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SanDisk to announce new high-performance CF, SDHC today  
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | by Rob Galbraith
It was a year ago this week that SanDisk unveiled its Extreme IV CompactFlash series. At the time, SanDisk's highest-performing card line blew the doors off the competition in card-to-computer transfers while maintaining the company's position at or near the top of the charts in digital SLR write speed.
 
Unlike previous SanDisk speed leaps, however, the company didn't enjoy their significant performance lead for long. Within a few months of Extreme IV's release, cards that could match or even exceed their card-to-computer throughput began to emerge. The world of technology moves quickly, and it has been especially so for card makers as they adopted the same UDMA data timing modes used in Extreme IV.
 
SanDisk's answer is the Extreme Ducati Edition. During a press conference later this morning at the company's Milpitas, California headquarters, this specialty series of memory cards will be unveiled. It's comprised of 4GB and 8GB CompactFlash, SD Plus 4GB SDHC as well as a 4GB USB flash drive. The limited-edition line features labels and packaging dominated by the signature red hue of the Italian motorcycle maker, while the CompactFlash cards include a small racing motorcyle graphic. The Ducati flavouring even extends to the USB drive's gas tank profile.
 
ducati_trio.jpg
Start Your Engines: The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash and SD Plus-type SDHC cards (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
 
From a marketing perspective, SanDisk's objective is clear: they're hoping to leverage their two-year sponsorship of the Ducati Corse MotoGP racing team (the press conference will include appearances by two team members, as well as Ducati stunt bike demonstrations). From a performance perspective, SanDisk's goal is equally clear: with a speed rating of 42.9MB/second for the Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash, vs a 38.1MB/second speed rating for Extreme IV, the company set out to boost performance noticeably over their existing fastest memory cards. But the performance increase is meant to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. 
 
ducati_airbrush.jpg
Four on the Floor: The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition series, airbrushed onto the backs of models at this morning's press conference in Milpitas, California (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
 
Note: SanDisk's official Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash specification is a minimum sustained write speed of 45MB/second (300X) on a device from Testmetrix. The 45MB/second figure assumes 1,000,000 bytes in a megabyte, which is the conversion all storage product manufacturers use in rating the capacity and speed of what they make. We've standardized on 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte for all calculations, however, because this is the number used by devices such as cameras and computer operating systems in doing their calculations.
 
SanDisk's 45MB/second using the storage industry's conversion rate, then, is actually closer to 42.9MB/second using everybody else's, which is why we refer to 42.9MB/second as being the performance level specified by the company for its Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash. The same applies to Extreme IV, which SanDisk specs at 40MB/second, but which translates to a "real" 38.1MB/second.
 
Here's a look at SanDisk's Extreme Ducati Edition lineup:
 
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB and 8GB CompactFlash
 
The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB and 8GB CompactFlash cards are, in essence, Extreme IV cards with improved controller firmware and slick SanDisk-Ducati branding. They support the same PIO (up to Mode 6) and UDMA (up to Mode 4) data timing modes as Extreme IV, use the same binary memory type and have the same -25C (-13F) to 85C (185F) temperature range specification. SanDisk's engineering focus has been on wringing every bit of performance possible from PIO and UDMA transfers, for improved throughput in the many digital SLRs that support PIO, and the handful of card readers that support UDMA.
 
And our testing shows that SanDisk's effort has paid off: In the six Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon digital SLRs we've tested so far, both the 4GB and 8GB Extreme Ducati Edition cards are the quickest cards of their capacity in both JPEG and RAW write speed. The lead is small in most cases, owing to the fact that no shipping digital SLR cameras utilize the much-faster UDMA protocol that these cards support. Neverthless, SanDisk's optimization of the PIO chatter between card and camera adds up to class-leading performance. The Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB, for example, is the only CompactFlash card here to exceed 11MB/second in the Canon EOS-1D Mark III in CR2 write speed testing.
 
In card-to-computer transfers using the fastest UDMA-capable readers, we've measured up to about a 4MB/second bump in throughput, from 38.3MB/second to 42.3MB/second for the Extreme IV 4GB and Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB, respectively. This bring the performance of SanDisk's Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash roughly in line with other makers' top-performing UDMA CompactFlash, but it doesn't bridge the gap completely. For example, the Extreme Ducati Edition 8GB card trails slightly the UDMA cards of the same capacity from Lexar, Hoodman and Transcend in our testing. The speed differences, however, have minimal real-world significance: all are capable of well over 40MB/second throughput, which is streets ahead of the 15-17MB/second that was tops a little over a year ago.
 
Below is a table showing example transfer rates for SanDisk Extreme IV and Extreme Ducati Edition CompactFlash in two different UDMA-capable card readers: the SanDisk FireWire Extreme (a FireWire 800 model) and the CompuApps OmniFlash USB 2.0 UDMA 40 UnoCF. We timed the transfer of about 450MB of Canon EOS-1D Mark II N JPEG and CR2 files.
 
