Sunday, May 27, 2007

SD Card: The New Standard?

The SD card, or Secure Digital is fast becoming the industry standard for digital cameras. It had succeeded the No.1 card of the late 1990s, Smart Media, by the early 2000s; and now virtually all digital camera makers, not to mention PDA, camcorder, mobile phone and GPS manufacturers use the card.

SD CardHaving said that calling it the "New Standard" is something of a misnomer. Although used by big brands such as Casio, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Kodak, Panasonic and Konica Minolta there are three big names in the industry that use their own cards. Olympus and Fuji use the xD card in their digital cameras and Sony use the Memory Stick. So unless your electronics product is made by Sony, Olympus or Fuji, the chances are that you'll need an SD card.

The SD card hasn't reached this level of dominance by chance, this is a quality card and I always ensure that any device I buy either exclusively uses an SD card or at least has an SD card slot. This not only makes all the cards that I have collected from my other devices interchangeable but also mean when I upgrade to a bigger capacity card it can be used in all my devices.

microSD CardAnother reason for their popularity is that SD cards have two smaller cousins that are used in many mobile phones at the moment, miniSD and microSD. The miniSD cards are small at just 20 mm x 21.5 mm x 1.4 mm but the microSD cards are even smaller at just 11 mm x 15 mm x 1 mm and weighing less than half a gram, making them smaller enough to use in even the tinniest of devices. All the mini and micro SD cards sold by Horizon Flash Memory come with an SD adaptor so that they are also backwards compatible with any SD card readers.

Of course the only draw back is that the smaller the cards become the more expensive they are.

xD picture cardThe miniSD and microSD cards aren't the only reason for the dominance of the SD cards. SD cards have a faster read/write speed than the likes of the xD card and a maximum capacity of 8GB (only 4GB are currently widely available and coming soon on Horizon Flash Memory), compared to the 2GB max of the xD card. But the SD card has a theoretical maximum capacity of 132GB, four times the theoretical limits of the Memory Stick and 32 times that of the xD cards!

As I said I use them in every device that I can and at the moment that is two mobile phones and a Panasonic Lumix digital camera. The speed and 2GB capacity means that when using my Panasonic Lumix camera I am able to just keep clicking away taking pictures continuously and can store about 700 pictures on the card. On one mobile phone I have a 1GB microSD for storing music, TV shows, documents etc, a life saver when on the move. The other has a miniSD card as is used mainly to transporting documents. The adaptors for the miniSD and microSD mean that they can also be used in my camera and in any card reader that accepts SD cards.

compact flash cardThere are many that believe the SD card is the successor to the floppy disk. Which in my view is an ideal replacement that seems to have been a long time in coming. The demise of the floppy disk has been dragging on for years. I miss the floppy, not the slow speeds or the errors or low capacity but the fact that every PC had a floppy drive, they were universal and you could save your work and take it home with you in your shirt pocket, slot into your PC at home and carry on. There have been many attempts to get that kind of flexibility, there was the ZIP drive, but they were expensive and not everyone had them or could afford to have them. Saving your work to a ZIP disk and then making the journey to work/friends or wherever, only to find that they didn't have a ZIP drive!

Then came the CD and DVD, both though had the same problem, they didn't fit into my shirt pocket, or trouser pocket, or any pocket for that matter. Of course then there was the bigger problem of taking information on a CD but then being unable to change it and save it back to the same CD when out and about! Something that was taken for granted with floppies.

Flash Memory Card ReaderAs for USB flash drives I have found them very unreliable and for some reason not as handy as an SD card. Most, if not all, new PCs come fitted with card readers, all of which read SD cards. They are small (even the largest of the SD family fit into my shirt pocket with room to spare for a card reader), fast and the readers are almost ubiquitous so the SD card is at last the perfect replacement for the floppy.

Unlike the floppy disk though, SD cards are used and will be used in all manner of gadgets in the home. At the moment it is printers, TVs, Cameras, Camcorders, PCs, Media Centers, and DVD recorders with SD card slots but it won't be long until fridges, cookers, microwaves and even washing machines have them.

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