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Lexar, SanDisk add 16GB to performance CompactFlash lines  
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 | by Rob Galbraith
Both Lexar and SanDisk are rolling out 16GB cards in their performance CompactFlash lines, though each company has taken a different approach to introducing the new capacity to the market. Lexar this morning has announced the Professional 300X 16GB and intends to ship it later this month, while SanDisk quietly began shipping the Extreme IV 16GB (45MB/s) card in August, but has yet to announce its release (SanDisk has simultaneously revved the other available capacities in its Extreme IV line from a speed rating of 40MB/second to 45MB/second).

Note: Both Lexar's 300X and SanDisk's 45MB/second specification assume 1,000,000 bytes in a megabyte, which is the conversion 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. A rating of 45MB/second or 300X using the storage industry's conversion rate is actually about 42.9MB/second using everybody else's, which is why in this article we'll hereafter refer to 42.9MB/second as being the performance level specified by each company for their new 16GB cards. Also note that 40MB/second, as calculated by the storage industry, translates to a "real" 38.1MB/second.

Lexar Professional 300X 16GB

lexar_300x_16gb.jpg
Spacious: Lexar Professional 300X 16GB CompactFlash card (Photo courtesy Lexar)
As with the 4GB and 8GB capacities, the new Lexar Professional 300X 16GB CompactFlash card supports both the PIO and UDMA data timing protocols and is rated by the company to have a minimum sustained write speed of 42.9MB/second when benchmarked on a device from Testmetrix.

In our testing in a Nikon D700 and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, the new 300X 16GB card was the fastest CompactFlash card we've seen from Lexar, besting both the 4GB and 8GB capacities in the same line. Its in-camera performance, however, trailed that of the SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB (write speed in a Canon or Nikon digital SLR continues to be a strength for SanDisk).

In card-to-computer testing, the 300X 16GB is also the quickest Lexar around, and is just plain quick: it's well ahead of the Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB, but its performance falls short of the Transcend 300X 16GB, which is the speediest CompactFlash card we've benchmarked at offloading photos to a computer.

(We're in the process of adding both the 300X 16GB and Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB to the CF/SD Performance Database, at which time you will see specific numbers for both cards.)

All in all, the Lexar Professional 300X 16GB is a solid addition to the 300X line, providing both higher capacity and better performance than what has come before from the Micron subsidiary. The new card is slated to ship later in September 2008 at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of US$349.99 in the U.S., and includes a license for Image Rescue 3, Lexar's photo recovery and card maintenance software. The company also sells Professional 300X CompactFlash in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB capacities.

SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB

sandisk_extiv_16gb.jpg
Roomy: SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB CompactFlash card (Photo courtesy SanDisk)
First introduced in mid-2006 with an official speed rating of 38.1MB/second, in August 2008 SanDisk began shipping a revision of the Extreme IV CompactFlash line that bumps the speed rating to 42.9MB/second while adding a 16GB version.

The SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/s) is available in three capacities - 4GB, 8GB and 16GB - all of which are now shipping, though the company has yet to issue a statement announcing their availability (presumably, we'll see that happen in the lead-up to the Photokina 2008 trade show, which kicks off in two weeks).

In the Nikon D700 and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, the Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB offers the fastest write speed at this capacity in our testing. This is likely to be true with most or all other current Canon and Nikon digital SLRs too.

In card-to-computer transfers, its performance is noticeably quicker than the original Extreme IV line. Transfer rates are closer to those of SanDisk's Extreme Ducati Edition, which makes sense given that Ducati Edition CompactFlash and the new Extreme IV CompactFlash share the same 42.9MB/second speed rating. This also means that the Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB, while plenty fast at moving photos to a computer, is a couple of steps back from the card-to-computer speed leaders.

If your photography requires high capacity, class-leading in-camera write speed and fast (but not the fastest) card-to-computer transfers, the SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/s) 16GB is a fine choice. It's available now, for about US$325 at one U.S. retailer we checked (note that it will take some time for this card, as well as the 4GB and 8GB capacities, to make it onto store shelves worldwide). Included with the card is a copy of RescuePRO Deluxe recovery software.
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