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Western Digital launches new SanDisk 256GB microSDXC memory cards

Western Digital subsidiary SanDisk announced two new microSDXC cards today, both of which can hold up to 256GB of data. The 256GB SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-1 card is billed as being the fastest microSDXC card in its class, while the 256GB SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-1 card, Premium Edition is supposedly “the first 256GB card optimized for mainstream consumers.”

Western Digital recently completed its acquisition of SanDisk, but the two companies apparently haven’t sat down and talked product branding just yet. Western Digital brands its storage products by color — black for high performance drives, red for network storage, green for low-power, lower-speed HDDs, and so on. SanDisk’s microSDXC branding, in contrast, appears to be the benighted offspring of a lonely Markov chain and a randy thesaurus.

Joking aside, the difference between the two products mostly comes down to the minimum write speed. While both the Extreme and Ultra Premium are capable of roughly the same theoretical rates (100MB/s read, 90MB/s write for the Extreme vs 95MB/s read and 95MB/s write for the Ultra Premium), the “Extreme” card guarantees a 30MB/s minimum sustained sequential write speed while the Premium card offers just a 10MB/s guarantee, Anandtech reports. This difference is important if you’re recording 4K video, which is why SanDisk recommends using one card for 4K work and the lower-end consumer model for 1080p. The Ultra Premium should be available by August with an estimated cost of $149 for a 256GB card, but the higher-end model isn’t expected until Q4 2016.

Separate from this announcement, I’m always a little surprised to see just how much data modern SD cards can actually store. While they’re based on NAND flash and therefore benefit from all the advances to NAND technology over the past 17 years, early cards had capacities measured in a handful of megabytes. Today, SDXC cards can pack 256GB. The relatively low performance and limited bus means you wouldn’t want to run an OS installation off an SD card, even if you could. But the capacity of the tiny drives has skyrocketed while the form factor’s physical size has remained roughly the same.

SanDisk notes that the new cards are temperature-proof, shock-proof, and X-ray-proof. If you want to use them with an Android device, the company has an application on the Google Play Store called SanDisk Memory Zone, which lets you back up and manage content.

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