SD Memory Cards Now a Faster Alternative with New SD Express Format

June 28 2018, 00:50
The SD Association announced its new SD Express format, which adds the popular PCI Express and NVMe interfaces to the legacy SD interface. This revolutionary innovation for SD memory cards achieves up to 985 MB/sec transfer rate, while keeping compatibility with existing billions SD hosts in the market. With growing storage capacities this might be an attractive alternative to USB memories for many portable storage applications.
microSDUC and SDUC card examples. The SDA released visual marks to denote SD Express and SDUC memory cards for easy matching with devices’ recommendation for the best SD memory card for optimal performance.

The PCIe interface delivering a 985 megabytes per second (MB/s) maximum data transfer rate and the NVMe upper layer protocol enabling advanced memory access mechanism, allows for a new world of opportunities for the popular SD memory card - now the undisputed winner in the race for the removable storage standard format, after the demise of Sony's Memory Stick, and Compact Flash on its way out, even for the most demanding professional photography and digital cinema applications. 

In addition to the maximum storage capacity in SD memory cards now growing from 2TB with SDXC to 128 TB with the new SD Ultra Capacity (SDUC) card, these innovations maintain the SDA’s commitment to backward compatibility and are part of the new SD 7.0 specification.

"SD Express' use of popular PCIe and NVMe interfaces to deliver faster transfer speeds is a savvy choice since both protocols are widely used in the industry today and creates a compelling choice for devices of all types,” says Mats Larsson, Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource. “The SD Association has a robust ecosystem with a strong history of integrating SD innovations and has earned the trust of consumers around the world.”

SD Express keeps pace with growing performance levels of mobile and client computing, imaging and automotive as they adopt faster communication and embedded storage protocols designed to make processing data faster.

“With SD Express we’re offering an entirely new level of memory card with faster protocols turning cards into a removable SSD,” says Hiroyuki Sakamoto, SDA president. “SD 7.0 delivers revolutionary innovations to anticipate the needs of forthcoming devices and content rich and speed hungry applications.”

“PCI-SIG is pleased to have teamed with the SDA to collaborate on this innovation for the world’s leading removable memory card – SD,” says Al Yanes, PCI-SIG president and chairman of the consortium that owns and manages PCI specifications as open industry standards. “PCIe specification conformance tests are available today by major test vendors, offering a significant advantage for any new PCIe adopter.”

SD Express delivers speeds necessary to move large amounts of data generated by data-intense wireless communication, super-slow motion video, RAW continuous burst mode and 8K video capture and playback, 360 degree cameras/videos, speed hungry applications running on cards and mobile computing devices, ever evolving gaming systems, multi-channel devices and automotive to name a few. SD Express will be initially offered on SDUC, SDXC and SDHC memory cards.

“NVMe is the industry-recognized performance SSD interface from the client to the datacenter, shipping in millions of units,” adds Amber Huffman, NVM Express Inc. president. “Consumers will benefit with the SD Association's adoption of the NVMe specification for their new SD Express cards.”
SDHC Express, SDXC Express and SDUC Express cards. These "flavors" define the capacity as before. SDHC for 2GB-32GB using FAT32 file system. SDXC for 32GB-2TB using exFAT file system. And SDUC for 2TB-128TB capacity using exFAT file system.

SD Express uses the well-known PCIe 3.0 specification and NVMe v1.3 protocols defined by PCI-SIG and NVM Express, respectively, on the second row of pins used by UHS-II cards today. By relying on successful protocols already in the marketplace, the SDA gives the industry an advantage allowing utilization of existing test equipment and saving in development process by usage of existing building blocks used in existing designs. These cards also provide system developers new options offered by PCIe and NVMe capabilities, such as Bus Mastering, Multi Queue (without locking mechanism) and Host Memory Buffer.

The SD Association is a global ecosystem of nearly 900 technology companies charged with setting interoperable SD standards.
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