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Memory Card Buying Guide

A comprehensive memory card guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new memory card.


Getting Started

Are you in the dark about which type of memory card or memory stick fits your camera, cell phone, or MP3 player? Abt's buying guide for memory cards should make your search easier. It's important to know which memory storage is compatible with your device. If you're not sure, check out the memory card buying guide below. It has all the information you need to know on selecting the best memory card for all your digital needs.

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Abt.com carriers a variety of Memory Cards, which include:

Types

Compact Flash Type I

Compact Flash Type I is the most popular memory storage device on the market. Compact Flash Cards, or CF cards, are about the size of a matchbook and are most often used with Canon, Nikon, Hewlett-Packard, Minolta, and pre-2002 Kodak digital cameras, as well as some PDAs. Type I cards are also compatible with Compact Flash Type II slots, and will often fit in a standard laptop PC slot with the use of an inexpensive adapter.

  • Size
    36.3mm x 42.9mm x 3.3mm
  • Common uses
    Digital cameras, PDA’s, MP3 players
  • Pros
    Comes in very large capacities; fast; widely supported; competitively priced
  • Cons
    Less durable than SD/MMC, Memory Stick, or xD-Picture Card; larger than many of the new formats
  • Compatibility
    Compact Flash cards can be used in a PCMCIA slot if you have an adaptor. Also, some devices have slots for both Compact Flash and Smart Media. Otherwise, you need to have a device with a Compact Flash Type I slot in order to use a Compact Flash card.
 Compact Flash Type II 

The compact flash Type II memory card is a thicker version of the Type I, allowing for more memory storage. The most popular Type II card is the Microdrive Card, a miniaturized hard drive developed by IBM. Microdrives are available in capacities of up to 1 GB. Note: A product with a Type II slot is not necessarily Microdrive compatible; check your owner's manual or the product manufacturer's website for certainty.

  • Size
    36.3mm x 42.9mm x 3.3mm
  • Common Uses
    Digital cameras, PDA’s, MP3 players
  • Pros
    Comes in very large capacities; fast; widely supported
  • Cons
    Less durable than SD/MMC, Memory Stick, or xD-Picture Card; larger than many of the new formats
  • Compatibility
    Compact Flash cards can be used in a PCMCIA slot if you have an adaptor. Also, some devices have slots for both Compact Flash and Smart Media. Otherwise, you need to have a device with a Compact Flash Type I slot in order to use a Compact Flash card.
Secure Digital (SD) and Multimedia Card (MMC)

Multimedia Cards (MMC) are generally the size of a postage stamp. A Secure Digital (SD) memory card is basically a second-generation MMC card. SD cards are slightly thicker than MMC cards and include additional digital-rights management circuits designed to deter unauthorized copying of files. Cameras and camcorders that take SD cards are usually also designed to accept MMC cards. SD and MMC cards are often used with Palm handhelds, Panasonic camcorders with digital still mode, Toshiba, and some MP3 players.

Secure Digital cards have been on the market for around 10 years. Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) cards are a more advanced version of SD cards and are designed to provide more memory as well as faster data transfer rates. SD and SDHC cards are a removable storage solution for compatible digital devices including digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, and more.

Secure Digital card capacities range from 8MB to 4GB. Secure Digital High Capacity memory cards are flash memory cards with a minimum capacity of 2GB.

The increasing demand for high-capacity flash memory springs partially from the use of high-definition video and high-resolution digital photography. SDHC cards meet the challenge of these demanding products not only by providing greater storage but also faster data transfer speed.

  • Size
    24mm x 32mm x 2.1mm
  • Common Uses
    PDA’s, MP3 players, cell phones, digital video cameras
  • Pros
    Very popular across consumer electronics devices; small; fast; wide range of capacities; small size permits compact devices
  • Cons
    Not compatible with old MMC slots
  • Compatibility
    Devices that use Secure Digital cards will also accept Multimedia Cards. Devices that use Multimedia Cards may also accept Secure Digital cards. Most devices made after the middle of 2006 support SDHC, but the majority of the external card readers do not. Consult your user manual or manufacturer's website before purchasing an SDHC card for your device. Many manufacturers provide downloadable firmware updates for devices and are adding SDHC support.

