Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slow Centon Memory Stick and a Fast Alternative

Memory has a speed.  I won't get into the technology behind it here because, frankly, people would glaze over and tune out.  For the home user or the casual computer person, it doesn't really matter, but when you start moving really big files around, you need to be careful.

A while back, I bought a 16 GB Centon Memory Stick.  I wrote about it, and people keep coming back to the post.  Basically I was disappointed in the thing and was confused as to why.  The stick was a "Standard Speed" memory stick that even now is one of the cheapest ones on the block.

Stay Away From Standard Speed.

This isn't all that apparent, so if you're going to spend money on a memory stick in a blister package either do some research on the speed, accept the Russian Roulette aspect of things, or consider the alternatives.

Typically a known brand name like Kingston Memory will be better than a no name dollar store memory stick.  They have a great reputation and they seem to keep after the standards.   With USB 3.0 coming on the market, you're going to have a better time with the speed of a USB 3.0 stick than a USB 2.0 stick.  Whether that new shiny USB 3.0 memory stick will work in your creaky old five year old laptop is another story that I have yet to find out the answer for.  You may end up out of luck until your next computer when USB 3.0 will be the standard.

If I ever get a new computer, or am given one to review, I'll certainly write about the experience here.  But until then, I'm with you folks stuck on the slow PC bus.  This machine does work and is a steady performer but the machine you got Grandma for xmas is faster.

The alternative that I basically stumbled across was a happy accident.  I have a couple micro SDHC chips here.  8GB.  One I found, another I found in a broken phone in front of the bars near my house.  Since the phone looked like it was driven over by a fat girl in a semi truck, I didn't bother to try to return the thing to the owner.  No way to know who that was since it didn't turn on any more, I snooped around and found a tiny little chip that actually worked.

Simply put you can tell the speed of a chip by looking for the Class of the chip.  A Class 2 SD or SDHC memory chip is slower than a Class 6 SD or SDHC chip.  I have seen some Class 10 chips out on the market and those are the best.  Typically the faster ones are a little more expensive than the slower ones - so why buy a slower chip?  I can't see a reason.

You need at least a Class 6 SDHC chip in your camera to do HD Video, and you really should have a Class 10 - I won't recommend anything less for video than a Class 10.

How do you tell? A SD or SDHC chip will be roughly postage stamp sized with a notch cut out of the upper right corner on the label side of the chip.  The pin side of the chip is normally blank. 

Look for a capital "C" with a number in it.  That will tell you the speed.  I have everything here from unmarked standard speed though one with a C encircling a 6 - Class 6.  That was the 8GB that I harvested from the broken phone.

How do you use an SDHC chip on your computer?  Either there will be a built in reader that looks like a little slot built to take the chip, or you will have a USB SDHC adapter.  I have both.  I had found that my internal reader on the laptop is slower than the chip and chip reader combination. 

The Chip Reader I bought looks like a translucent thumb drive.  Blue, and it is nothing special.  I went to Meritline and got the cheapest USB Chip Reader I could find.  Less than 50 cents.  It is faster because it isn't limited to the speed on the internal chip reader on my five-year-old-laptop.  There may be something in this, and if you can find a cheap chip reader like that, you may want to buy one.  You're out less than a buck if it isn't working and a proper USB stick works in more places than your camera.  You can always remove the little postage stamp sized SDHC chip from the stick in order to use it in your camera or car if it is supported there.

Bottom line, check for the speed, you will be much happier... That Class 10 chip is worth the couple of bucks more than the Class 2 bargain basement that I got way back when. 

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