Sony confirms Memory Stick Pro
By Ian Burley
The rumours are largely confirmed, 256, 512 and 1GB Memory Sticks will ship from April. But there is bad news on compatibility. However the new cards will be fast and sport a new fail-safe feature. 32GB cards are on the horizon too.
The good news for Sony digicam users is that Memory Stick cards larger than 128MB are on the way at last – the many rumours were officially confirmed by Sony today. The bad news is that none of the new cards, apart from one, will work with any of the current or previous Sony digicams, except for the recently released DSC F717, F77 and FX77 models. However, Sony confirmed that all new camera models released from now on will be compatible with the new cards. New cameras will be compatible with both old and new cards.
In fact two different types of new Memory Sticks were announced today, Memory Stick Select and Memory Stick Pro. The ‘Select’ version is basically a Mk1 blue memory stick, so it is universally compatible, that contains two sets of 128MB memory, making 256MB in all. To switch between each bank of 128MB, you must remove the card and use a tiny switch on the card.
Memory Stick Pro is the real second generation product. Expected to ship in April, Pro cards will be available, initially, in 256MB, 512MB and 1GB capacities. Sony says its product development road map reaches as far as 32GB.
Latest generation fast flash memory components, a product of Sony’s technology alliance with SanDisk announced last year, are used in the new Pro cards. A minimum 15Mbits/sec write performance is specified, which is just under 2 megabytes per second, more than double the rate of first generation Memory Sticks. The read rate is specified at an impressive sounding 160MBits/sec, or 20 megabytes per second.
All Pro cards have the Magic Gate copyright protection system as standard, meaning that the distinction between ordinary blue cards and white Magic Gate cards will end. Magic Gate only affects the use of copyright protected content. Sony does not intend to produce a white Magic Gate version of the 256MB ‘Select’ card.
An interesting new feature of Memory Stick Pro is a data transfer interruption protection system. If there is a power failure or the card is removed in the middle of a data transfer, you should be able to resume the transfer later without any loss of data.
Both Sony and SanDisk have announced their Memory Stick Pro line ups to coincide with the opening of the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Lexar, the only third party Memory Stick licensee to manufacture Memory Sticks apart from Sony, is expected to announce compatible products later.
The issue of Memory Stick Pro compatibility is both complicated and controversial. I tried a Memory Stick Pro card on my 4 month old Sony Vaio C1MHP notebook PC and it didn’t work. We’re told some recent Vaio notebook PCs can be software upgraded to work with the new Pro cards, but it’s unlikely that any current Sony TVs, camcorders, digital audio devices, etc., will be upgradeable.
If you are the owner of a DSC F717 camera, or the F77 or FX77, you’re lucky as these can use the new Pro cards, but the older F707 is definitely not compatible.
Sony figures given to us today suggest Memory Stick is now the market leader with nearly 30% market share, ahead of Compact Flash on 26%, SmartMedia on 22%, SD/MMC, 14% and xD at 3%.
Sony’s UK guide prices for Memory Stick Pro, shipping in April, are as follows:
The 256MB Memory Stick Select card is priced £150.
US pricing from SanDisk for their branded cards are as follows:
Meanwhile, Sony also announced that 64MB Memory Stick Duo cards, the compact member of the Memory Stick family, will start shipping next month, priced £70. These will be supplied with an adapter for use in full-size Memory Stick slots.