Kingston 32GB microSDHC Mobility Kit Review

nVidia_Freak - 2011-05-31 16:44:04 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: nVidia_Freak   
Reviewed on: June 28, 2011
Price: $112

Introduction:

Portable electronics have been moving away from the use of traditional tape and disk-based storage for quite some time. Be that as it may, just two years ago it was easy to find relatively inexpensive consumer grade camcorders that used either MiniDV tapes or HDDs as a storage medium. Even so, the push for more compact devices was visible. Many of these same devices also supported a form of flash memory, such as SD(HC), microSD(HC), MemoryStick, or CompactFlash. These flash memory storage formats offer a couple key advantages over traditional storage types:

The gains from using flash memory instead of more traditional storage formats are as follows: By reducing overall size, devices are more aesthetically appealing to potential customers because they are easier to handle and use. By removing complex and proprietary mechanisms and parts, thus reducing the amount of material used, the cost of repair and replacement decreases dramatically not only for RMA service, but also for end-user repairs. By extension, the initial purchase price is also reduced. At the end of it all, flash memory storage makes portable electronics easily moveable and more affordable.

Why the background information? I've not only explained how flash memory benefits the mass market, but also how that can lead to a benefit in our niche market. Mass adoption of a technology reduces its cost, increases demand, and thus boosts development, continuing circularly until the technology is no longer accepted. With flash memory, this is most certainly the case. For example, with the SD storage format, not only can SD cards of up to 16GB in size be purchased inexpensively and in any corner store that has a photo department, but the availability of 32GB SD cards has also quadrupled and their cost has decreased up to 50% over the past two years.

As the SD storage format continues to gain popularity, replace USB thumbdrives, and even become a viable alternative to external HDDs, mass adoption is especially important, as stated. Still, there are some expensive SD cards aimed at the performance junkie. Kingston Technology is one such caterer to this type of user, and has recently released a 32GB class 10 microSDHC mobility kit — and at approximately $115, it had better deliver. First, though, let's take a good look at what it is I'll be testing.

Closer Look:

 

This isn't just a memory card from Kingston, but a mobility kit. In Kingston's case, that means a microSD to USB adapter and a microSD to SD adapter are both included along with the card for ultimate flexibility no matter where you are and what's available. Kingston offers its standard lifetime warranty on the memory card, which is somewhat misleading in name. "Lifetime" in this case refers to the lifetime of the card, or until it is no longer manufactured or there aren't any replacements left in stock. Theoretically this could be tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, but in reality it's up to Kingston's RMA department to decide if it will honor the warranty toward your card. Both microSD adapters feature Kingston's standard two-year warranty, which begins from the moment of purchase. Kingston provides a link on the backside of the packaging to its warranty information where it is provided in thirty different languages.

 

 

This offering from Kingston is a class 10 microSDHC card. Class ratings for SD cards of all types are directly related to the minimum read/write speeds in MB/s. So a class 10 microSDHC card, such as the one being tested, should read/write at no less than 10 MB/s. Do understand however, that SD class ratings are for the minimum transfer speeds only, but many cards will outperform their advertised class rating. Class ratings should only be taken as a guarantee that the card will not read or write at speeds slower than its class. The microSD format is a very tiny one, with a surface area measuring just over one and a half square centimeters — small enough to be eclipsed even by my little finger! The ultra-small form factor means that the memory chip inside it must be of higher density than that of SD cards and the high capacity means that this card uses an ultra-dense memory chip. Generally, the denser the memory chip, the faster points within can be accessed, thus files can be read and transferred at faster speeds than using several low density chips to achieve the same capacity. How this turns out in reality remains to be seen.

 

Specifications:

 

Real Capacity 29.9 GB
Storage Type microSDHC
Speed Class Class 10
Operating Temperature 32 °F - 140 °F
Storage Temperature
-40 °F - 185 °F
Card Dimensions (mm)
15 x 11 x 1 (L x W x H)
USB Adapter Dimensions (mm)
24.99 x 12.14 x 2.64 (L x W x H)



 

Features:

 

 

Information courtesy of Kingston at http://www.kingston.com/flash/mobile_kit.asp?id=2

Testing:

 

To test Kingston's 32GB class 10 microSDHC card, I will run a series of benchmarks to provide as accurate a representation of its performance as possible. Flash Memory Toolkit and SiSoft Sandra will both be used to measure access times and to benchmark read and write speeds in various circumstances. Remember that FMT and Sandra are, however, synthetic benchmarks. To gauge real-world performance, I will also use a set of compressed files of various sizes to measure write speeds under typical usage. These compressed files correspond to those that are used in our product reviews that use the WinRAR benchmark. Let's begin!

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Storage Cards

 

The order of the results will be as listed above from left to right. There are also two results for the Kingston 32GB microSDHC card, as it was tested the same as the other SD and microSD cards using a SanDisk MicroMate SD to USB adapter and with the included microSD to USB adapter.

