Bigger, Faster, and Compatible with Refresh Software

Review by Erik Vlietinck

ProGrade Digital has updated its range of fast memory cards. The SDXC UHS-II, U3, CLASS 10, V90 card and the micro-SDXC UHS-II, U3, Class 10, V60 card were upgraded to faster speeds, support for ProGrade Digital’s Refresh Pro software, and are now available up to 256-GB capacity. The new 325-GB CFexpress Type-B 2.0 Cobalt class memory card leverages PCIe, Gen 3 interconnects with NVMe host controller interfaces for use in future mirrorless, DSLR, and high-definition video cameras. It offers read speeds of up to 1,600 MB/s. 

The company further updated its range of card readers with a Thunderbolt 3 reader for CFexpress Type-B and XQD cards that’s capable of transferring data at speeds up to 5 GB/s and a new USB 3.2 Gen 2 reader that enables the simultaneous transfer of data from both card slots at up to 1.25 GB/s, supporting CFexpress Type-B, SDXC, and UHS-II cards. These readers come with a generous-length cable, as well as an adhesive metal plate to mount the magnet-holding readers onto any surface in your environment (including your laptop’s lid). 

One of the major updates is that ProGrade Digital’s Refresh Pro is now supported. This is a software tool that monitors card health, and ensures cards will always perform at maximum performance. Despite it being around for almost a year, the Refresh Pro software is only compatible with Windows 10 and higher, with a macOS version yet to be released. The new cards and readers all support Refresh Pro whereas the previous versions seemingly did not. 

I tested the 325-GB CFexpress Cobalt card with my iMac and its Thunderbolt 3 reader, as well as with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, which has a pair of CFexpress slots and is capable of 20 fps fed to a 1,000 images buffer. 

The iMac numbers were impressively high with a 733 MB/s write and 1,462 MB/s read speed. 

The camera figures were pretty impressive as well. I set the EOS-1D X Mark III to JPEG first, then shot at 20 fps and timed when the buffer would start slowing down the capture speed. That happened only after 160 images and a few hundreds of a second below 10 seconds. That results in the ProGrade Cobalt card supporting a nice 16 fps, which is close to the Canon’s 20-fps capability. 

The two other cards ProGrade Digital sent me were a 128-GB SDXC (300 MB/s) and a 64-GB microSDXC (250 MB/s). I tested both of these cards with the previous generation USB-C and the new USB 3.2 Gen 2 combination CFexpress Type-B and SDXC readers. 

In tests with AJA System test, the SDXC card managed to read data at 244 MB/s and write it at 203 MB/s, with a few drops in speed at two moments in the transfer of the 1-GB test file. The microSDXC card read data at 225 MB/s and wrote it at 94 MB/s. Both worked fine in a GoPro HERO 8 where they had no trouble shooting at 4K/60 without becoming hotter than a chili pepper. 

In the meantime, ProGrade Digital has released their newest 512-GB and 1-TB CFexpress Type-B cards that now have a maximum throughput of up to 1,700 MB/s. ■