In 2004, I had a Sandisk 512MB SD card. It was the bomb. In my little Canon PowerShot S80, it captured all the 8-megapixel, 3MB images I needed it to. 10 years later, just last week, I loaded up a loaner Canon 7D Mark II — in all of its 20-megapixel, 35MB RAW-snapping glory — with the new Sandisk 512GB SDXC Extreme Pro. Five hundred and twelve gigabytes.
What Is It?
- Card Type: SDXC
- Capacity: 512GB
- Speed Rating: Class 10, UHS-I
- Maximum Write Speed: 90MBps
- Maximum Read Speed: 95MBps
- Warranty: Lifetime
On the face of it, past that amazing storage capacity number, there's nothing too out of the ordinary about the 512GB Sandisk Extreme Pro as compared to the rest of the company's top SD card line-up. You get that same shockproof, waterproof, X-rayproof design, capable across a wide temperature range of -25 to 85 degrees Celsius, that you get with the 256GB or 128GB variants.
With 95MBps read and 90MBps write rates, the Extreme Pro is more than capable of the 4K video shooting that Sandisk claims as one of its cornerstones; that's easily true especially if you're shooting in the new and efficient h.265 HEVC codec on a new camera like the Samsung NX1. Those speeds also easily enable fast burst mode captures from the buffers of new pro-level DSLRs like the 7D Mark II.
What's It Good At?
All that space. 512GB is twice the storage that I have in my work laptop and in my gaming PC — in an era where anything more than a 256GB solid state drive is uncommon, having 512GB in a single SD card is insane. For about half the time that I used this overly-capacious Sandisk card, I used it for burst RAW photos in the Canon 7D Mark II, where I didn't even pay attention to the number of photos I was taking. (I was burst-firing photos like this one, where I totally could have composed and focused and captured a single frame, but hey, with 512GB to spare, why not go nuts?)
For the other half of the time, I just used the 512GB Extreme Pro as a portable storage drive — just like I still regularly use the 256GB Extreme Pro USB 3.0 and a bunch of other USB flash drives. Having that much storage easily to hand — and having SD card slots in my desktop and laptop PCs, which makes the whole process so much easier — really begs you to just use it to its fullest extent. I filled it up with movies and TV and music and photos and shuttled a massive amount of data back and forth from home to the office.
And, of course, as you'd expect on what is probably the most expensive SD card ever produced, the build quality is supreme. I'm perfectly sure that unless you run over it, this little Sandisk chip will survive any of the punishment that you could put any semi-professional camera through. That's not to say that it's hewn from a single block of aluminium or anything special, but it's certainly more sturdy and even a little heavier and more substantial than the garden variety 8GB and 16GB cards that otherwise litter my desk and fill my camera bag.
Being an Extreme Pro card, it's the fastest in Sandisk's SD line-up (although it's no 160MBps CompactFlash) — I hit nearly bang-on those rated 95MBps read speeds and 90MBps write speeds when transferring large file sizes from a PC (equipped with twin SSDs, naturally, to get a pretty significant speed advantage). If you're going to be using this card in a camera — and you almost certainly are — then it's one of the fastest you can buy and most capable when it comes to quickly and efficiently storing high-res video and stills.
What's It Not Good At?
It's so expensive. Maybe it's just because it's such a physically small device — much smaller than the Extreme Pro USB 3.0 whose comparatively relaxed and affordable price tag I already balked at — but the $1150 price tag is just crazy. I don't imagine you'll be able to justify that expense if you're an individual; maybe if you're buying one for your video production or photography company, you'll be able to write a couple off on tax.
Should You Buy It?
Do you really need this much storage in such a tiny SD card? For some people — those genuinely cream-of-the-crop video and imaging professionals are the main group that spring to mind, but I'm sure there are plenty of others too — price isn't as important a factor in the buying decision as the sheer volume of storage required. Because of that, simply having that 512GB available is reason enough. For the majority of users with semi-pro cameras, two 256GB cards may well be a smarter and cheaper choice — especially if you're shooting on a DSLR camera with dual SD slots.
So, for most people, no. You don't need a 512GB SD card. You probably don't even need 64GB. But moreso than almost any other piece of technology that has come across my review desk in the last year, Sandisk's 512GB Extreme Pro SDXC card represents the ceaseless and incredible march of progress. It's an engineering feat that you you should appreciate.
I loved my little 512MB SD card a decade ago. If you can buy a 32x24x2mm slice of silicon and plastic that stores half a terabyte of information in 2014, imagine where we'll be in another 10 years.