New SD Express Memory Card Costs $300, Is Slower Than ‘Old’ SD Cards
Ritz Gear is currently offering a brand new SD Express memory card that it promises boasts up to 820 MB/s read and 500 MB/s write speeds for $300. In real-world use cases, it will never come close to these promises and it says so right on the box.
I have been beating this drum now for two years, but it looks as though I need to do it again as more than 1,200 people have reviewed this card on Amazon and graced it with a 4.5-star total score. Unfortunately, this is likely filled with users who have no idea what they have bought and did not ever check to make sure they were getting what they paid for.
Because if they had, they would realize they most certainly did not.
Why SD Express is Not Worth the Money
The SD Association, and those who signed on to the specification, would love consumers to believe that it is the future format that is poised to compete with CFexpress and its many configurations. The main talking point of SD Express is that it is backward compatible with current devices that use an SD card slot.
This is technically true. But only technically.
While yes, this $300 card will fit into a current SD slot on a computer, card reader, or camera and work, it will only work to the UHS-I specification (which caps out at 104 MB/s transfer speeds, mind you) and will come nowhere near the promised speeds emblazoned on the front of the box. As Wes Brewer, the CEO of ProGrade Digital explained back in 2019, this specification is deeply flawed.
“They came out and made a design that was compatible form-factor wise with the SD card, but it only supports one lane of PCIe. So it’s a bit inhibited for the maximum potential that PCIe brings to the industry,” Brewer says. “They really just bolted a single lane of PCIe onto the form factor of an SD card.”
What is most important about this is the misleading nature of the “backwards compatible” claim that allows Ritz Gear to market this card to existing SD card users.
“It is only backward compatible to UHS-I in terms of the SD standard.. You can put it in there, and it’ll work, but it’ll only work as a UHS-I card,” Brewer clarifies.
That means that this Ritz Gear $300 “next generation” memory card will only ever work as well as this $57 standard SD card from SanDisk in any device with a standard SD card slot. Anyone who buys this card is paying more than five times as much for the exact same performance.
I’ve already explained the pitfalls with the SD Express specification in detail before, so I urge you to read that coverage in order to gain a complete understanding of why SD Express cards are barely worth the plastic they are constructed from.
This Card Takes Advantage of Those Who Don’t Know Better
I find it extremely unlikely that Ritz Gear doesn’t know that this card can’t do what it promises. The language used in the product description claims incredible performance numbers, such as “up to 3x faster than even the quickest UHS-II SD cards,” without disclosing how to get those numbers and how basically no one who buys it will ever come close to seeing anything near those numbers.
To be clear: the only way anyone would ever see these speed numbers is if they owned an SD Express card reader, plugged it in to a compatible computer, and transferred data to or from it that way. This is not where users need speed. When it comes to working in a camera, this card cannot do what it promises in any case, as — and I cannot shout this loud enough — no camera on the market supports the SD Express specification.
What’s even more baffling is that, on the box, Ritz basically admits that this card cannot hit the promises it claims. Even if someone, somehow was able to tap into the maximum potential of this card (which I want to reiterate is not currently possible with any camera on the market without exception), the actual performance rating this SD Express card has is pitiful.
All SD cards come with a set of letters and numbers that most average consumers probably don’t understand, but do reveal a lot about a card. This Ritz Gear SD Express card is rated as an SDXC, EX I, V30, U3, A1. Let’s break that down.
- SDXC: This stands for “Secure Digital eXtended Capacity,” which just means that the card format can be up to 2 TB and is only required to hit a maximum speed of 104 MB/s.
- EX I: This is a first-generation (I), SD Express (EX) memory card.
- V30: This is where it gets interesting. The V30 specification means this card can only sustain a maximum of 30MB/s, which isn’t particularly fast. So while Ritz Gear claims some very high peak speeds, the card can only actually sustain 30 MB/s, which is only enough for low bitrate 4K video and is currently found on UHS-I and UHS-II cards, the specification that Ritz claims it is multiple times faster than.
- U3: This is basically a repetition of the V30 note, and quantifies the same sustained data rate but is not specific for video.
- A1: This is the “Application Performance Class” which denotes a card’s minimum random read and write speeds as well as its minimum sustained sequential write speed. This was added to support devices like phones and tablets where data is recorded at random intervals instead of how like a camera records data, which is sequentially. Since no phone or tablet accepts SD Express, it’s a meaningless label, in this case.
I want to focus on the V30 specification of this card for a moment, because it is easily the most hilarious part of this whole situation and really points a light on how much of a scam this card is. UHS-II SD cards, which can easily be found for less than what Ritz Gear is asking here, can currently be purchased with a V90 specification which guarantees a minimum sustained write speed of at least 90 MB/s and therefore can support multiple 4K framerates and some 8K framerates. Mind you, UHS-II cards have a maximum data transfer rate of 312 MB/s, which is not even half of what Ritz Gear is promising its card can do (remember, Ritz Gear claims up to three times faster performance than UHS-II).
Peak speeds, like what Ritz Gear has on its label, are not the same as sustained speeds, which actually matter when it comes to recording information.
So notwithstanding the egregiously misleading nature of SD Express, Ritz Gear admits on its own packaging that the real-world usability of its claims are false. The packaging and marketing of this memory card is specifically designed to mislead, lie, and take advantage of people who just don’t know better. Unfortunately, it appears to be working.
Do Not Buy SD Express Cards
There are a great many people who continue to hold out hope that SD Express will provide some kind of beautiful future where the speed and potential of CFexpress will be unlocked for those who own older equipment. This is a future that will never exist, because the components are simply not compatible.
There is a reason not a single camera manufacturer has signed on to the SD Express specification: it’s just not worth it. SD Express is doomed to always be slower than CFexpress as the core upon which it is built is flawed, as Brewer has explained in the past.
If you want the speeds that this Ritz Gear memory card falsely claims it can provide, ProGrade Digital makes a card that is less expensive and will perform faster and better in all modern cameras and computers. If you need the kind of speed that Ritz Gear promises, which few actually do, get one of those.