Why it matters: Although the SD Express speed specification for SD cards has existed for years, products utilizing it have been slow to appear. Samsung plans to change this in 2024 with a new microSD card variant that dramatically increases speeds compared to earlier models.

Samsung has begun sampling 256GB SD Express microSD cards that achieve write speeds of up to 800MB/s. The company plans to start selling the cards sometime later this year.

Write speeds of 800MB/s and read speeds of 1GB/s make Samsung’s upcoming SD Express cards multiple times faster than common UHS-I or UHS-II products. For comparison, the top-rated high-performance card in TechSpot’s SD card buyer’s guide – the Lexar Professional 2000x 256GB SDXC UHS-II – only manages 260MB/s write and 300MB/s read. Samsung’s new cards also outperform SATA SSDs, which tend to write at around 500MB/s.

Also read: microSD and SD Card Buying Guide – Classes, Performance, What to Buy

The SD Express technology, which enables a new level of speed in SD cards, has existed for some time but hasn’t appeared in widely available products until now. One likely reason is the lack of marketable use cases, as the fastest available cards already support 4K high-framerate video recording. However, SD Express would make 8K recording at 60Hz or 120Hz more viable.

Samsung suggests that the improved speeds could facilitate on-device AI applications, which are gaining prevalence in mobile devices. Another recently introduced piece of memory hardware from Samsung – the HBM3E 12H DRAM memory chip – aims to increase performance in generative AI workloads.

The company credited its success with SD Express to an unnamed client developing a custom product. It’s difficult to determine the customer’s identity, but some have speculated that Nintendo could utilize the technology to boost storage speed and load times on the upcoming successor to the Nintendo Switch.

The new technology would theoretically be much faster than the original Switch’s memory solution but less power-hungry than an NVMe SSD, and Nintendo often prioritizes battery life over performance. We likely won’t know the identity of Samsung’s partner until Nintendo unveils its next console or another hardware manufacturer unveils a product with custom SD Express storage.

Meanwhile, Samsung also unveiled its first 1TB microSD card, slated for a Q3 2024 release. Unlike the upcoming SD Express model, these maintain typical UHS-I performance. The company is late to this specification, as other vendors have offered microSD cards of this capacity for some time.

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