MemoCards Demystified

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Apr - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2005
MemoCards Demystified
The other day I received a message from my dearest friend Abhijeet-no, not the Indian Idol guy-he had just bought a Sony Ericsson P910. I was eager to meet him, not just to tinker with his new toy, but also to show off my new Nikon digicam. We decided to meet up at his house and then go out to grab a 'byte' to eat.

I arrived, promptly 30 minutes late, as is my trademark. Abhijeet answered the door, earphones dangling from his ears. Did I mention that he's a music fanatic? Even at school, when we would bring tiffin-boxes, Abhijeet would bring his Walkman!

Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at our favourite Punjabi restaurant. Between mouthfuls of Chhole Bhature, Abhijeet complained about the dearth of memory in his phone. He could never have enough memory for his MP3s. I realised that my Nikon's 16 MB of internal memory was also far from sufficient for a shutterbug like me. It was decided that soon, we would embark on a search for good flash memory bargains.

The next day, driving to our destination, I began explaining why people need to be careful when buying flash memory. Quite often, they end up buying the wrong type of card, because they don't realise there are various types of flash memory-CompactFlash (CF), MultiMedia Card (MMC), SD (Secure Digital), xD-Picture card, Memory Stick Pro/Duo, and many more.

For digital cameras, the most commonly used format is CompactFlash. It's a large card, and is used in the medium to SLR range of cameras. But that's not all: you have CompactFlash I and II formats as well, and your camera supports either of the two. MMC and SD cards are most commonly used in PDAs, cell phones, camcorders, and the like. Newer phones, such as Nokia's 6600, 9500 and 7710, use an enhanced version of the MMC card, called Reduced Sized MMC (RS-MMC).

The highest capacity of Compact Flash card that you can buy is 8 GB

Most Sony digital cameras and cell phones use Sony's proprietary standard called Memory Stick, and this has three different formats-the original Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo, which vary in capacity. The xD-Picture card, by Olympus and Fuji, is extremely small and provides up to 1 GB of storage space.

We knew that the two best places to shop for flash memory in Mumbai are Heera-Panna and Alpha shopping centre. We visited Heera-Panna shopping centre first, and straight up, spotted a swanky-looking shop that had digicams and MP3 players on display. I walked in and asked for a CF memory card for my camera, as usual playing as dumb as possible. "There are many brands of CF cards; SanDisk is well known for its performance and reliability, and Lexar media is another well known brand that you should look out for," I was told. Apparently, both these brands have special Compact Flash ranges for professionals that offer higher speeds-especially good for those into sports photography. The highest capacity you can buy is 8 GB, but the vendor told me that he would have to call someone to enquire about the price-and was only willing to do so if I was serious about buying it. I wasn't, and decided to drop the subject.

I asked for MMC and SD cards, and was shown Panasonic, SanDisk, Lexar and Kingston cards. The highest capacity available for standard MMC cards was 128 MB. Then I saw a Kingston MMC Plus format that offered a whopping 1 GB of space. SD cards were available up to 1 GB as well. 

When I asked for a Sony Memory Stick, I was shown original Sony Memory Sticks as well as those manufactured by third-party vendors such as Lexar and SanDisk. The price difference was negligible, and I was told that the maximum capacity supported by the Memory Stick format is 1GB.

I also asked to see a card reader-it eases the task of transferring data to and from the PC to assorted cards of different formats. I saw a 7-in-1 card reader for Rs 400 and a 19-in-1 card reader for Rs 550.

Eventually, we never made it out of Heera-Panna, and I ended up buying a SanDisk 512 MB CF card for Rs 2,400 and the 7-in-1 card reader for Rs 350. We also got a good bargain for a 512 MB Sony Memory Stick for Abhijeet's P910-Rs 4,500.

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