Lexar this week has responded to our questions about the release of their Pro Series 80X second edition CompactFlash cards. Here's the skinny:
The cards are shipping now in 512MB, 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities, says John Omvik, Director of Pro Product Marketing at the Fremont, CA-based company. When the second edition 80X cards began to ship varies with capacity but, says Omvik, the process began in the last couple of weeks, or approximately the week of October 25, 2004 (our own research suggests that at least the 1GB and 2GB models hit store shelves up to two weeks earlier than this).
The last 4 digits of the card's edge stamp must be A4B6 for it to be what Lexar refers to as the enhanced version of the 80X CompactFlash card, or what we've opted to call the 80X second edition. We have now tested two each of the 512MB, 1GB and 2GB 80X A4B6 cards, plus one 4GB 80X A4B6 card, and confirmed them all to be 80X second edition units.
Cards whose edge stamp ends in 9FFA, 9D66 or F6A4 do not have same firmware/controller combination as 80X second edition cards, says Omvik. Cards with any one of these three edge stamp codes, therefore, are 80X first edition.
Lexar 1GB 80X second edition (top); Lexar 2GB 80X second edition (middle); Lexar 1GB 80X first edition (bottom)
Lexar, says Omvik, regularly modifies the firmware in their products to support new capacities or different flash memory component configurations, and changes the edge stamp code to reflect that. Such modifications don't usually have a noticeable impact on the performance of a card (this is consistent with our experience with both Lexar and other brands of CompactFlash).
In that vein, 80X second edition cards with an edge stamp ending in other than A4B6 may well emerge at some future point. At this time, though, it has to be A4B6 to be 80X second edition, says Omvik.
Both the retail packaging and front and back labels of 80X second edition cards are the same as 80X first edition cards. The 80X second edition cards we purchased came in packaging that is the same as that shown at right, except for some minor text differences, while the labels were in fact identical to first edition cards we have on hand.
The revised packaging and labels that incorporate the company's new corporate logo will not make it to Lexar's Pro Series products, including 80X CompactFlash cards, until the first quarter of 2005, says Omvik.
For now, the only way to differentiate a first edition card from a second edition card is by the edge stamp, which means actually opening the retail box and peering through the transparent side of the inner packaging.
Update, November 15, 2004: Lexar is rolling out a minor change to the current packaging that will help identify the card inside as an 80X second edition. They have begun to seal the bottom flap of the retail box with a piece of transparent red mylar (think sticky tape), instead of clear mylar. Going forward, any box with a red mylar seal contains an 80X second edition card with A4B6 in its edge stamp, says Omvik. Because this packaging tweak is being made now, after the 80X second edition cards are already out, boxes sealed with clear mylar may contain either first edition or second edition 80X; the only way to tell is by the presence or absence of the A4B6 edge stamp on the card itself. To sum up, a red mylar seal equals 80X second edition; a clear mylar seal indicates either first edition or second edition 80X, and only peering at the edge stamp inside will reveal the card's true identity. This packaging modification is a temporary change until the new-design retail box is introduced early next year.
Owners of first edition cards can have them exchanged by Lexar for second edition cards of the same capacity by contacting Lexar Professional Tech Support at +1 510-413-1233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The exchange is free of charge.
Lexar is also working towards a December 2004 release of its Active Memory System-enabled CompactFlash cards and card readers, says Omvik.
For more information on Lexar 80X second edition cards, please see the following articles: