Today's portable devices have an insatiable appetite for flash memory. From cell phones to music players to digital cameras, flash memory provides the storage to hold your music, pictures and vital information. Created by Toshiba researchers in the early 1980s, flash memory has all but replaced micro hard drives and other forms of disk-based storage in portable devices.
Flash memory stores information on a chip that can be read, written to and erased by an onboard micro-controller. Typically, flash memory draws power from the device it is connected to.
There are many different forms of flash memory and it is important to make sure that the card you purchase is compatible with your device. Some of the most popular flash memory formats are Compact Flash, Secure Digital and USB drives.
In general, you'll want to buy the highest capacity flash memory you can afford. When it comes to flash memory storage, size equals flexibility. Today's media files are getting larger and larger and you'll want to be able to keep up with the trend.
Make sure your computer has the right type of card reader to read your flash memory card. If not, you may have to invest in a card reader or adapter to transfer files between your flash memory device and PC.
Flash memory cards are rated for their transfer speed. This rating is listed as an “X” rating, where X equals 150Kb (Kilobytes) per second. A 10X device would be able to transfer 1.5MB (Megabytes). Faster is almost always better.
There are many different types of flash memory. Some of the most popular include Secure Digital (SD), used in cell phones and cameras, Compact Flash (CF), common in high-end digital cameras and Memory Stick, used in Sony devices.
SanDisk and Kingston are two of the more popular vendors that sell a wide variety of flash memory devices. Sony produces its Memory Stick line, but other vendors offer third party options as well.
Flash memory storage capacities run from 128MB up to 64GB. While it is always tempting to go for the largest capacity possible, you'll need to check with your device manufacturer to see what storage capacities your device supports.
Does anybody remember floppy disks? The rise in popularity of flash memory has relegated disks to the scrap heap along with LPs and eight-track tapes. Flash memory is the de facto portable storage medium, used in cameras, phones and other portable (and not so portable) devices. Buying flash memory means finding and matching the type of memory you need with the speed and capacity to get the job done right.
Flash memory comes in a number of different forms, each with its own uses. Here are some of the most popular types:
Compact Flash. Compact flash memory devices have been around for a while, but still have a large share of the high-end digital camera market. The large storage capacity (up to 32GB) and high access speed (as high as 600X!) make Compact Flash memory devices perfect for large, high definition image files.
Secure Digital. The most popular form of flash memory for portable devices, Secure Digital flash memory comes in three size formats: standard (used in printers and cameras) miniSD (used in cameras and other devices) and microSD (used in cell phones and GPS devices). The smaller formats are often sold with adapters for use with other devices.
Memory Stick. This proprietary format is used in Sony cameras and other devices. The original Memory Stick was replaced by the Memory Stick Pro, which provided faster read times and larger storage capacity. Many third party vendors produce Memory Stick/Pro flash memory units for use with Sony devices.
USB. Most frequently used as a floppy disk replacement, USB disks have storage capacity of up to 256GB. USB drives are used with personal computers, game consoles and some home theater media players.
You can never be too thin, too rich or have too big a flash memory device! Determining your capacity needs is a matter of what you'll be storing and the size of your library. The following are some ballpark ideas of how capacity relates to the storage of various media:
Music. Assuming a bit rate of 128bps and an average four minute song length, you can expect to be able to store about 250 songs per 1GB of flash memory storage.
Video. Video compression, bit rate and other factors vary wildly from video file to video file, but generally you can expect to store about 24 minutes of DVD quality video per 1GB of flash memory storage—just about the length of a half hour sitcom without commercials.
Images. Using a 5-megapixel image stored in JPEG format, you can expect to store about 360 images on a 1GB flash memory device.
Flash memory devices are rated in terms of capacity and speed. Obviously, capacity is important, depending on the size or number of files you plan to store. Speed is also a factor, however, especially with high-resolution images or videos files.
Capacity is expressed in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). Gigabytes are the larger units of storage and are more commonly seen in contemporary flash memory devices.
Speed is expressed using an “X” measurement, where X equals 150 Kilobytes per second. The speed reference is for file transfers to and from the device. Some examples of speed measurements are 10X (1.5 MB per second) and 200x (3GB per second).