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10th February 2006
Kingston Ultimate 120x 2GB high-speed SD card tested
by Ian Burley

We review Kingston's 2GB 'Ultimate' high speed card and wonder if this is the fastest SD card on the market.


How long ago was it that you dreamed of owning a 128MB card for your camera? Well, as we saw last month, 1GB high-speed cards are genuinely affordable now and in this article we look at the cream of the crop; a premium branded super high-speed SD card with a 2GB capacity, equivalent to sixteen 128MB cards. That card is the 2GB Kingston Ultimate 120x SD card.

Since last summer, the fastest memory card of any description that we have tested has been the 512MB Panasonic RPSDK512, one of the first of the new breed of super high-speed cards that emerged during 2005. The Kingston Ultimate 120x eased past the Panasonic in our tests this month. What's more, per megabyte, it's not that much more expensive than the budget ByteStor card we recently tested.

Without ado, here are the test results, starting with write performance:


Using a dual-Athlon processor PC, with dual-ported memory and a 7200RPM SATA hard disk drive mated to a Fujifilm DCR2-161 USB 2.0 High-Speed card reader and hub, we measured a sustained 8.5MB (1MB = 1024x1024 bytes, or 1,048,576 bytes) per second recording rate, almost 1.5MB/sec faster than the Panasonic and almost double the speed of the ByteStor 66x card.

In fact most USB card readers and, it has to be said cameras, are not yet equipped with high performance data bus management to make the most of the latest generation of high-speed memory cards, like the Kingston and Panasonic cards. The Kingston card does show a small but useful speed advantage, but it also represents an investment for the future when cameras and peripherals will be able to utilise its full speed potential.

It's a lot less clear cut when reading data from the card. The Kingston Ultimate managed 9.1MB/sec compared to 8.2MB/sec for both the ByteStor and Panasonic cards, or less than a megabyte per second. With a formatted capacity of 1.86GB, the 2GB Kingston Ultimate would take around three and a half minutes to empty, only saving you about 20 seconds over the others calculated for the same 2GB capacity.

Will your camera benefit?
Most cameras, especially cheaper ones, can't exceed the transfer speed of standard cards, however an increasing number can. The main area of benefit is in continuous shooting mode when taking pictures. There are too many cameras to list, but a good example is the Panasonic Lumix FZ-20. When using a fast enough card, this camera can shoot in continuous mode indefinitely until the card is completely filled. Slower cards will see the camera hesitate once its buffer has been filled.

Conclusions and ratings - DPNow rating system explained.

Performance Superb the fastest card we have tested to date.
DPNow rated: Excellent
DPNow rated: Excellent

Value for money If you can justify the need for a card of this capacity and performance, its value is very good indeed.
DPNow rated: Good
DPNow rated: Good

Overall ratings - At DPNow we don't much rate stars and percentages because they mean one thing to one reviewer and something else to another - this is why we use our own rating system above, but as the industry demands such devices, we reluctantly provide them, based on our concept of the product's target market, the competition and how we got on with the product while testing it:.

DPNow rated: 90%

DPNow rated: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

The bottom line:
Kingston has pushed the performance boundary further still with the Ultimate 120x range, especially in the area of write-performance. There is no doubt that this card is a luxury to most, but it's a genuine investment for the future and remarkably affordable considering its high specification. Kingston also underlines things with a lifetime warranty. All this means, the Kingston 2GB Ultimate 120x SD card earns our coveted Editor's Choice award!

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