Test Card-to-computer transfer speed
Computer: Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port
Card: SanDisk Extreme IV 4GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
38.290MB/sec
Computer: Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port

Card: SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
42.282MB/sec
Computer: Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port

Card: SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
38.321MB/sec
Computer: Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port

Card: SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 8GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
41.708MB/sec
Computer: Apple Power Mac G5/Dual 2.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Readers: SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader 1 connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port
Reader 2 connected to: OWC Mercury FireWire 800 PCI card
Cards: SanDisk Extreme IV 4GB and 8GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
74.384MB/sec
(combined throughput)
Computer: Apple Power Mac G5/Dual 2.0GHz (Mac OS X 10.4.10)
Readers: SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader 1 connected to: built-in FireWire 800 port
Reader 2 connected to: OWC Mercury FireWire 800 PCI card
Cards: SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB and 8GB
Destination: internal 500GB RAID 0 array
80.212MB/sec
(combined throughput)
Computer: Custom PC, P4/3.4GHz, Intel D945GTP main board (Windows Vista Business)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: OWC Mercury FireWire 800 PCI card
Card: SanDisk Extreme IV 4GB
Destination: internal 160GB RAID 0 array
29.594MB/sec
Computer: Custom PC, P4/3.4GHz, Intel D945GTP main board (Windows Vista Business)
Reader:
SanDisk Extreme FireWire
Reader connected to: OWC Mercury FireWire 800 PCI card
Card: SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB
Destination: internal 160GB RAID 0 array
30.646MB/sec
Computer: Custom PC, P4/3.4GHz, Intel D945GTP main board (Windows Vista Business)
Reader:
CompuApps OmniFlash USB 2.0 UDMA 40 UnoCF
Reader connected to: built-in USB 2.0 port
Card: SanDisk Extreme IV 4GB
Destination: internal 160GB RAID 0 array
23.576MB/sec
Computer: Custom PC, P4/3.4GHz, Intel D945GTP main board (Windows Vista Business)
Reader:
CompuApps OmniFlash USB 2.0 UDMA 40 UnoCF
Reader connected to: built-in USB 2.0 port
Card: SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB
Destination: internal 160GB RAID 0 array
23.676MB/sec
 
Observations
  • The FireWire numbers included in the table above are from the SanDisk Extreme FireWire reader, but we tested three other FireWire 800 readers as well: the Hoodman RAW-FW8, Lexar Professional UDMA FireWire 800 and Delkin Reader-39. The results from all four are effectively interchangeable, since they all use the same OXFW912 FireWire 800/400 controller from Oxford Semiconductor. That said, the SanDisk Extreme FireWire reader has the nicest industrial design of the bunch and is our favourite CompactFlash reader these days. The Delkin and its twin from Hoodman feature a non-removable cable, which reduces their travel ruggedness, while the Lexar's insert/eject mechanism is poor (though it's the only one to provide twin FireWire ports for daisy-chaining).

  • Extracting the best performance from any of today's speediest UDMA-capable CompactFlash cards, including the SanDisk Ducati Edition, requires a FireWire reader with an OXFW912 controller. The CompuApps OmniFlash USB 2.0 UDMA 40 UnoCF is the fastest USB 2.0 reader we've tested with UDMA CompactFlash, and its performance is decent, but OXFW912-equipped FireWire readers are much faster. Especially on the Mac.
The table below gives you an idea of how SanDisk Ducati Edition 4GB and 8GB CompactFlash stack up in card-to-computer transfer rates, compared to a handful of other UDMA cards. As before, we timed the transfer of about 450MB of Canon EOS-1D Mark II N JPEG and CR2 files.
 
Card OmniFlash UDMA 40 UnoCF Reader/Writer USB 2.0 to custom-built PC w/Intel D945GTP motherboard (Windows Vista Business)
SanDisk Extreme CF FireWire 800 to Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz
(OS X 10.4.10)
ATP Pro Max II 8GB 23.262MB/sec 40.495MB/sec
Hoodman RAW 280X 8GB 23.963MB/sec 43.287MB/sec
Lexar 300X 4GB 23.467MB/sec 41.108MB/sec
Lexar 300X 8GB 23.676MB/sec 42.857MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB 23.676MB/sec 42.282MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 8GB 23.674MB/sec 41.708MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV 4GB 23.576MB/sec 38.290MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB 23.599MB/sec 38.321MB/sec
Transcend 266X 8GB GB 23.986MB/sec 42.857MB/sec
 
As you can see, the Extreme Ducati Edition cards acquit themselves very well, offer a welcome speed boost over what has come before from SanDisk and are blazingly fast. Unlike when Extreme IV emerged last year, however, they match but don't set the card-to-computer pace.
 
