Now that everything from a simple picture frame to a high end digital camera uses flash media, consumers have quickly found out that the low capacity media card that came free with, the electronic purchase is not going to keep up with&, everyone's growing needs. The solution is simple; go out and buy a card that has more capacity! Before you go rushing off to the local store you should do your homework and figure out what capacity fits your budget and whether you would be better off with a high speed or a regular compact flash card.

In this article we are going to take a look both of Kingston's Compact Flash solutions: the Standard and the Elite Pro series. Kingston has long marketed their Elite Pro cards as being ideally suited for imaging professionals and that they offer ultra fast transfer rates, which will allow for more efficient production workflow than ever before. We have taken over 8,000 photos on our standard Kingston compact flash card without ever having a problem, but with a recent camera upgrade we wanted to move to something with more storage capacity and faster speeds.

The New Packaging

The Compact Flash Card

Product Highlights

When Kingston introduced their 2GB and 4GB compact flash cards last month we knew it was time to upgrade and move into the Elite Pro series since we use flash media a ton in our daily lives. According to Kingston's site, when this CF card is used in conjunction with a matching high-performance digital device we can expect write speeds of up to 5.2 MB per second and a read speed of up to 6.1 MB per second. Lets take a look and see if any differences can be seen between our "old" standard 1GB and the new Elite Pro 2GB CF cards.

The Test System

The Elite Pro & Standard CF media

Our USB 2.0 Card Reader

Test System:

Testing Procedure:

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 2 and DirectX 9.0c. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. No overclocking was done on the video card unless noted. The audio, Firewire, and lan features were disabled in the BIOS menu for all the testing completed during this review. All memory was set at the timings noted in the graphs. Performance mode was enabled for all modules via the ASUS BIOS.

Sisoft; Sandra 2004 SP2b:

Sisoft Sandra 2004 is designed to test the theoretical power of a complete system and individual components. The numbers taken though are, again, purely theoretical and may not represent real world performance. Higher numbers represent better performance in memory bandwidth.

Results: It is clear that on the smaller 256kB size files the read/write performance clearly shows that the Kingston Elite Pro CompactFlash card dominates the pack. The Sandisk high speed compact flash does well in the write test by more than doubling that of the standard Kingston CF card, but the Kingston Elite Pro CF card almost doubles the write performance of the Sandisk media card.

Results: When moving to an even larger file size we see where the 2GB Kingston Elite Pro really starts to shine. The Write speed is over 4MB/Sec and more than double than that of the standard Kingston card. It is clear that when moving larger block sizes that the Elite Pro isn't just marketing fluff.

Results: Our final benchmark test was the endurance testing. This is where repeated sector rewrites and Sequential Sector Writes were done using 512 byte sectors. Once again the Kingston Elite Pro doubles the sequential write speed and shows a 34% performance boost for repeated sector rewrites.

Real World Observations

After completing the above benchmarks we realized that they mean absolutely nothing in the real world, so we tried our best to time some real world tasks that many of you do with flash media.

Video File Transfer: With more and more televisions and camcorders using CF media we wanted to measure the time it would take to move an AVI file from our desktop to the media card. For this test we used a 748mb AVI movie and timed how long it took to write to the drive. The Kingston Elite Pro finished the task in 104 seconds, while the Kingston standard card finished in 243 seconds. This was by no means close as the Elite Pro Compact Flash card finished 139 seconds before the standard card was able to finish.

JPEG Write: Using our Canon PowerShot S60 camera we set our camera to take large 2592x1944 pictures in superfine mode, which resulted in 2.45mb image files. Most users take large JPEG images, so if you take a bunch of pictures these results are to be seen on a daily basis. We took a series of photos on a fixed target with our camera mounted in the tripod and found that the Kingston Elite Pro card recorded the image around 0.21 seconds faster than that of the standard Kingston Compact Flash card.

RAW Image Write: The Canon PowerShot S60 also lets us take images in RAW mode giving us approximately 4.6mb file sizes. For those who don't know about RAW, it's a lossless format that lets you manipulate various properties of your image -- a kind of virtual reshoot. Botch the white balance? Just change it in the RAW file, and it's just like you took the photo again. You can also adjust the saturation, sharpness, contrast, tone curve, and more in RAW mode. In raw mode we observed almost a full second faster record speeds with the Elite Pro averaging 0.73 seconds faster write times.

Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:

By working on this review we found that compact flash is definitely not all created the same and what started out as a simple review turned out to have some exciting results. One of the things causing the changes in performance that we saw is the use of differing memory controllers. The "high-speed" flash media devices, such as Kingston's Elite Pro series have memory controllers that offer optimal performance for that specific media type. As you saw in the benchmarks, the implementation of a fast memory controller can double the performance of the flash media in certain areas. As with everything else, there are name brands and generics, but in this case as with all others you pay for what you get. You may end up paying a slight premium for Kingston Flash Memory, but Kingston is one of the select few brands to offer a lifetime warranty on their Compact Flash line. For those of you who buy compact flash media often you might recall that last year Kingston only offered a 5 year warranty, so for Kingston to move to a lifetime warranty without raising the price is great for consumers. It is reassuring to see that Kingston stands behind their product by offering a longer warranty period. This is unlike others in the industry, mainly the hard drive manufactures who recently cut their warranties from 3 years to a single year on a number of drives.

Many consumers use Compact Flash media for their photography needs and a picture is worth a thousand words. When you bought 35mm film camera years ago you had to worry about the exposure rating and you paid more for going to a quicker rating (ie: 200 to 400). (Now that we are in the digital age many consumers under 18 have never owned a 35mm camera, so sorry if I lost you) Think of purchasing a high speed flash card as a "better" quality of film. When you took your 35mm camera to your best friend's wedding you didn't use Billy Bob's Film right? Of course you didn't! When you are taking pictures you don't want to miss that one in a million shot, so you more than likely used a name brand roll like Kodak or Fuji. Basically, the take home message here is that when you purchase flash memory you shouldn't treat it any differently than you would have with "old school" film.

Legit Bottom Line:

Kingston Elite Pro compact flash cards allow for faster write speeds and when taking high quality images it will save time when the the image is being written to the media. Kingston's high speed Elite Pro series will allow you to do what you want to do -- take high quality images quickly and reliably.