Sony launches first XQD cards. Step aside, CompactFlash

The 16GB and 32GB cards read and write at 125MBps and can handle 100-photo bursts from Nikon's new D4 SLR.

Sony's new 32GB QD-H32, an XQD flash memory card, has a retail price of $229.99.
Sony's new 32GB QD-H32, an XQD flash memory card, has a retail price of $229.99. Sony

Just in time for the flagship Nikon D4 SLR , Sony has announced an XQD flash memory card--the first example of a new format developed with better speed and capacity than its CompactFlash predecessor.

Most devices these days use smaller SD Card technology, but high-end SLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Sony still keep CompactFlash alive for performance and capacity reasons. The new XQD format follows in the same direction, trying to keep ahead of SD by borrowing the PCI Express (PCIe) high-speed serial communications link interface from computers.

Sony announced two models of the card, the 16GB QD-H16 card for $129.99 and the 32GB QD-H32 for $229.99. The cards are scheduled to be available in February.

And so that customers can transfer data off the cards without having to plug their cameras into a USB port, Sony also announced the $44.99 MRW-E80 card reader that plugs in with USB 3.0 and the $44.99 QDA-EX1 adapter that plugs into laptops with ExpressCard slot.

The cards can read and write data at up to 125MBps. That's not necessarily faster than CompactFlash-- Lexar's new 1000X CF cards read at 150MBps and write at 145MBps. But though faster CF cards helped photographers, cameras rarely kept pace with the full card speed.

This shot shows the dual CompactFlash and XQD slots of Nikon's D4 SLR. The XQD slot toward the left is significantly smaller.
This shot shows the dual CompactFlash and XQD slots of Nikon's D4 SLR. The XQD slot toward the left is significantly smaller. Nikon USA

Notably, though, it looks like XQD will be an improvement here: On the Nikon D4, Sony's XQD cards can keep up with 100 frames of shooting in the camera's raw photo format. Given that the camera can shoot at 10 frames per second with autofocus engaged--a feature sports photographers love--keeping up with shooting bursts and clearing the buffer for a new burst is important.

XQD will be able to exceed 2 terabytes capacity eventually, according to the the CompactFlash Association, which developed the format. Second-and third-generation versions of PCIe double and quadruple transfer speeds to 250MBps and 500MBps. The initial cards use the first-generation interface, but PCIe provides for backward compatibility so that newer devices will be able to use older XQD cards.

Sony boasts of its XQD flash cards' data-transfer speeds.
Sony boasts of its XQD flash cards' data-transfer speeds. Sony

The XQD cards don't fit into CompactFlash slots, and vice versa. The XQD cards are smaller than CF but larger than SD cards.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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