The Extreme IV series continues and is not replaced by the Extreme Ducati Edition in SanDisk's lineup.
 
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB SDHC
 
The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB SDHC card is meant to be a melding of the hinged, snap-open USB 2.0 connector design of the company's Ultra II SD Plus line with the performance of Extreme III. Also like the Extreme III and Ultra II SD Plus cards, the Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB SDHC uses multi level cell (MLC) memory.

ducati_sdplus.jpg
Red Snapper: The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB SDHC card (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

SanDisk's melding effort is largely successful. In our testing, in-camera write speed performance trailed a bit behind the Extreme III 4GB SDHC, but compensating for that was the quickest card-to-computer transfer rates of any SD/SDHC card we've seen, at 18.3MB/second. And this is without the aid of an external reader, the card delivered that level of performance simply by folding it at its midsection and inserting the exposed USB 2.0 connector into a port on our Windows Vista test computer.
 
Its real-world throughput is close to SanDisk's 19.1MB/second minimum sustained write speed specification. It's also about twice as quick as the Ultra II SD Plus 2GB card when tested the same way.
 
The table below shows the throughput while transfering about 450MB of Canon EOS-1D Mark II N JPEG and CR2 files.
 
SDHC Card Built-in USB 2.0 connector to custom-built PC w/Intel D945GTP motherboard (Windows Vista Business)
Built-in USB 2.0 connector to Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz
(OS X 10.4.10)
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB 18.320MB/sec 15.676MB/sec
 
The table below gives some examples of in-camera write speeds for SDHC cards, including the new Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB. Note that while the EOS-1D Mark III writes quickly to certain SD cards, it's comparatively slow at writing to all SDHC cards.
 
SDHC Card
Nikon D80
(Writing 9 NEFs)
Canon EOS-1D Mark III
(Writing 20 CR2s)
Lexar Professional 133X 4GB 8.396MB/sec 5.835MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III 4GB 8.613MB/sec 5.758MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB 8.180MB/sec 5.267MB/sec
 
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB USB Flash Drive
 
We've seen USB drives housed inside miniature tree limbs, soccer balls and Darth Vader. But none has matched the sleekness of the SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB USB Flash Drive. SanDisk has taken a Cruzer Contour - the company's flagship USB flash drive series - and sculpted a solidly-built red, silver and black housing for it that's reminiscent of a Ducati fuel tank and tail. Other motorcycle-inspired touches include a red "tail light" that lights up when the drive is active. Without a doubt, this flash drive will have Ducati fans - Ducatistas, as they're apparently known in motorcycle circles - lined up around the block to get one.
 
ducati_flash_01.jpg
ducati_flash_04.jpg
Fill 'Er Up: The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB USB Flash Drive (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
 
The Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB USB Flash Drive has the same 19.1MB/second speed specification
as the SD Plus card in the same series, as well as the 4GB Cruzer Contour flash drive on which it's based. It's also compatible with Windows Vista's ReadyBoost. While it lacks the Cruzer Contour's support for U3, Tanya Chuang, SanDisk's Director of Worldwide Retail Product Marketing for the High Performance and Imaging Market, says this was a deliberate design decision. With U3 out of the equation, says Chuang, the Extreme Ducati Edition drive mounts faster and, on the Mac side, a U3 CD icon doesn't appear in addition to the drive's icon on the desktop.
 
We tested the Extreme Ducati Edition USB Flash Drive connected to the front USB 2.0 port of an Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz desktop. Whether the flash drive was formatted FAT32 or Mac OS Extended, or whether the computer was booted into Mac OS X 10.4.10 or Windows Vista Business, the throughput from the flash drive to the computer was nearly 23MB/second when transfering our standard folder of about 450MB of EOS-1D Mark II N JPEGs and CR2s. The transfer rate when copying the same folder to the flash drive approached 16MB/second.
 
Price and availability
 
The SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB and 8GB CompactFlash cards, SD Plus 4GB SDHC card and 4GB USB Flash Drive will ship starting in August 2007 in North America and Europe, with the rest of the world to follow in September 2007. All Extreme Ducati Edition products come with SanDisk's RescuePRO Deluxe recovery software.
 
SanDisk may expand this series to include other capacities in the future, says Chuang, though when this might happen, and what capacities may be introduced, is dependent on consumer reaction to the initial Ducati Extreme Edition offerings. The Extreme Ducati Edition series will be available through the end of SanDisk's Ducati sponsorship, which runs until December 2008.

The table below shows manufacturer's suggested list prices (MSRP) in the U.S. Note that the actually selling price may be somewhat lower than MSRP.

Product
MSRP in the U.S.
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB CompactFlash
US$164.99
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 8GB CompactFlash
US$314.99
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus 4GB SDHC
US$129.99
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition 4GB USB Flash Drive
US$124.99

Revision History
July 18, 2007: Added a photo from the announcement press conference.
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