With recent digital cameras adding the ability to capture images at lightning speeds, film higher resolution videos, and everything in between, it’s becoming more important than ever to have a fast, high read and write capable memory card. In this post I test out the Exascend 1TB Essential CFexpress Type B memory card.
Exascend might not be a name familiar to many—especially here in North America—but over the course of working in the industry, I have heard their name thrown around a few times. They are a Taiwanese-based company that specializes in storage solutions for the digital age. Their website indicates they are involved in several industries including broadcast, transportation, automotive, telecommunications, and more.
Essential 1TB Type B CFexpress Memory Card
Let’s take a look at this card. The specifications of these cards according to their packaging is as follows:
What we need to look at is the Sustained read and write speeds. The sustained speeds mean the card is capable of handling at least this much data flow at a constant rate. If the above speeds are correct, then we should have no problems using the card with the fast burst speeds of the Nikon Z 8, or for high resolution videos such as 4K120p or 8K60p.
I’m currently using CFexpress cards from SanDisk (128GB Extreme Pro) and ProGrade (365GB Cobalt) so where possible, I will try and compare the Exascend card with these.
Burst Mode Test
For the burst mode test, I set my Nikon Z 8 to 20FPS and High Efficiency* RAW format. This would be the mode and setting I typically use for any bird or wildlife photography. Each RAW file averages out to around 32MB.
For my test, I simply held down the shutter release button for about a minute. I put a stopwatch beside the camera and let go of the shutter button at or around the one minute mark. The test isn’t scientific by any means, but should still give you a good idea of the card’s capabilities when you’re using it for yourself.
When I copy the files off of the card reader, I am copying from the card reader to my desktop on a 2021 14″ MacBook Pro without doing any other work on the laptop while transferring is in progress.
|Exascend Card (video1)
|ProGrade Card (video3)
|Sandisk Card90/60* (video2)
|Stopped at (min.)
|Slowed for a split second around 30 second mark then again at around the 1min. mark; 31.8MB per file; 28.3GB total.
|Consistent speed; 32MB per file; 29.8GB total.
|Sporadic speeds throughout; 32MB per file; 30.35GB total.
|53:45 sec. to copy all 890 files to Desktop; reader slightly hot, card hotter.
|48.97 sec. to copy all 932 files from ProGrade using Exascend reader; reader not hot; card not hot.
|50:44 sec. to copy all 950 files; reader slightly hot and card hot.
|34:96 sec. to copy all 890 files to Desktop; reader and card not hot at all. ProGrade Digital.
|36.76 sec. top copy all 932 files from ProGrade card using ProGrade reader; reader and card not hot
|36.89 sec. to copy all 950 files; reader not hot; card slightly hot
- Exascend Reader: 28.3GB / 53.45sec. = 529.5 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 28.3GB / 34.96sec. = 809.5 MB/S
- Exascend Reader: 29.8GB / 48.97sec. = 608.5 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 29.8GB / 36.76sec. = 810.7 MB/S
- Exascend Reader: 30.35GB / 50.44sec. = 601.7 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 30.35GB / 36.89sec. = 822.7 MB/S
|Stopped at (min.)
|Slightly hot; hot during transfer
|Consistent speed; no stopping at 1min. mark; 30.26GB total.
|Consistent speed; no stopping; some buffering at end. 28.17GB total.
|Not consistent speed; 31.2MB files; files buffering at end; 27.06GB total.
|53.87 sec.; Card slightly hot
|50.55 sec.; Card slightly hot
|1:11.05 min.; Card slightly hot
- Exascend Reader: 30.26GB / 53.87sec. = 561.7 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 30.26GB / 36.98sec. = 818.3 MB/S
- Exascend Reader: 28.17GB / 50.55sec. = 557.3 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 28.17GB / 43.26sec. = 651.2 MB/S
- Exascend Reader: 27.06GB / 1:11.05sec. = 380.9 MB/S
- ProGrade Reader: 27.06GB / 1:03.28sec. = 427.6 MB/S
Burst Mode Results
So what do the above results indicate? All cards performed as I expected them to perform. Here are the most important takeaways:
- When we normalize the results to one minute, the Exascend card performed just as well as the ProGrade card with the Sandisk card copying slightly fewer number of files.
- My temperature check of each card was done simply by holding it in my hands. I did notice that the Sandisk card was the hottest amongst all cards with the other two warming up similarly with each other.
