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Memory & Storage Devices

Memory. Where to begin.

Sometimes, the variety of memory types, each with their different names and speeds and acronyms can seem a little daunting but knowing just the basics can help you give your customers the ability to buy with confidence and keep on returning to your store for all their memory requirements. 

Most cards and USB’s these days utilise what is referred to as Flash Memory. This means the data is not lost when the card is disconnected from a power supply, unlike RAM (random access memory) which is lost once power is lost.


It is essential to make sure the Memory Card you are selling to a customer is compatible with the specific device they want to use it in. This sounds simple but if it is to be used across a variety of devices such as Cameras, Tablets, Phones and PC’s for example, not all devices may accept the same type of Memory Card. We recommend you have that conversation with your customer prior to a sale.

It may give you the opportunity to make an up-sell if the devices have different capabilities.

Speed and Capacity

After compatibility, these are the two most relevant pieces of information any purchase of a Memory Card will be based on.

Capacity is a fairly simple concept. The larger the capacity, the more you can store. That does obviously depend on the type of images you are taking though. High definition photographs or video capture will use up your memory space much quicker than standard images.

Speed, however, is definitely relevant to the type of images you are capturing. High speed photography such as sports or action requires a higher speed memory card so you can write to it quickly and take your next shot. The same applies to video footage, particularly on devices such as Go Pros (other mounted video capture devices are available). A slow speed memory card can cause slower frame rates and juddering playback which totally negates the action you’re trying to capture.

Device Types

Compact Flash Memory Cards

Whilst Compact Flash Cards belie their name in terms of physical size, being one of the larger memory card options you can go for, CF cards are still popular, particularly amongst users of older DSLR cameras for their durability and physical robustness as well as their speed of data transfer. CF Cards also come in two types, Type I and Type II so it’s important to check the individual camera the memory card is going to be used in.

Whilst Compact Flash Cards are robust in terms of external physicality, internally they can be susceptible to damage if the card gets wet or exposed to extreme temperatures. This is why they are being overtaken in terms of popularity by SD Cards.

The durability and low failure rate of Compact Flash Memory Cards means they are still popular with many people, especially people who shoot in RAW format. In addition, the CF card formats have not changed unlike SD Cards. Any type of Compact Flash Card will work in any Compact Flash slot whereas SD cards have some backwards compatibility issues.

SD Memory Cards – SD, SDHC and SDXC

Secure Digital Cards, or SD Cards as they are most commonly referred to, are much smaller than Compact Flash Cards and originally became popular in smaller electronic devices but have now become the most popular type of memory card used in compact digital cameras and DSLR’s.

You will often see cards SD Memory Cards referred to as either SD, SDHC or SDXC.

SD are the most basic type of Secure Digital Memory Card and usually limited in terms of both capacity and speed.  HC stands for High Capacity whilst XC stands for eXtended Capacity. SDHC tend to be limited to 32GB whilst SDXC have higher capacity.

Be careful to check backwards compatibility of your device when purchasing SD Cards. A device which takes SDHC cards, for instance, will probably read SD cards but the reverse is not true. A device which only takes SD cards will not read the later SDHC or SDXC cards.

Micro SD Cards

In general terms the same criteria used in selecting an SD card comes in to play when choosing a Micro SD Card. The main difference between SD Cards and Micro SD Cards is the size.

The smaller Micro size means they are able to be used in smaller devices such as mobile phones. Micro SD Cards also often come with an SD Card adapter which enables you to use them in devices which only have an SD Card slot. This increases their adaptability and therefore makes them an increasingly popular choice.

Micro SD Cards can be very fragile though as well as easily lost if not handled carefully.

USB Devices

USB Devices are sometimes referred to as a USB Stick, Pen Drive or Flash Drive due to the technology which is used (see earlier in this section for a definition of Flash Memory).

A USB flash drive is a device used for data storage that includes a flash memory and an integrated Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface. Most USB flash drives are removable and rewritable. Physically, they are small, durable and reliable. The larger their storage space, the faster they tend to operate. USB flash drives are mechanically very robust because there are no moving parts. They derive the power to operate from the device to which they are connected via the USB port but retain the stored data once removed from the power source.

USB Drives/Sticks are the most versatile and simple to use memory device and are generally available in two types, USB 2.0 or USB 3.0.

The difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 drives.

The main difference is essentially speed. A USB 2.0 device can deal with speeds up to 60MB/sec whereas a USB 3.0 device can work up to a general speed of around 635MB/sec. It is also worth noting that the speed of transfer is usually based on the type of device it is plugged into. For example, a USB 3.0 Memory Stick plugged into a computer with a USB 2.0 socket will only operate at the lower of the two speeds.

The other main purchasing decision to be made is the same as with all Memory Cards and Devices, the capacity.