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SanDisk 1 GB Extreme III SD Card

Reviewed May 2005 By Tanker Bob

We all like pleasant surprises. Tanker Bob has been a big fan of Panasonic’s SD cards’ great performance for some time. They dominated in terms of quality and speed, but they also come at a hefty price. Alas, there seemed to be no comparably performing alternative…until now. While cruising the web forums, we came across very favorable posts about SanDisk’s new high-performance Secure Digital card designed for professional photography applications, the SanDisk 1GB Extreme III. We couldn’t resist checking it out.

The Contender

SanDisk makes some impressive claims for the Extreme III series, which currently tops their product line. According to their literature, the Extreme III SD writes and reads at a minimum of 20 MB/sec—a screaming number. It uses what SanDisk calls ESP Technology (Enhanced Super-Parallel Processing Technology). SanDisk says that they tested this card from -13 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will work in your freezer and in El Azizia, Libya, (world record high temperature of 136 deg F on Sept 13, 1922) in case you are so inclined. Your PDA may not fare so well in either case. They also vibration test them and provide a lifetime replacement warranty. As an added bonus, you get a nice carrying case for it, but no word on how it fares in a Libyan summer.

SanDisk Extreme III SD card

So just what is ESP Technology? From a September 29, 2004 SanDisk press release:

Yoram Cedar, SanDisk's senior vice-president of engineering, said, "SanDisk has developed a new ESP (Enhanced Super-Parallel Processing) technology that gives our new SanDisk Extreme III line its performance advantages. ESP technology is a major technology breakthrough that combines our in-house design of both NAND flash memory chips and controller chips using advanced 32-bit RISC processing and leading edge algorithms. Our engineers worked closely with major camera manufacturers in developing our new ESP technology."

Cedar also explained, "ESP has super-parallel write and read operations that are coupled with an accelerated flash data bus architecture to allow data to be transferred at twice the rate of most competitive cards. In addition, the ESP architecture streamlines every aspect of read and write data transfer operations through advanced hardware automation. The ESP architecture effectively removes the card as the bottleneck in data storage applications."

The Need for Speed…

Well, that’s all very impressive, but advertising doesn’t make my Palm Tungsten T|3 faster, and the T3 doesn’t function well in the freezer. We want to see blazing speed and rock-solid reliability. To that end, we ran VFSMark 1.1 and CardSpeed 1.2 to test this card’s mettle. The latter application comes courtesy of Audio Storage Technologies and tests a memory card’s ability to play back audio at high encoding rates. All tests were run on blank cards, which usually produce better results. Access speed also tends to vary with the size of the card as well. So, Tanker Bob called a friend who has a Panasonic Super High Speed 1GB SD Card in their T3 and asked them to run VFSMark. Unfortunately, they forgot to time the test, but the results seem consistent with a time around 38 seconds or so.

The vitals:

VFSMark 1.1 Benchmark Tests

 

Extreme III 1GB

Panasonic 512MB

Panasonic 1GB*

File Create

357%

555%

371%

File Delete

191%

331%

106%

File Write

206%

158%

148%

File Read

748%

725%

713%

File Seek

1180%

1072%

983%

DB Export

184%

302%

278%

DB Import

829%

786%

803%

Record Access

683%

724%

841%

Resource Access

724%

662%

752%

Time

34 secs

38 secs

untested

VFSMark

566

590

555

*Note: 1 GB Panasonic SD card tested by a friend of Tanker Bob in a different T3

 

Card Speed 1.2 Benchmark Tests

 

Extreme III 1GB

Panasonic 512 MB

Wrt32bit

438 bytes/sec

247 bytes/sec

Wrt8KB

194,180 bytes/sec

211,406 bytes/sec

Read8KB

2,912,711 bytes/sec

2,912,711 bytes/sec

Time

2.12 seconds

2.21 seconds

 

As you can see from the tables, the Extreme III holds its own quite well against the Panasonic cards in all areas, and exhibits a 39% improvement in write speed.

We include VFSMark times for good reason. As we discuss in more detail in this review, the write score and overall completion time of the test tend to say more about the user experience than the VFSMark score itself.

In the Wild…

Objective numbers are great, but what do they mean in daily life? The Extreme III proved extremely quick during normal use. Hotsyncing large files to the card especially showcase this card’s pace-setting write performance. During Hotsync, files on the order of 200KB flash by so fast you barely have time to read their names on the screen. Transferring large files from RAM to the card and visa versa also proved speedy. Music proceeds uninterrupted in background play even while accessing the card in another application on the 400MHz T3. Overall, the Extreme III subjectively feels a tad faster than my Panasonic 512MB SD card. In this case, performance backs the advertising hype.

And the winner is…

You! The SanDisk 1GB Extreme III SD Card provides the same or better performance, especially in the case of writing to the card, as the more expensive Panasonic Super High Speed 1GB SD cards. That’s great news for consumers, because the Panasonic card still retails for $499.99, though you can get them for less through a few camera discount outlets. The Extreme III SD Card retails for just $139.99, but you can also find it for less on the web. That right—the same performance for over 3x less impact on your wallet. As Tanker Bob loves to proclaim: Competition makes the market stronger!

Pros:

Blazing performance, especially writing
Durable
Inexpensive
Lifetime warranty

Cons:
Not having one!

Web Site: www.sandisk.com

 

 

 

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