 

Flash Memory Toolkit 2.0 - Low Level Benchmark:

The first benchmark will use the low level benchmark from Flash Memory Toolkit 2.0. Higher read/write speeds, and lower access times are better.

     

 

 

Initial results look good. Read speeds don't show much variance, though it isn't unusual for this to be the case. Write speeds are a better indication of how fast a memory card is, as they are arguably the more important of the two, especially if the read and write speeds differ drastically. Write speeds show more variance, and although SanDisk's high end Ultra II offerings blast away the competition, Kingston's 32GB offering does fare well overall. Using the Kingston-supplied microSD to USB adapter showed small improvements in both read speed access time. This seems logical, since using the included USB adapter shortens the electrical pathway to the card.

Testing:

 

The next test will be FMT's file benchmark to measure read and write performance of files ranging from 1MB to 15MB. This is a more representative benchmark of performance, as files of varying sizes will actually be written to the drive. Results from the 1MB, 3MB, and 5MB are shown below.

Flash Memory Toolkit 2.0 - File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These results show how the cards perform when accessing and writing lots of small files, such as photos and MP3s. Here differences between cards and classes are much more obvious. Kingston stands out as one of the better performers consistently. Using the Kingston supplied USB adapter, speeds increase just a little bit over the SDHC and MicroMate combo. Once more it outperforms its capacity rival from Patriot, however, neither one of them managed to meet their class specification during write testing. These are small files being tested, however, so there's still a chance for improvement during Sandra testing and custom file transfers.

Testing:

 

The next test will be SiSoft Sandra's removable storage benchmark, which tests flash memory in a similar fashion to FMT. Finally, a sub-benchmark within the preceding is performed on specific sectors.

SiSoft Sandra 2011 SP2a - Removable Storage Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

SiSoft Sandra 2011 SP2a Sub-benchmark - Endurance Benchmark:

 

 

Kingston's offering puts on a respectable performance, though not quite reaching its advertised speed rating. It is, however, considerably faster than Patriot's 32GB offering, and almost all the other comparison cards. Again, using the included USB adapter yielded small speed increases. Overall, Kingston's 32GB class 10 microSDHC card was a very good performer during synthetic benchmarks. Let's have a look at how it does in the real-world.

Testing:

This last test consists of four files of various sizes that are written to each card to measure real-world performance of write speeds. Each file is written individually, and measurements are taken using a stopwatch. The stopwatch is started as soon as the Windows file transfer window appears, and stopped after it closes. After an individual file is tested, it is then deleted before the next test, and the preceding steps are taken again. Average transfer speeds are then calculated by dividing the real file size by the time taken to transfer.

Custom File Transfer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yowzah! Norcent's SD card and both of SanDisk's Ultra II cards are seriously fast. They're so fast, in fact, I was not able to obtain a measurement for any of those cards for the 10MB file test. Looking back at the synthetic benchmarks, this isn't much of a surprise, though it is a mild curiosity. Kingston's microSDHC card is still one of the faster SD cards, and it obliterates its capacity rival from Patriot. Although it still doesn't quite reach its class rating, Kingston's offering is surpassed only by Norcent's SD card and SanDisk's high-end Ultra II cards.

Conclusion:

So, I've established that Kingston's 32GB class 10 microSDHC card is fast, but does that mean you should buy it? Let's look at the price. At approximately $115, this is one of the most expensive microSD cards you can buy. Unfortunately, it isn't deserving of that price in any way. It is a class 10 microSD card, yes, but there are so many more class 10 microSD cards available for less than half of that. The price Kingston is trying to sell this at might make sense were it to transfer at speeds well beyond that of its class rating, like those of SanDisk's Ultra and Extreme series. Not only do the Ultra and Extreme series SD cards perform beyond their class rating, they perform beyond any other currently available SD cards. Kingston's card, on the other hand, only performs as a class 10 card if you round the numbers up, and the included adapters certainly don't add another $70 to the cost.

You have to ask yourself if you need the microSD format. If you don't, then consider an SD card instead, as they're usually a little less expensive than the microSD format to begin with since the flash memory used isn't as dense. If you do need the microSD format, then ask yourself if you need 32GB. If you do, then consider other microSD offerings. Then ask if you need the speed. If you do, again look elsewhere. Other less expensive class 10 microSDHC cards are available. Even if you want to buy from Kingston, there are other, albeit slower, 32GB microSD offerings for far cheaper than this. Especially consider this if you plan to use this card only for external storage. If you want to use it with your phone or any other device you have, it likely will be limited far below its class rating. Kingston's offering gets a bronze award for being one of the few 32GB+ microSD cards on the market and performing well compared to other cards below its class. However, it's simply too expensive to recommend when there are not only other 32GB cards, but also class 10 32GB cards that can be had for much less.

Pros:

 

Cons: