Introduction

The demand for flash media has grown astronomically over the last few years as more digital devices such as personal digital music players, personal digital assistants, and digital cameras have gone main stream, and we're only going to see the demand for higher capacities and speeds to complement the quickly advancing technologies such as professional digital cameras and personal entertainment devices.

One of the most common types of flash media is the CompactFlash digital media, which is based on the same ATA standard as on hard disk drives. CompactFlash media was the first to provide high capacities and keeps its track record by providing up to 8GB of solid state memory (by the time that this article will be published). The transfer rates of CompactFlash media have also increased over the years from the 1x, 150KB/sec standard cards to the current maximum of 16MB/sec rates. Also, the CFA ( CompactFlash Association) released (just under a year ago) revision 3.0 of the CompactFlash Specification Revision to increase the interface transfer rates to 66MB/sec.

There is an abundance of brands, capacities, and speeds of CompactFlash media in the market today, which range in price between $15-$800 (256MB-8GB), but our focus for this roundup will be currently the most widely used capacity of 1GB. We have put together a list of brands both well known in the memory and flash media industry as well as some that many of us are seeing for the first time. Take a look at our competitors below.


Click to enlarge.

Model Part No. Price
EDGE Standard PE188993 $59.77
Kingston Standard CF/1024 $49.99
Lexar Professional (80x) - $87.59
PNY Optima (80x) - $85.72
PQI Standard AC16-1030 $60.81
RiData Pro 52x - ~$56
Rosewill - RCF1024 $51.99
SanDisk Ultra II SDCFH-1024 $73.95
Transcend 80x TS1GCF80 $65.95
Viking Standard CF1GB $53.99

All of these cards are standard CompactFlash Type I media cards with varying speeds with exception of the Lexar Professional series media, which features its "Write Acceleration Technology", said to improve image write speeds by up to 23% with compatible cameras. This is done with the aid of special firmware on the media as well as the cameras themselves, which allow them to work together to improve the write algorithms. However, we have also seen an improvement in write speeds in our benchmarks as well, but we'll let you see for yourself.

Special thanks to NewEgg for providing us with the CompactFlash cards for this review.

The Test
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  • Anton74 - Saturday, December 24, 2005 - link

    quote:

    expected life expectancy

    It should be noted, of course, that I am a representative of the Department of Redundancy Department. ;-)
    Reply
  • heulenwolf - Friday, December 23, 2005 - link

    At my workplace, we use CF cards for all sorts of things that don't involve cameras. I, for one, am happy to see random access tests. I agree that they should be in addition to sequential tests to give camera users some info.

    I agree that the graph types need some work. Specifically, the spline (or whatever interpolation function it is) used on page three, "Real World File Copy Test to Media," connects dots between different cards. This interpolation tells us nothing and only confuses the situation by connecting what should be disassociated information. For example, there's no information provided by looking at what the spline says occurs "half way" between an Edge and a Kingston card. If Purav were to switch the graphing inputs around such that the X-axis is file size and make separate lines for each card, then, assuming he'd picked an appropriate interpolation function for the "Real World" transfer times, we might be able to tell something about transfer times for file sizes in between the three tested. If not, then drop the spline and just plot the dots.
    Reply
  • Lifted - Friday, December 23, 2005 - link

    So where are the RAID benchmarks? Reply
  • mindless1 - Friday, December 23, 2005 - link

    "Special thanks to NewEgg for providing us with the CompactFlash cards for this review."

    Yes, thank you Newegg. I love seeing reviews where Newegg donated parts, since so many of us shop there it seems a win-win for everyone.
    Reply

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