 

Memory Sticks (also available as Memory Stick Pro & Memory Stick Duo)

Memory stick storage is among the newest forms of memory storage. This format is almost exclusive to Sony products, which include digital cameras, camcorders, handhelds, portable music players, and notebook computers. Some devices require a special version of the Memory Stick with digital-rights management features. This variety of card is known as one of the following: Magic Gate Memory Stick, MagicGate Memory Stick Duo Media, or Memory Stick PRO Duo Media.

  • Size
    36.4mm x 42.8mm x 3.3mm
  • Common Uses
    Digital Cameras, digital music players, digital voice recorders, Sony MP3 audio recorders, video cameras, and computers with a Memory Stick slot.
  • Pros
    Holds large capacities
  • Cons
    Not supported by camera manufacturers other than Sony
  • Compatibility
    The Micro Vault USB Storage Media allows users to share and transport data via their computer's USB port.
Smart Media

Smart Media cards are often called SSFDC cards, which stands for Solid-State Flash Digital Cards. Smart Media cards are as thin as a credit card, about the size of a matchbook, and can be easily identified by the gold-plated contacts on the face of the card. Smart Media cards are used in most Olympus digital cameras, Sharp camcorders with digital still mode, and some MP3 players.

  • Size
    37mm x 45mm x .76mm
  • Common Uses
    Digital cameras, PDA’s, MP3 players
  • Pros
    Allows for storage space.
  • Cons
    Old, dying format being replaced by xD-Picture Cards; slow; limited capacities
  • Compatibility
    Some devices have slots for both Smart Media and Compact Flash. Otherwise, you need to have a Smart Media slot in order to use a Smart Media card.
xD Picture Card

The most common use for the xD Picture Card is in digital still cameras. Expansion into other video components is underway. xD cards are mostly exclusive to the Olympus brand. The Olympus xD card is the only card that supports the Panorama function found on most Olympus digital cameras. The xD-Picture Card boasts the smallest form factor of any digital memory card, making it exceptionally portable. xD cards can be used in a Compact Flash slot if you have an adaptor. Also, some devices have slots for both xD and Smart Media. Otherwise, you need to have a device with an xD slot in order to use an xD-Picture Card.

  • Size
    24.6mm x 24.9mm x 1.7mm
  • Common Uses
    Digital Still Cameras.
  • Pros
    Small format means smaller devices
  • Cons
    New format; not used by many digital camera makers.
  • Compatibility
    xD cards can be used in a Compact Flash slot if you have an adaptor. Also, some devices have slots for both xD and Smart Media. Otherwise, you need to have a device with an xD slot in order to use an xD Picture card.
Micro SD

Micro SD memory is very similar to SD and MMC. The only real difference is in the physical size of the card. A 1GB Micro SD card stores just as much information as an SD card would, but at a fraction of the size. Micro SD cards come with adaptor cards that they slip into, allowing them to be used in regular SD memory card slots. They are used primarily in camera cell phones.

  • Size
    ½ in x 3/5 in in x ¼ in
  • Common Uses
    Cell phones
  • Pros
    Allows for storage space.
  • Cons
    Very small, can be easy to misplace if swapped out of your cell phone regularly
  • Compatibility
    Adaptor card allows it to be used in items that require standard-size SD memory cards
Flash Drive

A flash drive is an excellent way to keep and transfer your information. It is small enough to be taken anywhere, and come in a wide variety of sizes. Flash drives are often built to be rugged, so they will be able to last longer after much handling and dropping. If you want a memory source to be easy to use and hold a variety of information, get a good flash drive.

  • Size
    2 ½ in x .83 in x 2/5 in
  • Common Uses
    Backing up information on your computer and for quick transfer of information between computers.
  • Pros
    Small storage device; slightly larger than the Microvault
  • Cons
    Relatively small; limited storage size.
  • Compatibility
    Any computer with a USB connection. 

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