugal Geek friendly Apple accessory currently on the market.

Digital Video or MiniDV?

I shoot a lot of video — all to tape. I’ve been hesitant to switch to a purely digital workflow, as MiniDV tape instantly provides archives. Call me a throwback, but I shoot primarily in standard definition (SD). While it’s long past time to make the jump to high definition (HD) and go straight to digital, it’ll take a significant investment in new cameras and storage, along with a beefy new workstation.

Alas, the project I’ve undertaken has been funded out of pocket. I can’t simply go to the boss and ask for a bigger budget since I am the boss on this one.

Since we’re dealing with a mix of HD and SD video, the final piece will be rendered in SD. There are stacks of MiniDV tapes sitting on my desk, waiting to be digitized. To make things more complicated, Final Cut doesn’t want to recognize my sole HD camera, so we’re starting to digitize the HD footage with iMovie.

I’ve been archiving to external hard drives. The next step is to drop some coin on a big RAID.

Crucial Technology Introduces microSD Memory Cards

Crucial Technology has announced the immediate availability of 512MB and 1GB microSD memory cards to round out its extensive line of flash memory solutions. Crucial’s new microSD cards are designed for use in today’s mobile devices, such as cellular phones with memory-hungry multimedia features like built-in music players and digital cameras. Crucial’s microSD cards are removable and reusable, not only allowing more memory-intensive files to be stored over and above the integrated memory capability, but also enabling files to be transferred to other devices.

Crucial’s microSD cards are shipped with a Secure Digital (SD) adapter, enabling the microSD card to be inserted into a variety of larger, SD-compatible devices, including digital cameras, handheld computers, and digital music players.

“Crucial’s new microSD card broadens our current flash memory product offering and allows our customers to enjoy the continued growth of the mobile lifestyle,” said Crucial Technology Product Manager Ben Thiel. “The extra storage our microSD cards provide, and their versatile usability, when combined with the standard SD adapter, enables users to share their music files or video clips with friends and then display them on their computers.”

The microSD card is the smallest memory card with worldwide availability, measuring about 38 percent of the area size of miniSD and 21 percent of the area size of a standard SD card.

[tags]Crucial Technology, Secure Digital, SD, microSD, flash memory[/tags]