1GB Compact Flash card hits market

Renesas Technology, the joint-venture semiconductor company formed by Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric, has begun shipping samples of a Compact Flash (CF) memory card that, the company said, has a write speed faster than that of any other CF card on the market.

The card, which has the unwieldy name of HB28J1000CCC, is a Type I CF card, contains 1G byte of memory and supports a data writing at up to 10M bytes per second (Bps). That compares favorably against competing cards, such as SanDisk's Ultra CF cards at 2.8M Bps and Lexar Media write-accelerated cards at 6M Bps.

Renesas was able to increase write speed by processing data in parallel to each of the eight 1G-bit memory chips inside the card, it said. The cards also support the Compact Flash Association's version 2.0 standard which raises the maximum speed at which data can travel between the card and device from 8M Bps to 16M Bps.

Renesas plans to begin commercial production of the cards in December this year and expects then to be available to end users during the first half of 2004. Renesas will sell them under its own brand via its Web site and will supply them to other vendors for them to sell under their respective brands.

The end-user price is expected to be around ¥34,000 (US$310), said Chieko Yoda, a spokeswoman for Renesas in Tokyo.

The cards are aimed at professional users such as news and sports photographers, who often take a number of high-resolution photos in quick succession and might face problems waiting for them to be written to the memory card. The cards could also be used for high-bandwidth video applications.

The company has also developed a 4G-byte PC Card that packs 32 of the 1G bit memory chips into a Type II case, which is 5 millimeters thick, and plans to begin sample shipments during the first half of 2004, it said.

Renesas' new CF card is one of several innovations in the form factor that have been announced recently.

Lexar Media began shipping a 4G-byte Type II CF card earlier this year that supports the FAT32 addressing system. Until now almost all cards and the devices that they are used with have supported FAT16, which means no more than 2G bytes of memory can be addressed. By switching to FAT32 the Lexar card gets past this hurdle. However, similar support in the host device is also required in order to access the full memory capacity, and such devices are still few in number.

SanDisk is also planning to ship a 4G-byte CF card, although it has delayed the shipping date from the fourth quarter of this year to January 2004, according to Bob Goligoski, a company spokesman. The Sandisk card will be a Type I CF card, which is thinner than the Type II card that Lexar is shipping and for which slots are more common on devices.

Hitachi has also just begun selling a 4G-byte version of its Microdrive, which is a 1-inch hard disk drive in a CF case. The card went on sale this month and costs US$500. A 2G-byte version is also due in December.

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