Samsung SDHC and microSDHC Cards

When you go shopping for a new computer, you usually go through quite a research process. You take a look at the specs. You have a look at the build quality. You consider the layout of the features. The same is true when buying cameras, cars, and other other bigger ticket item… but what about smaller accessories?

Memory cards are one of those items where most people don’t give much thought. They see them as simple commodities. They see them as all being roughly the same, but that’s not really true. I was offered a couple of SHDC cards from Samsung to do a product review, but I’d like to also discuss the topic of buying memory cards in general.

What Sets Them Apart?

Let’s start with the Samsung cards. I got an 8GB SDHC card and an 8GB microSDHC card, the former of which is a Class 4 while the latter is a Class 6.

Samsung Class 4 8GB SDHC Memory Card

By and large, they look like most other SD and microSD cards, except I do notice that the “lock” switch on the SDHC card is highlighted in blue here. That’s both good and bad, depending on your preference. I also found the textured finish to be a little refreshing, compared to the usually plasticky smooth finish of memory cards.

We’ve heard of rugged electronics that are better designed to withstand the elements, but it’s also important to remember that your accessories are equally tough. This is one thing that helps to set these cards apart from the rest: they’re designed to be waterproof, shockproof, and magnet-proof.

I usually carry a couple spare memory cards in my camera bag and that was the case for my trip to Australia too. The Samsung card served me for about half of the holiday.

Have the Need for Speed?

There are many considerations at play here, particularly if your digital camera (or whatever other device) is finicky with memory. One is compatibility, so it’s best to do a little poking around on the Internet to see if your camera has any compatibility issues with certain brands of cards. Another is reliability, since you don’t want to have your cards fail in the middle of a shooting session.

The third is speed. I ran the 8GB SDHC card through CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1b using the default settings and got the results shown here:

Samsung SDHC Speed Test

Without geeking out too much, you can see that the sequential read speed is about 4.8MB/s while the write speed is about 3.6MB/s. That’s right in line with the Class 4 rating. For the average consumer, that should be sufficient for now. However, if you are using a SLR and shooting in RAW or you are using this card with a HD camcorder, a Class 4 might not cut the mustard. You might find yourself spending too much time waiting for the card to finish writing your image data and you could miss the magic shot as a result.

This is partly why I also keep a Patriot LX Series Class 10 SDHC memory card in my bag. I haven’t really experienced the need for that kind of speed just yet — I still only shoot in JPG on my Olympus E-PL1 — but it’s good to know that it’s there if I need it.

The Little Things That Matter

Just as it is prudent to do your research on tires for your car and cases for your phone, the same should be said about flash memory for your portable device. Not all SDHC cards are made alike and while most will likely be adequate, you don’t want to be the one stuck with something slow, unreliable, and overpriced.