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Kingston Elite Pro 1GB CF Kingston 1GB CompactFlash Elite Pro: If you're looking for a big and fast CompactFlash card for your camera, Kingston has one for you.
Date: July 14, 2004
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:
 

A couple years ago, 64MB memory cards were enough for the majority of users. Since 3 Mega-Pixel (MP) cameras were the norm, these memory cards were large enough to store about 40 high quality pictures. Larger memory cards existed, but they were fairly expensive, and most people would be content with snapping some pictures, and then offload them to their PC.

Today, 3MP is considered entry-level, with 4MP being more popular among first time shoppers looking for a decent camera. However, since digital photography has come such a long way, even some pros have put aside their SLR cameras for the digital equivalents. Starting at 8MP and up, it's easy to see that 64MB memory cards just don't cut it.

Getting a larger CompactFlash card isn't always the answer though. The fancier cameras on the market are power hogs, and in order to get the most out of your charge, the less time spent writing to the card, the better. Some high-end cameras have buffers to take multiple shots per second (great for those Sports Illustrated type action shots), but this is a luxury many cameras do not have. Waiting for a card to write between shots can certainly kill that perfect moment you're trying to capture.

The is a professional level CompactFlash card. Yes, you are correct to assume that this is CF memory for the enthusiast. Various capacities are available, but the selling point of this CF card is the write speeds. Today, we'll be looking at the 1GB version of the card.

You can grab the full specifications from this .

The CompactFlash Elite Pro comes in what I would certainly call "off the shelf" packaging. The capacity and type of ram is clearly visible, as well as the marketing blurbs and specifications. The CompactFlash card itself is encased in a solid "snap" case which will serve well when traveling as any protection is better than none at all.

The Elite Pro falls within CF specifications when it comes to size, which is 36mm (L) x 43mm (W) x 3mm (H) with 50-pins across the bottom of the card. Although the card shares similar IDE technology as your typical hard drive, there is zero noise and no moving parts. The card features NAND flash memory, which describes the mapping technology used for storing data. It reads and writes in serial mode, transferring data in small blocks (or pages). In the case of images, which is sequential data, the Elite Pro is very efficient in handling this form of information.

While the read speed of 6.1MB/sec is about on par with Kingston's other CF cards, the 5.2MB/sec write speeds set it apart from the others, which average 1.5MB/sec. What this will mean for digital photographers is there should be less time between taking shots, provided your camera can take rapid pictures. As a storage medium using a card reader, the Elite Pro in theory should be close to four times faster than other CF cards.

If you're wondering how the Elite Pro manages to be quicker than "standard" CF cards, it has to do with the NAND memory discussed earlier. Standard CF cards use Multi-Level-Cell (MLC) chips, while the Elite Pro uses Single-Level-Cell (SLC) chips. MLC allows for two data-bits to be stored on one memory cell, whereas SLC only allows for one.

MLC is cheaper to produce because it can have double the memory capacity when compared to a SLC chip, chip sizes being equal. Although it is cheaper to make MLC, having two data bits has a downside. One glaring issue is lower write speeds, as there are two data bits to write to as opposed to one, and it also has a higher power consumption (up to %15). On average, MLC based CF cards are about 20% to 30% cheaper than SLC based CF cards, but with about 60% less write performance. You do the math.

Test Setup

MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+ (10x200: 2GHz), 2 x 512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000, AIW Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB Seagate SATA, Windows XP SP1, VIA Hyperion 4in1 drivers 4.51, ATI Catalyst 4.6

We'll be using real-world benchmarks, copying a variety of media files (PDF, JPEG and AVI files) from our test rig to the Kingston Elite Pro and back. The uncompressed files weigh in at 939MB (30 files) and will be used for our small file tests. We'll be copying the same contents, compressed at 921MB (one file) for our large file tests.

We'll be testing both read and write performance where read tests will be the time needed to copy the contents from the Elite Pro to our SATA Seagate drive which is connected to a SATA interface on the K8T Neo. Write tests will be the time needed to copy the contents from the SATA to the Elite Pro.

To compare performance, we'll be testing the Elite Pro directly against a Sandisk Ultra 256MB CompactFlash card. Since the Sandisk is 1/4 the capacity (we don't have another 1GB card handy), we'll be cutting the number and size of the test files to 235MB (17 files) and 227MB (one compressed file) for these tests. Both cards will be connected to a Crucial USB 2.0 7 in 1 card reader.

Elite Pro Tests

Read (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Write (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Small Files
7:10
7:31
Large File
4:32
6:14

As we expected, the zipped file transfer was quite a bit faster than the uncompressed files. According to results, the uncompressed speeds were 2.18MB/sec and 2.08MB/sec for read and write. For the zipped file, we're looking at 3.45MB/sec and 2.48MB/sec read/write. This is off significantly from the specifications, though those numbers are likely based on JPEG transfers under ideal circumstances.

Small Files

Read (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Write (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Kingston Elite Pro
1:35
1:39
Sandisk Ultra
1:30
1:35

Large File

Read (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Write (Time in Minutes, Seconds)
Kingston Elite Pro
1:34
1:38
Sandisk Ultra
1:29
1:33

Based on the above results, we can see the Sandisk Ultra beating the Kingston Elite Pro across the board, though the differences are slight. You'll have to take these results with a grain of salt though as smaller capacity CF cards (based on similar technology) tend to be quicker than their larger counterparts since the read and write area is smaller. In that case, I found the Elite Pro's performance to be quite acceptable.

Final Words

No doubt, if you're serious about photography, you'll need a large memory card. CF cards are still pretty common in the digital film community, unless we're talking DV, but who really uses that for picture taking? Although other formats may be more portable, and in the case of SD, becoming more commonplace, it's tough to beat CompactFlash when it comes to cost per megabyte.

As for the Kingston Elite Pro, this card is made for the digital enthusiast. It is very fast, and it's not much more expensive than "standard" CompactFlash media. Of course, if you own a sub-$200 3.1MP camera, this CF card probably isn't for you. I own a Kodak DX3900, and truth be told, my camera is the bottleneck for the CF card's full potential. Sure, I'm enjoying the faster writes and large capacity, but this is the card to get if you own, or as myself, looking to own, a digital SLR.

Performance and reliability is as good as I would expect from quality media (plus Kingston has a great warranty as well). I do use the Elite Pro as portable storage with my USB card reader, and although it isn't nearly as fast as a Flash Drive, it gets the job done. It does lag a bit when compared to smaller media, but not enough to really make a significant impact in day-to-day use. Then again, the 256MB Sandisk can't hold a Matrix Reloaded Divx movie either ;)

Pros: Very fast, large capacity, Kingston warranty, fairly priced compared to "standard" CF media.

Cons: Not as fast as the Sandisk with ~230MB transfers.

Bottom Line: If you're a digital photography enthusiast, the Elite Pro deserves a spot in your camera bag. There are different options available when it comes to capacity, but I would strongly recommend 512MB and up if you own anything higher than a 4MP camera.

Questions and Comments can be voiced in our forums.

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