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Lexar to boost CompactFlash speed, capacity

The flash card maker is adopting a new generation of CompactFlash that doubles today's capacity and data transfer speed. New models are set to ship later this year.

LAS VEGAS--Lexar plans to introduce faster, higher-capacity CompactFlash cards using a new generation of the flash memory technology, a company executive said Wednesday.

Lexar's top-end 300X cards will be outpaced by new models shipping later this year.
Lexar's top-end 300X cards will be outpaced by new models shipping later this year. Lexar

Lexar's current top-end 300X-rated CompactFlash cards use a standard called UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) to transfer data at 45MB/second, and their capacity tops out at 16GB. But using a new generation of the standard, UDMA 6, Lexar will release cards that have significantly faster transfer speeds and larger capacity, Jeff Cable, director of marketing, said in an interview here at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show here.

Cable wouldn't be pinned down on precise details, but he said the new cards' capacity "probably" would be 32GB, and their transfer speeds likely would "pretty close to" UDMA 6's threshold of 100MB/sec, which is more than double that of today's UDMA.

Only newer SLR (single lens reflex) cameras support current UDMA technology, but it's spreading, and there are benefits. For example, cameras can take longer continuous bursts of photos, and photographers can zoom faster to check focus when reviewing shots on the camera LCD. Video, which is arriving in new SLRs, also can saturate data-transfer pathways.

Even without camera support, faster speeds can be useful, for example when copying photos to a computer while in the middle of a long shooting session or photographing an event on deadline. However, the high performance comes at a significant cost premium.

Meanwhile, Lexar has its eyes on two other flash memory card standards: CFast, a successor to CompactFlash that uses the newer Serial ATA (SATA) connection technology, and SDXC, a successor to the more broadly used SD and SDHC cards.

The future of both is still hazy, Cable said.

For SDXC, many details of the technology have yet to be pinned down, he said. "The spec isn't clearly defined," he said.

One complication with both SDXC and CFast is that the physical connector is different, meaning that today's cards won't fit into tomorrow's slots.

And Cable wouldn't lay odds on how likely it is that CFast will catch on. "We're in Japan talking (to camera makers) for that reason. Camera manufacturers are resistant because there's a break," he said, referring to the lack of compatibility with today's technology.

SDXC backers hope to release the technology with transfer speeds of 109MB/sec initially and 300MB/second later, and capacities eventually should reach as high as 2TB. That's a lot, but flash cards are used in video cameras that can produce mammoth files.

Updated March 5 to correct that Cable thinks the specification for SDXC, not SDHC, isn't clearly defined.