If you need to extract every ounce of performance from an SD memory card, the combination of a Panasonic High Speed Pro SD card and Panasonic BN-SDPC3E SD Card CardBus adapter could be what you are looking for
Panasonic High Speed Pro SD cards and Panasonic BN-SDPC3E SD Card CardBus adapter are designed for each other
- 10th January, 2006; speed test result revisions, see below:
A number of memory card manufacturers are making grand claims about their latest high-speed SD cards. Among them is Panasonic, the co-inventor of the SD card platform. Transfer rates of up to 20 megabytes per second are being claimed, which is up to 20 times faster than first-generation cards. However, to-date there are hardly any cameras that can take full advantage of the maximum performance of these cards.
Faster than USB 2.0?
Panasonic has moved to provide support for high-speed cards in the form of a high performance PCMCIA Cardbus adapter or PC Card. The Panasonic Pro High Speed PC Card Adapter (BN-SDPC3E) is, according to Panasonic, the only PC SD card reader that capable of extracting the full performance of its latest RPSDK512 512MB and RPSDK01 1GB Pro High Speed SD cards. That means Panasonic says the BN-SDPC3E is faster than Firewire or USB 2.0 High Speed card readers. From a purely technical note, this is rather interesting because CardBus has a peak performance rate of 133 megabytes per second transfer. This compares with 480 megabits per second for USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, or 60 megabytes per second. Neither, in theory, should be the bottleneck in a 20 megabytes per second transfer. But as we will see, Panasonicís assertion that its BN-SDPC3E card is faster than a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed card reader turns out to be true.
The main benefit of using the BN-SDPC3E would appear to be in shortening transfer times when copying shots from a card to a host PC. It could take as long as a quarter of an hour to copy the contents of a low-spec. 1GB card. At 20 megabytes per second the same transfer rate would only take around one minute.
Laptop or desktop?
The vast majority of PCMCIA CardBus cards, like the BN-SDPC3E, will be used in laptop computers, though CardBus adapter upgrade kits for desktop PCs are also available. These connect via a standard PCI expansion card slot. Many of these are inconvenient to use as they force you to insert the PCMCIA card at the back of the PC. However, you can get PCI Cardbus adapters with a front-mounted slot for not much more money.
Although PCMCIA CardBus slots are backwards compatible with older 8 and 16-bit PCMCIA cards, 32-bit CardBus cards like the BN-SDPC3E cannot be used with older 8/16-bit PCMCIA slots. This shouldnít be a problem as CardBus slots have been standard specification since the late 1990s. However, Panasonic has not provided any driver support for Apple Mac or, indeed, Linux users.
You can leave the BN-SDPC3E SD Card CardBus adapter in its slot semi-permanently.
The BN-SDPC3E is a bit more up market than typical PCMCIA card SD adapters; it has a spring-loaded card slot that holds the card when it is inserted and when you press the card again, it is released and pushed out for convenient extraction.
An SD card can be inserted or removed without having to remove the adapter card.
This means the BN-SDPC3E can remain in-situ while inserting and removing SD cards. Other SD card PCMCIA adapters need to be removed from the slpt to enable extraction of the SD card.
We compared a 512MB Panasonic High Speed Pro SD card with a 512MB Dane-Elec high speed SD card. The latter is a card that has demonstrated a higher than average performance for an SD card and even though our example is two years old, it remains one of the fastest we have tested.
The test procedure was simple; to copy a 212MB (222.3 decimal million bytes) folder of five megapixel JPEG image files to and from the tested cards using a generic USB 2.0 Hi-Speed card reader attached to an middle-spec. Athlon desktop PC running 7200RPM hard disk drives and using the Panasonic BN-SDPC3E SD Cardbus adapter using a laptop running a 2.0GHz Pentium M CPU and a 5400RPM hard drive. Actual performance can be affected by a number of factors, including the speed of the host PC's hard drive and CPU.
UPDATE Re-testing of these cards using a new Fujifilm DCR2-161 USB 2.0 high speed card reader connected to a new Dual Athlon PC with SATA hard disk appeared to allow more headroom for the Panasonic card's write performance, enabling a 7MB/sec performance compared with 5MB/sec in our original test. Other results were only marginally improved by the new setup.
Read performance (MB/sec):
Write performance (MB/sec):
| ||Dane-Elec 512MB SD||Panasonic 512M Pro High Speed|
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ||7.6||7.6|
|Panasonic CardBus|| 6.8||9.6|
|Dane-Elec 512MB SD||Panasonic 512M Pro High Speed
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed || 4.3||5.0
|Panasonic CardBus ||4.2||6.2
There was nothing in it when reading from either card using the USB 2.0 card reader, suggesting that there was some kind of USB 2.0/SD limitation of 7.6MB/sec. Again, when writing to the cards using the USB 2.0 card reader, there wasnít a yawning gap between the two cards.
Useful differences did show up when the Panasonic BN-SDPC3E card reader was used. The Panasonic SD card was nearly 3MB/sec (41%) faster when reading data than the Dane-Elec card and 2MB/sec (47%) faster at writing data. In fact, the Dane-Elec card was marginally slower when used with the BN-SDPC3E CardBus adapter than when using the USB 2.0 card reader, while the Panasonic card was substantially faster.
Despite the good performance of the Panasonic Pro High Speed SD card, we only managed a maximum of just under 10MB/sec transfer rates when reading from the card, rather than the claimed 20MB/sec rate. Itís possible that under lab conditions, with an optimised host PC and when reading a single large data file, a 20MB per second transfer rate could be achieved, but just under 10MB/sec seems to be a more realistic expectation.
Making a difference in the camera?
We then decided to see if the Panasonic Pro High Speed SD card actually made a difference in a camera. Using a Panasonic Lumix FZ-20, we used its two continuous shooting modes with both cards, but there was no difference in the result of four frames recorded.
However, we did find that the camera stalled at 15 separately but continuously triggered shots with the Dane-Elec card, while we were unable to stall the camera in the same way with the Panasonic card. So if you need to Ďpumpí the shutter release and ensure that the buffer empties efficiently, the Panasonic Pro High Speed SD card lets you - with some cameras. Not all cameras have such a flexible buffer system as the FZ20.
The combination of a Panasonic Pro High Speed SD card and a Panasonic BN-SDPC3E CardBus card reader makes a significant difference when both reading and writing from the card. It will save you the best part of a minute when reading a full 1GB card compared to the combination of other high speed cards and a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed card reader. Incidentally, both cards tested were marginally faster than a SanDisk Extreme III compact flash card, confirming what we have suspected for some time that SD cards have a small performance advantage over comparable CF cards.
If you like what you have read and have decided you would like a Panasonic BN-SDPC3E card reader, there is a snag; they appear to be very rare and currently there are few stockists. We did find some German suppliers who charged about EUÄ50, thatís about UK£35 or US$60. Panasonic Pro High Speed SD cards are less difficult to find, but they arenít as widely stocked as some of their principle competitors.