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Stacking up ProGrade Digital’s SDXC card and reader with SanDisk

For the past several years, I have relied on SanDisk’s Extreme Pro SD cards for my cameras. They’ve worked well, and I’ve never had a card fail.

But when I was offered a 64GB ProGrade Digital SDXC card and card reader for review, I was curious to see how it stacked up against my tried and true card of choice.

While the ProGrade Digital card advertises a speed of 200MB/s, the SanDisk card advertises 300MB/s. Both are class 10, UHS speed class 3, UHS-II cards. The ProGrade card is also a V60, offering 60MB/s for video recording. Beyond just the tech specs, ProGrade Digital told me that it performs a 45-minute test (instead of the industry standard 45 seconds) at the end of manufacturing to test every memory cell, helping it get down to a 0% defect rate (versus a 3% or greater rate found in other cards).

What ProGrade Digital promised was certainly enticing. And even if it didn’t promise 300MB/s, would I really notice a difference?

In the field

I used the ProGrade Digital card while testing the new, recently announced Olympus OM-D E-M1X, and I can say it performed well. I used the card in the first slot, and stuck with my SanDisk card in the second slot. I never found myself with buffering issues or pauses in playback, as both card slots were UHS-II.

Where I did notice a difference though was when I formatted the cards in-camera. The ProGrade Digital card seemed to take an extra second or two, compared to the SanDisk card.

Retrieving files

Back home, I used the ProGrade Digital Dual-Slot SD Workflow Reader USB 3.1 Gen. 2 to import my photos. I did multiple tests on this — both with the ProGrade card and SanDisk card, and also tested on two Macs (one USB 3.0, one USB-C). I also compared the ProGrade reader to my iMac’s built-in SD card reader.

What I found here was somewhat surprising. With the ProGrade card, I was able to achieve a read speed of 147.8 MB/s, with a write speed of 80 MB/s. But with the SanDisk card, the read speed was almost doubled — 263 MB/s — while the write speed was more than doubled at 189.7 MB/s.

With that known, I tried the cards in my iMac’s built-in reader. With the ProGrade card, I got a read speed of 82.4 MB/s, and a write speed of 26.8 MB/s. The SanDisk card gave me a slightly higher read speed of 89.3 MB/s, and write speed of 78.5 MB/s.

With both cards, I did not see a noticeable difference in speeds with my USB-C MacBook.

It was clear that the ProGrade reader was quite a bit more powerful. But when it came to the cards themselves, the SanDisk was clearly faster.

Is faster better?

What’s great about ProGrade Digital’s offering is that it goes through extra testing to help reduce card failures and defects. The cards are also etched with a serial number that can then be tracked when you call into support, to see if upgrades are necessary or if there’s a problem with the card. That’s right — even SD cards have firmware, and ProGrade Digital allows you to send in your card and they’ll update it if necessary. In terms of reliability, the ProGrade Digital is obviously impressive.

That said, if you’re shooting a high burst rate for sports or other action shots, the SanDisk might be the better bet. But if you shoot a lot of video, the V60 rating the ProGrade Digital card gets is necessary for things like 4K recording.

In terms of cost, ProGrade Digital’s SD card is much more affordable, coming in at $49.99 versus SanDisk’s card at $118.50.

When it comes to the card reader itself, the ProGrade Digital knocks it out of the park. It’s way faster than my built-in iMac’s reader, and it can handle two cards simultaneously. That’s a huge win if you’re importing both photo and video at the same time.

In my eyes, it’s a toss-up. I’ll probably continue to use both cards for photography, and use the ProGrade Digital card for video.

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