New SD card standard offers speeds of up to 4GB/sec

Upcoming SD Express specification offers vastly increased transfer speeds for SD cards

As technology marches on, we expect things to get smaller, faster, and cheaper. The SD Association, the organization formed to maintain the SD card standard, has just announced that SD cards are going to be getting much faster in the future.

The newly introduced SD 8.0 standard is the future of SD cards and will offer transfer speeds of up to 4GB/sec on devices that meet the requirements of the standard. This is a four times increase on the previous SD card maximum transfer speeds, as SD cards on the SD 7.0 standard only offer speeds of up to 1GB/sec.

In order to achieve this new higher transfer speed, you’ll need to be using a PCIe 4.0 based motherboard, and a hard drive that supports the NVMe Express protocol, but these SD cards will also be fully compatible with devices that don’t meet the fast requirements, they will just not be able to max out the transfer speed. These new SD 8.0 cards will be the same physical shape and size as current cards and maintain compatibility with existing ports. The only changes are internal, this isn’t a redesign of the SD card standard, just an evolution that will improve performance.

The SD 8.0 standard will be available for SD cards under the SDHC, SDXC, and SDUC format. Each of these indicates a maximum storage capacity supported, with SDHC offering up to 32GB, SDXC offering up to 2TB, and SDUC offering up to 128TB.

In a statement, Hiroyuki Sakamoto, the president of the SD Association said this on these new faster SD cards that will be on the market in the future:

“By dramatically increasing the speeds for SD Express we’re giving device manufacturers and system developers more storage choices. SD 8.0 may open even more opportunities for extra high-performance solutions using removable memory cards.”

There’s certainly a lot of potential that could be unlocked by offering faster transfer speeds. Obviously not having to wait around for files to transfer is a convenience that any users of SD cards would benefit from, but being able to record and playback extreme high resolution, uncompressed video, and audio would be greatly aided by faster transfer speeds or this boost in speed could allow for improved slow-motion video recording. These would also be fast enough for several different gaming applications in future game systems.

It’s going to be quite some time before these cards actually release on the market, the specification has just been released, but manufacturers are not ready to actually release these cards. Even when they do initially come out, there will likely be a significant price premium for SD cards with cutting edge transfer speeds, as they’ll primarily be targeting professional business users before gradually decreasing the price to appeal to typical consumers.

It’s only a matter of time before this becomes the new mainstream, as older SD cards get replaced, and newer devices offering support for faster transfer speeds proliferate through the market. We’ll just have to be patient to see exactly how long that process takes.

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I skew Chaotic Good where possible, and love pressing buttons, viewing pixels and listening to sounds. I’ve written for publications like Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, VG247 and Kotaku UK, and spent 13 years running SavyGamer.co.uk. If you ever get the chance you should ask me to tell you the story about that time I had a fight with a snake on an island off the coast of Cambodia.

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