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New Spec Gives SD Cards a Massive Boost in Speed

Illustration for article titled New Spec Gives SD Cards a Massive Boost in Speed
Image: SD Association

As resolutions and file sizes continue to grow, it’s important for storage —especially removable storage—to keep up, and with the SD Association’s new SD 8.0 spec, memory cards have just gotten a massive bump to their top-end speed.

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In a press release issued on Tuesday, the association announced that transfer speeds for SD Express cards will now top out at just shy of four gigabytes per second (3940 MBps to be exact)the SD 8.0 Specification, thanks to new support for PCIe 4.0. That’s around four times the speed you get from the current SD Express card (985 MBps) and a massive jump up from today’s fastest UHS-III SD cards (624 MBps).

However, that top-end figure for new SD Express cards will require a card reader that supports two PCIe 4 lanes, or else transfer speeds will get cut in half to around 2 GBps (1920 MBps) when using PCIe 3, which is still twice the speed of today’s fastest SD cards. Furthermore, the SD Association says SD Express will be available across a range of card sizes including SDHC, SDXC and SDUC.

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Here is the pin layout on new SD Express cards that support the SD 8.0 Spec.
Here is the pin layout on new SD Express cards that support the SD 8.0 Spec.
Illustration: SD Association

The way new SD Express cards achieve these speeds is through a new pin layout on the back of the cards, which can utilize both single or dual PCIe 4 lanes. But perhaps more importantly, like previous versions of the official SD spec, SD 8.0 cards will also be backwards compatible with older card readers, you just won’t get their full listed transfer speeds.

Here’s an updated chart of various SD card specs and transfer speeds courtesy of the SD Association.
Here’s an updated chart of various SD card specs and transfer speeds courtesy of the SD Association.
Screenshot: SD Association

The reason why this is important is that with the rise of 4K and 8K TVs and phones and cameras that can capture photos and videos in higher resolutions and bit rates than ever before, it’s becoming increasingly important to have removable storage that has enough capacity and adequate transfer speeds to properly store all that data.

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The same goes for gadgets like the Nintendo Switch, which can bolster its paltry 32GB of onboard storage by tacking on a separate microSD card. By increasing the transfer speeds of SD cards, the new SD 8.0 Spec could pave the way for faster loading times on future game consoles that support external SD card storage.

Even now, if you don’t have the right card for your camera, the camera may not let you record videos at your desired image quality, which means it’s critical that you pay attention to the specs listed on the SD card.

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Unfortunately, while the SD Association has officially announced SD Spec 8.0 today, cards that actually support the new standard may not be available for a while (probably late 2020 at the earliest), as it will take some time for SD card makers like Samsung, Sony, and others to implement SD 8.0 into new SD Express cards.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

humanvelocipede
Jerry Callo, Esq., Trump U. School of Law '89

I think SD cards are a marvel of technological advancement, and own probably a hundred (I could find maybe 1/3 - most of the others are old tiny ones that came free with various cameras and other products, and who knows where all those 2 GB and smaller ones are). But is there anything in tech, at least intended for average consumer use, with more complicated designations/standards/nomenclature? V class, UHS class, speed class. Then you’ve got the various XC designations, and A1 and A2. I understand what these mean (I mean, mostly) since I buy a lot and have studied it, but the Association and manufacturers could really do a better job simplifying this. Now I’m sure they’ll start advertising SD 8.0 and confuse people even more.