Its certainly has been a while since we took a long hard look at the state of the external storage marketplace in general and high-end camera storage in specific. This is for the simple reason that not much has happened since our reviews of Lexar CF/CFast/XQD/SD storage – beyond the most of the Lexar division of Micron being sold to (China based) Longsys that is. This flattening of innovation is mainly due to the fact that memory cards are mature technology and what was true a couple years ago is true today… or was at least. Today we will be showcasing a relatively unknown – on this side of the pond at least – company that is about to shake things up and garner a lot of attention in the professional camera user sphere. To start we will be placing Silicon Power’s Superior CF 1100X 64GB Compact Flash drive under the microscope.
Silicon Power may not be that well known to the average buyer but that is not to say we have not had our eye on them for quite some time now. To use their own motto “memory is personal” and for the past while we have been exclusively using their gear in our own professional grade cameras. The reason we have moved away from SanDisk and Lexar and towards Silicon Power is simple: they don’t waste money on advertising and rather spend it on Research & Development.
This focus on function over form is why the Superior CF 1100X is different than most compact flash devices available today. Instead of using MLC (aka 2-bits per cell Multi-Layer Cell) NAND they use SLC (aka 1-bit per cell Single-Layer Cell) NAND technology. This may not sound like much of a difference as MLC has proven to be ‘good enough’ in the past but ask any experienced storage enthusiast and they will tell you that there is a massive difference. A huge difference in write speed (the only metric that really matters when it comes to photography), a huge difference in temperatures of the NAND itself (SLC runs cooler than MLC) and most importantly of all a massive difference in lifespan. Put simply SLC NAD is rare as hen’s teeth these days as it costs significantly more per Gigabyte than MLC does. In other words, if you want cheap and good enough MLC is the way to go but for long term value SLC is a more optimal choice.
The downside to SLC is that it takes up a heck of a lot more room to hit a given capacity rating – as each NAND cell only stores half as much. This is why the Silicon Power Superior CF 1100X series tops out at 64GB. It is also why the Superior CF 1100X costs significantly more at $3.13 per Gigabyte, or $200 (USD) overall, instead of $1.33/$85 for Lexar’s MLC based 1066X series. As such we are highly interested to see if this Silicon Power storage device can deliver on the overall value enough to justify its asking price.