- While pressing the shutter release, I listened to see if the burst mode slowed down or not. While I did hear a slight slowing down on the Exascend card on Trial 1, it still recorded approximately the same number of files as the ProGrade card. The Sandisk was the least consistent in terms of burst mode speed as it fluctuated throughout the one minute.
Card Reader Results
- The ProGrade card reader was faster than the Exascend reader on all tests.
- The Exascend card reader did get slightly hotter throughout the test than the Prograde reader. This was expected though as the Exascend reader is less than half the size of the ProGrade reader.
The Exascend 2-in-1 card reader indicates a transfer rate of 10Gbps (10,000Mb/s).
- 1 Mb/s is approximately 0.1250 MB/s, which means 10,000Mb/s is 1250MB/s
- 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) is therefore 1250 Megabytes per second (MB/s)
From the above two trials:
- I’m averaging about 545.6MB/s (529.5MB/s + 561.7MB/s / 2) using the Exascend card on the Exascend reader.
- I’m averaging about 582.9MB/s (608.5MB/s + 557.3MB/s / 2) using the ProGrade card on the Exascend reader.
- I’m averaging about 491.3MB/s (601.7MB/s + 380.9MB/s / 2) using the Sandisk card on the Exascend reader.
My video tests were merely a matter of recording video at various settings.
I filmed 2min. of 8K60 footage using N-RAW, N-Log, 1/125 sec., f/13, ISO800 on each card. I took the camera outside in midday sunlight where it was likely around 30 degrees celsius. It was very hot.
Filming on the Exascend first, the card had no issues at the 2min. mark. The card was noticeably hot to the touch after taking it out of the Z 8.
I then inserted the ProGrade card into the camera and started filming. Immediately though, I got a notice on the Z 8 screen saying that my recording was interrupted (see image below) without any other information. After about a 30-second pause I pressed record again and it filmed for the entire 2min. without issue. Similarly the ProGrade card was hot to the touch after I took it out of the Z 8.
Next was the SanDisk card. I inserted it and started recording. I again got the same message. This time though I kept getting it even after waiting for a couple minutes. I decided to take the Z 8 back inside to let it cool down. After about 45min. I took it back out again and started filming only to get the same error message.
I did the same test with 4K120, f/5.6, 1/250sec., ISO800. The SanDisk could not record it giving me the same error message. The Exascend card passed with no problems. The ProGrade card actually stopped filming at the 1:48 mark for some reason. After I waited for about 2min. and started recording again, it went beyond 2min. without any problems.
BlackMagic Disk Speed Test
Using the Black Magic Disk Speed Test utility on my MacBook Pro, I set the stress test to 5GB files. Here are the results for all memory cards.
The main read and write speeds on the top of each screen capture is what should be noted. The bottom portion merely indicates what is possible to use on the cards given the read and write figures. The column on the right indicates the frame rate that is possible using the resolution stated.
Exascend Memory Card Reader
ProGrade Memory Card Reader
What do these numbers give me? It more or less agrees with my own test results—albeit at a slower read and write rate.
The Exascend card reader is rated at 1250MB/s, but you can see that depending on the card being used, it won’t achieve that result. Even with the Exascend card it was writing at only 892.1MB/s.
Almost the same can be said with the ProGrade card reader, which I believe is rated at the same 1250MB/s. Using the ProGrade card the 1171.6MB/s was nearing this mark however.
The more interesting part of all of this is that my own testing yielded in rates that are much lower than these would suggest for both card readers.
As of this writing, the various cards retail for these amounts:
- Exascend 1TB: US$469
- ProGrade 325GB: US$449.99 on sale for US$337
- SanDisk 125GB: US$229.99 discounted to $109.99
Price per GB:
- Exascend: US$0.469
- ProGrade: US$1.38 or $1.03
- SanDisk: US$1.84 or $0.88
Overall I was impressed with the performance of the Exascend card. It performed equally as the ProGrade card for both burst mode and video mode tests. Given that the price per GB is significantly cheaper for the Exascend compared to the ProGrade, I would gather the Exascend to be the better value.
The one thing I cannot say for certain is the durability of the card as I have only used it for a few weeks at most.
Even though the Exascend card reader didn’t perform up to expectation as transfer rates were slower across the board, I would still consider using this on my travels when space saving is a necessity. It is considerably smaller in form factor compared to the ProGrade CFExpress card reader so if speed isn’t my priority, then I have no problems using this card reader.