Next-gen SD cards are blisteringly fast

Technology

In today’s world of 4K media, massive image files, and even 8K video, we could all appreciate faster, larger storage options. In the case of the former, the SD Association has answered our prayers with the new SD 8.0 spec, which will ramp up the speeds of SD Express memory cards massively.
The association has announced that the SD 8.0 spec will bring a maximum transfer speed of almost 4 gigabytes per second (3,398 MB/s), which is about four times faster than the 985 MB/s found in current SD Express cards, and a huge boost over the 624 MB/s used by the fastest UHS-III SD cards.

The new SD 8.0 spec can hit those dizzying speeds by utilizing the PCIe 4.0 and the latest NVMe (up to version 1.4) interfaces—cards that fall under the 7.0 and 7.1 specs use the PCIe 3.0 interface, which is slower.

The association says that the new specification will be available across SDHC, SDXC, and SDUC memory cards. Taking advantage of its top speed will require a card reader that supports two PCIe 4 lanes, but even using PCI 3 will allow for a transfer speed of around 2 GB/s (1,920 MB/s).

The new SD Express cards can hit these speeds through a new pin layout (three rows) on the rear, allowing them to support single and dual PCIe 4.0 lanes.

“With SD8.0, anyone taking a slow-motion video of their surroundings or taking burst photos of an athletic event, SD Express helps capture the moments at the highest qualities,” says SD Association President Hiroyuki Sakamoto. “That means 4K and 8K video capture and playback, as well as 360-degree videos can be recorded and played back flawlessly.”

It’ll be a while before we’re all using these new cards, with manufacturers unlikely to start implementing the spec until later this year, and we’ll also need devices to support them. Thankfully, SD 8.0 cards will be backward compatible with older card readers, though they won’t reach the maximum speeds.