Memory cards get smaller, faster and cheaper

In the world of computer memory cards smaller, faster and higher capacity is good. Smaller cards mean smaller gadgets, faster cards mean less time spent waiting and higher capacity cards mean less are needed to hold a day's music or a week's photo memories. Through a series of developments announced over the last week card manufacturers have delivered all three and, as a piéce de résistance, are also cutting prices.

The latest advance in card size was announced in Hanover on Thursday at the CeBIT trade show when the SD Card Association unveiled a miniature version of its Secure Digital (SD) memory card. Dubbed "Mini SD," the new card is the smallest memory card yet to be introduced and is designed for use in compact, portable digital electronics devices such as cellular telephones and digital music players.

"Every cubic millimeter is important in those devices," said Bo Ericsson, senior vice president of marketing at memory-maker SanDisk Corp. "This is the smallest device out there."

At 602 cubic millimeters the Mini SD card can claim that crown. Before Thursday's announcement, the smallest memory card to be announced was the Reduced Size Multimedia Card, which was unveiled late last year by Hitachi Ltd.

That card has a volume of 605 cubic millimeters. The XD Picture Card, which was launched last year by Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. and Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., and Sony Corp.'s Memory Stick Duo are also sub-1,000 cubic millimeter memory cards designed for use in small portable electronics products.

The Mini SD cards will be available in 16M byte, 32M byte and 64M byte capacities shortly, said SanDisk. A version with 128M byte capacity is expected to be launched worldwide in the second quarter and a 256M byte version in the second half of this year. Prices for the cards were not announced and SanDisk declined to comment on pricing plans although said they should be around the same price as current SD cards.

All of the action in the sector isn't just restricted to physical size. The capacity of the cards is also increasing as semiconductor companies find ways to make memory chips smaller.

Lexar Media will begin shipping in the second quarter a 4G-byte Compact Flash card, it said last week, and SanDisk said Thursday it will begin shipping a similar card in the middle of this year. CeBIT is also being used by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., better known as Panasonic, to give showgoers their first look at a 1G byte SD memory card.

Other formats are also advancing, with Sony announcing a long-awaited capacity increase for its Memory Stick at CES in Las Vegas in January. The Memory Stick Pro is available in capacities up to 1G byte and breaks the 128M byte barrier at which the format has been stuck for more than two years.

The recently launched XD Picture Card is also advancing as Fuji Photo and Olympus push to catch up to more mature formats, recently launching a 256M-byte card.

With the new cards come increases in the speed at which data is written to and read from the cards.

When Sony developed the Memory Stick Pro, the company specified a minimum data write speed of 15M bits per second (bps). That is fast enough to allow Sony to demonstrate real-time writing and playback of DVD-quality video directly from the card and considerably faster than most memory cards can offer.

SanDisk has also been working on faster Compact Flash cards and said Thursday it has developed a model that supports a sustained write speed of 6M bps and a sustained read speed of 9M bps.

Perhaps the most welcome news for consumers is that prices are falling with these advances in technology.

Consumers can buy roughly twice as much memory today as they could a year ago for the same amount of money and prices are continuing to drop.

Sony has cut prices of the Memory Stick Pro before it goes on sale. A 256M byte card was priced at US$190, a 512M byte card at $440 and a 1G byte card at $880 when Sony announced the cards at CES although the company recently said they will go on sale for $150, $320 and $640, respectively. That's a cut of $240, or around one third, on the highest-capacity card.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams.

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?