Solid-State Memory Takes on New Roles

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-09-15

Solid-state memory cards are getting faster and tougher, enabling their use in more severe conditions and for more demanding applications.

Last month, SanDisk started shipping Ultra II CompactFlash cards. The Ultra II line, 50 percent faster than the companys previous Ultra cards, promises write speeds of 9MB per second and read speeds of 10MB per second. This outpaces equally compact magnetic drives.

SanDisk is already shipping units with 256MB and 512MB capacities; 1GB units are planned for release this month, while Secure Digital-format cards with the same performance guarantees are planned for release in 256MB and 512MB sizes next month and November, respectively.

These cards have almost three times the data rate required to capture a full-motion video data stream in the DV25 format (compressed to 25M bps) used by MiniDV, DVCam and DVCPro tapes.

Sonys Memory Stick Pro, jointly developed with SanDisk, offers up to 20MB-per-second transfer rates, although its write speed is limited to less than 2MB per second. These cards are already shipping in sizes of up to 1GB, albeit at premium prices of $450 and up for units of that size from Lexar and SanDisk—and more like $600 for the Sony-brand device.

The suggested retail price for the 1GB SanDisk Ultra II will be less than $430, with a street price probably a good deal less.

Also in the October/November time frame, SanDisk plans to ship new versions of its Extreme series CF and SD cards with the Ultra IIs higher speeds and with expanded temperature tolerance ranges of 13 degrees below zero to 185 degrees Fahrenheit and shock resistance of up to 3,000 gs.

With a 1GB card holding as much as 24 minutes of DVD-quality MPEG2 video or 6 hours of lower-quality MPEG4, I have to wonder if Im seeing the last days of the videotape camcorder. Capture to a solid-state memory card, and subsequent archival to a cheap and convenient recordable DVD, is starting to look like a compelling combination.

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