In the very near future, users will be able to store more than 100 HD movies on a single SD card, movies they can then watch on their smartphone. That data requires 2 TB of storage, which is equal to 64 of the largest SDHC cards (32 GB) currently available.
To achieve that capacity on a card no larger than a postage stamp, developers are leveraging SDXC, the newest SD standard that, in addition to massive amounts of storage space, promises bus interface speeds up to 300 MB per second, or about 15 times the current fastest offerings.
What is SDXC?
SDXC (SD eXtended Capacity) is the latest standard of Secure Digital storage card, following SD (with storage up to 2 GB) and SDHC (SD High-Capacity, with storage up to 32 GB), and it is just starting to make its way to consumers.
The SD standard is developed and promoted by a group of major technology companies including Panasonic, SanDisk, and Toshiba, called the SD Association. It has more than 1,000 members involved in designing, developing, manufacturing, and selling the product.
It is, simply put, the most popular and widely accepted storage card in the world.
A Year in the Making
SDXC was first unveiled at CES 2009, and released to SD Association members three months later. One year after the unveiling, at CES 2010, Panasonic announced the first SDXC consumer offerings, a 48 GB and 64 GB card, each with a Class 10 speed rating and 22 MB/sec data transfer rates. Panasonic claims their SDXC cards will be available in February 2010, with similar cards from Toshiba not far behind.
While it’s not the 2 TB card promised last year, and Panasonic released 32 GB SDHC cards with Class 10 speed last summer — and the 64 GB exceeds the capacity of a dual-layer Blu-ray Disc.
According to a Panasonic road map displayed at CES 2010, users can expect 1 TB SDXC cards by the end of 2010 with the 2 TB SDXC cards coming in 2011.
SDXC on a Smartphone
Thus far, the majority of devices supporting SDXC are digital cameras and HD digital video cameras, which require the extra space for all that high-definition data and RAW image files. This includes Sony’s offerings, which for years, outside of its dSLR cameras, snubbed SD for its proprietary Memory Stick format. As of February 2010, no smartphones have been introduced that support the standard. In fact, the first 32 GB microSD cards were only announced last month from Samsung with shipments expect to hit shelves in late February.
The storage space on a 32 GB microSD card rivals the space available the many of today’s top-of-the-line mobile devices, including the current high-end iPhone and the mid-range iPad, neither of which have an internal SD card reader (though, the iPad’s Camera Connection Kit will function as an SD card reader, no word yet if that includes SDXC support).
The reason for the delay can very likely be attributed to lack of consumer demand, perhaps brought on by a prohibitive cost. Panasonic’s 64 GB SDXC card will retail for $600 at launch.
SDXC Support, an Upgrade Away?
The move from SD to SDHC only required a firmware upgrading for older devices, meaning users could enjoy their new high-capacity storage cards on legacy hardware. While SDXC card slots will read both SD and SDHC cards, users will have to buy new SDXC-compatible hardware, which should be marked with an SDXC logo. Users attempting to cram an SDXC card in a non-compatible device will be prompted with a message to format the card. Doing so will erase all data and the SDXC card will no longer work with SDXC host products, according to the SD Association.
Because Windows Vista and 7 both support exFAT, the SDXC file system, the SD Association claims users should soon receive the SDXC device driver from Microsoft. The SD Association has not said when other operating systems, including any version of Mac OS X, will receive SDXC drivers.
Three Years of Music
There is no question that SDXC will drastically change how users interact with content on the mobile devices. The amount of storage space allotted by a 2 TB disk is staggering. According to Apple, a 160 GB iPod holds up to 40,000 songs; meaning 2 TB could possibly hold over half a million. Assuming the average song is 3 minutes long, it would take a user close to 3 years of constant listening to hear every tune.
Start listening now, and by the time you are done, perhaps the newest SD standard promising 10+ terabytes of storage will be ready for consumers.