Lexar makes a 233x UDMA its entry level performance compact flash card
Read the press release: Lexar Increases Speed of Popular Professional 133x Line Memory Cards to 233x
Lexar guide price for the UK and US:
Professional 233x 2GB CF: £19.99/$44.99
Professional 233x 4GB CF: £29.99/$64.99
Professional 233x 8GB CF: £49.99/$119.99
Adorama price comparison:
Professional 233x 4GB CF: $64.99
Professional 300x 4GB CF: $69.95
Professional 133x 4GB CF: $44.95
Lexar recently announced that it was to introduce a 233x version of its UDMA-compatible 300x Professional-series compact flash card. It’s slightly unusual for a slower version of an existing memory card to be launched, but Lexar’s logic is pretty clear; the Lexar Professional 233x UDMA compact flash card range takes over from the previous non-UDMA 133x cards that have been available for several years.
So how does the 233x card compare with the out-going 133x card and the current range-topping 300x card? We’ve tested all three in high-speed PC card readers and in UDMA-enabled cameras. Some of the results are rather surprising.
Card reader tests
We used a PCIe interfaced FireWire 800 linked Lexar UDMA compact flash card reader for our card tests. There are some issues with external storage speeds and FireWire 800 support under Vista, so we used Windows XP SP3 for our testing. We also used Unibrain FireWire 800 drivers as we find these have the edge over the standard Windows drivers.
FireWire 800 Reader tests (above)
||Write to card
||Read from card
||8GB read time
|Lexar Pro 233x UDMA
|SanDisk Extreme IV 45MB/s
|Lexar Pro 300x UDMA
|Lexar Pro 133x
An interesting result for the Lexar 233x card is that its write speed was marginally faster than the Lexar Pro 300x UDMA we tested, though marginally slower than SanDisk’s competitor in the 300x category, the SanDisk Extreme IV 45MB/sec compact flash card.
The old 133x card is left way behind the UDMA cards in these tests, and although the Lexar 233x is the slowest of the UDMA cards for copying images from the card, the difference is small, yet it’s almost twice as fast as the 133x card. That means you need only wait 6 minutes to copy a full 8GB card compared to nearly 11 minutes with a 133x card. Double those figures for a 16GB card (not yet available at the time of writing) and the differences would really become felt.
When using a standard USB card reader, the card download times are closer. There is practically no difference between any of the UDMA cards, with a download rate of 15MB/sec, while the 133x Lexar Pro card operated at a rate of 12 MB/sec. This means it would take just over 9 minutes to copy 8GB of images using one of the 8GB cards and just under 11 and a half minutes for the 133x card.
Not all cameras need UDMA cards to perform at their maximum. A good example is the Canon EOS-40D. This is a fast shooting camera but it does not natively support UDMA and when we tested this camera with UDMA cards a while back, we saw that it actually worked slightly better with standard 133x cards. This is due to its onboard buffer management.
But there is an increasing range of UDMA-ready cameras and we tried the cards we tested above on both a Nikon D300 and an Olympus E-3, which are UDMA-enabled.
Surprisingly, in some modes we found it hard to see any difference in continuous shooting rates between the cards in these cameras. Where the camera clearly has to deal with higher data rates, the benefit of UDMA performance is detectable. With 14-bit RAW and simultaneous large fine JPEG recording set, the Nikon D300 would shoot about 24 frames with Lexar’s 300x card before the buffer stalled, significantly reducing the frame rate. It should be noted that the camera did not achieve full shooting during this test. With the Lexar 233x card the sequence was reduced to 20 frames. The 133x card managed only 18 frames. But with 12-bit RAW and no JPEGs, or any JPEB-only setting, there was little difference between any of the cards.
On the Olympus E-3 there was even less difference, with the UDMA cards managing just one extra frame in a continuous burst when recording RAW plus large fine JPEGs simultaneously. However, the buffer recovery times were significantly better than the 133x card. There was only a very slight difference between the UDMA cards and the 133x card in the JPEG mode tests.
It's also worth remembering that all Lexar Professional cards, including the 133x versions, come with a licence to download Lexar Image Rescue 3 software, which can be a life saver if a card becomes corrupted.
There are two main benefits for choosing a UDMA card for your camera: continuous shooting duration when using continuous RAW and JPEG recording modes, and for speeded up downloading times. Only the latter can be counted if your camera is not UDMA-compatible. Even then, if you don’t use a fast card reader set-up, like a FireWire 800 card reader, the benefits are narrowed further. In specific terms, we didn’t notice any severe deficiencies when using the new Lexar Pro 233x card, even when compared with the original 300x, so its lower price undoubtedly represents better value for money. At the time of writing the 300x card is being heavily discounted via cash-back offers in some regions, while the 233x card has yet to see any discounting, but in time we expect the 233x card to offer a useful saving over the 300x version.
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Lexar Professional 233x UDMA compact flash card review
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