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Kingston class-10 microSDHC card review: How much faster than a class-4 model?

Kingston reckons you'll experience performance gains when using its new SDC10/16GB, class-10 microSDHC card in the latest high-end mobile devices, but how did it fare in our benchmark tests?

As if microSD cards weren't amazing enough, Kingston has just blown our minds into even smaller fragments with the release of its first 16GB, class-10 microSDHC card. This bad boy is smaller than a fingernail, offers the same amount of storage as a high-end iPod nano and -- as indicated by its 'class 10' moniker -- is now faster than a speeding, er, memory card.

The class-10 label denotes the card's minimum sustained transfer rate in MBps. Kingston's fastest microSDHC card previously was a class-4 effort, while the model currently sitting in your mobile phone or MP3 player is probably a mere class-2 affair. So, is the new kid on the block a Concorde of the memory-card world, or will it crash and burn before it even gets off the ground?

To find out, we hooked it up to our test PC using the SD-card adaptor that came with it in the box, and fired up a copy of the HD Tach disk-benchmarking software. After a few minutes, the full suite test came back with average read and write scores of 19.7MBps and 14.4MBps respectively, which backs up Kingston's claims of a minimum sustained write speed of 10MBps.

The same test applied to a Kingston class-4 microSDHC card returned a slightly slower average write speed of 9.3MBps, and an average read speed of 17.9MBps. That's slower than the class-10 card, but significantly faster than its rating might suggest.

The new class-10 card delivers on its promises then, but what does this mean for you, the end user? Possibly not much. Kingston reckons you'll experience performance gains when using the card in the latest high-end mobile devices, such as cameras or mobile phones but, in our anecdotal tests, we didn't see much difference between the class-4 and class-10 models. Our HTC Hero, for example, felt slightly more responsive when taking pictures or shooting video with the class-10 card, but functioned pretty much identically otherwise.

We didn't see much improvement with a dedicated camera, either. Our Nikon D3000 digital SLR took photos at exactly the same rate in burst mode, because the camera's slow internal processing made the speed of the memory card redundant. Faster, high-end dSLRs may see noticeable speed improvements when taking pictures and recording video, but, if you're in possession of such a camera, you're probably better off using a high-speed (20MBps or 40MBps) CompactFlash card instead.

In summary, the 16GB Kingston class-10 microSDHC card is very fast. At about £80, it's pricey though, so we'd only recommend it to users who know for sure that their devices are severely hampered by a slow card. Otherwise, most of us might be better off using one, or possibly two, slightly slower cards, such as Kingston's own £14, 8GB, class-4 unit.