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October 2018 Archives

October 27, 2018

Kingston Canvas SD and microSD Cards

It's Holiday Tech season, and my first topic is SD cards. Yes, memory cards are not terribly exciting, except when you lose your microSD cards because they are so tiny. On the other hand, memory cards are a wonderful exemplar of the relentless advance of technology. You want better, faster, cheaper? No problem --You can have all three!

After all, a half terabyte of storage (512 GB) in a small card is pretty interesting, especially when you need to record huge volumes of data like HD video. And a quarter terabyte (256 GB) on a teeny card that fits in your smartphone to store large libraries of videos, photos, podcasts, and apps is rather pleasant as well. Meanwhile, the cost of 256 GB has dropped to around $70, while the step up to 256 GB is still a jump to around $250.

So the good news is that the memory card industry has done a great job of improving and enhancing these cards while lowering the cost. However, the resulting profusion of card sizes, capacity, speeds, and classes (with their accompanying nomenclature and logos) really confuses the task of choosing a card.

Kingston SD and microSD cards

If you want the gory details, the industry has settled on three different (but complimentary) metrics for describing SD cards (and similar for microSD), based on the names for standards that were developed for each advance in card technology:

  • Capacity - SD (2 GB), SDHC (32 GB), SDXC (2 TB), SDUC (128 TB)
  • Bus Speed - Default 12.5 MB/sec, High Speed 25, UHS-I 104, UHS-II 312, UHS-III 624, SD Express 985
  • Class / Min Sustained Write Speed - Class 2/4/6 - SD to HD; U/UHS 10/30 - Full HD to 4K; V/Video 60/90 - 4K to 8K video (Class number is MB/sec)

As a result, the labelling of any SD card should use these terms to describe its storage capacity (GB to TB) and performance, where the speed is defined both in terms of the maximum transfer bus speed (theoretical burst performance) and the real-world minimum sustained write speed (e.g., for continuously streaming video).

This is nice technical information, but not particularly convenient to the consumer looking at racks of SD cards in the store. As a result, companies have turned to the thesaurus to apply a profusion of laudatory adjectives. But this is not terribly helpful -- After all, is "Extreme" better than "Ultra", or maybe "Select"? And what does an additional "Plus" or "Elite" or "Professional" mean?

This year, the Kingston Canvas line of SD and microSD cards is using a different approach by segmenting its memory card line into three lines, based on the demands of the devices in which the cards are to be used:

  • Basic point and shoot cameras, without heavy video.
  • More advanced consumer-grade DSLR cameras and basic video cameras (e.g., smaller, lighter devices to use for action cams or drones).
  • High-end high-res and high-rate professional cameras (e.g., DSLRs with burst recording of HD images, mirrorless cameras, and 4K video cameras).

This provides a useful way of organizing cards first by need, and then mapping the need to technical specs (and the associated logos on the product packaging). Kingston does use its own nomenclature for these three categories: Select (basic), Go! (consumer), and React (pro):

Canvas Select SD - Point and Shoot Cameras

Class 10 UHS-I speeds - up to 80MB/s read, 10MB/s write
SD - up to128 GB $43 ($31)
microSD - up to 256 GB $103 ($59)

Canvas Go! SD - DSLRs, Drones, Action Cameras

Class 10 UHS-I U3 speeds - up to 90MB/s read, 45MB/s write
SD - up to 256 GB $90 ($72), 512 GB $250 ($249)
microSD - up to 128 GB $54 ($34)

Canvas React SD - DSLRs (Burst), Mirrorless Cams, 4K Video

Class 10 UHS-I U3 speeds - up to 100MB/s read, 80MB/s write
SD - up to 256 GB $110 ($77)
microSD - up to 256 GB $80 ($79), 512 GB $237

The bottom line for most consumers, then, is that the middle range of products is probably more than what you'll need for consumer cameras, video cameras, and smart devices. The current price curve makes 256 GB look quite affordable, again providing what should be more than enough for typical needs. If you have a more professional device, check the manual for any additional requirements.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Kingston Canvas SD Card Line on Amazon.com

October 28, 2018

Kingston Card Readers and Hubs - SD to USB-C

SD cards are not just for smartphones and cameras and other portable devices (see previous post) -- They also can bridge your files between your portable devices and your computer.

Most portable devices write files to SD cards in formats that computers can read, so once you connect the card to a computer you then can immediately browse and copy the files. And some computers already have built-in SD card slots (which also can read microSD cards with a SD-sized adapter card).

Otherwise, you can use a card reader like the Kingston MobileLite G4 USB 3.0 Card Reader to plug in to a USB port on the computer and then insert cards to read.

The MobileLite G4 is small so it's easy to pack along with your laptop, with a rugged metallic design.

You can insert and access both a SD and a microSD card simultaneously, and transfer at USB 3.0 rates. The MobileLite G4 is available for around $11, so it's easy to always have with your computer.

But USB 3.0 is so old hat -- USB Type C is the new, better connector that is now being used on both laptops and on portable devices including smartphones and tablets.

For portable devices, USB-C is like microUSB, except that the connector is reversible -- so that you no longer need to fuss with plugging in a cable the right way around.

And for laptops, it's smaller than USB, and has the capacity to be used for power, disk data transfers, and even digital video displays.

The Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub is a multiport adapter that showcases the flexibility of USB-C. This small and light device includes a built-in cable to plug in to your host laptop, and then provides 7 expansion ports:

  • USB-C power port - Pass-through power to the laptop so it can charge while the hub is in use
  • USB-C data port - Connect USB-C peripherals like a fast hard drive
  • 2 USB-A ports (USB 3.1) - Connect to peripherals including mouse, keyboard, or hard drive (also with power pass-through to charge the devices)
  • HDMI port - Display to an external monitor or projector (Up to 4K UHD or Full HD 1080p)
  • SD & microSD slots - Especially to directly ingest camera files / footage (SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS I-II)

That's power, high-speed data, additional peripherals, video out, and physical memory cards, all in one device, all for around $49. That's a lot fewer dongles required to connect up your laptop.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Kingston MobileLite G4 Card Reader and
Kingston Nucleum USB C Hub on Amazon.com

October 29, 2018

Kingston Duo Flash Drives for Smartphones and Tablets

Physical storage in the form of microSD cards (see earlier post) are convenient for smartphones and tablets that do have card slots (like some Android products), but not so much for other devices like Apple iPhones and iPads that don't have slots.

But all such devices have some sort of physical connector -- typically microUSB (or more recently USB Type C) on Android devices, and the Apple Lightning connector on iPhones and iPads. So wouldn't it be great to have a dedicated flash drive that connected to both your portable devices and to your computer, so you could transfer files directly between them, without the need for intermediate SD cards or the vagaries and slower speeds of wireless connections or cloud services?

This is the idea behind the Kingston "Duo" products -- small flash drives that have both a standard USB port for computers, and a second port for portable devices, either microUSB, USB-C, or Apple Lightning.

The Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3C is a dual drive with both standard USB and USB-C ports.

It works with Android devices that support USB OTG (On-The-Go) drives to provide expanded storage like a flash drive.

The microDuo 3C is tiny at less than 1.2 inches long, and seriously inexpensive at 32 GB of storage for around $12, 64 GB for $19, and 128 GB for $39.

Similarly, the Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo provides extended storage for iPhones and iPads, with both a USB and a Lightning connector.

Since iOS does not support general file access to storage, the Bolt Duo focuses on handling your photos and videos. You can transfer your photos/videos to the drive, capture directly to the drive, and view the files on the drive.

You also can set up the device to automatically back up photos and videos from your camera roll, and even optionally delete the originals to free up space.

The Bolt Duo supports USB 3.1 transfer speeds (120MB/s read and 19MB/s write), and is available with 32 GB of storage for around $34, 64 GB for $39, and 128 GB for $69.

With these capacities, "just" 32 GB holds up to some 8,000 photos or 2 hours of video, and 128 GB holds up to 32,000 photos or 8 hours of video.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3C and
Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo on Amazon.com

October 30, 2018

Western Digital Portable Drives - Hardware Encryption

SD cards are great for local storage on portable devices, and for transferring files between these small devices and computers (see earlier post).

But if you need serious external storage for computers -- with lots of capacity and big-file speed (especially for high-def video) -- you really need an external hard drive. And today, you'll be getting at least 1 TB or more of storage, starting at around only $50.

Western Digital (WD) has a nice line of portable storage products to go along with its larger external and networked storage units, internal drives, and business / enterprise products.

The portable drives typically include USB 3.0 interfaces, easy-to-carry sizes (around 3 1/4 x 4 1/3 inches and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick), and capacities of 1, 2, or 4 GB. They can be used on Windows or Mac systems (sometimes after reformatting), and some also come in Mac-specific versions.

You can get simple plug-and-play drives starting as low as around $50, but for $10 to $20 more you can step up to higher-performance drives with built-in encryption.

Hardware encryption is a big deal for external storage. The contents of your drive can be encrypted and protected, so the drive is always safe from prying eyes if happens to wander off. And the encryption is in hardware, so it's built-in and unnoticeable.

To unlock the drive, you to run WD software to enter a password. (The software is always available on a virtual drive when you attach the drive.) The WD Discovery software package includes Security tools, Backup tools (from/to external drives and/or online cloud storage services), and general Drive Utilities.

The WD My Passport portable drives are available with both Hard Disk Drive and SSD technology:

  • Hard Disk Drives (HDD) use mechanical spinning magnetic platters, but still are significantly less expensive and offer higher capacities (at realistic prices).
  • Solid State Drives (SSD) are basically memory chips, and therefore are smaller, faster, and more rugged, which is especially wonderful for small, thin, and light laptops. However, SSD still is expensive -- with prices that are multiples of hard-disk drives.

You can start with the Western Digital My Passport Ultra portable hard drive. It's slim and light (4.44 x 3.21 x 0.50 in), with a textured anodized metal cover. It has a native USB-C interface to work with newer products, and also comes with a USB 3.0 adapter for the rest of your systems.

The My Passport Ultra has hardware encryption, and is available with 1 TB of storage for $69, 2 TB for $89, and 4 TB for $129.

Then the Western Digital My Passport SSD provides the advantages of solid-state storage, in a smaller and thinner package (3.5 x 1.8 x 0.39 in.), also with a USB-C native interface and hardware encryption.

However, the My Passport SSD has a serious jump in price for the benefits of SSD -- 250 GB for around $99, 512 GB for $149, 1 TB for $299, and 2 TB for $599.

The bottom line is that you can have a solid drive that easily fits in your shirt pocket and protects all your data, starting at under $70 for 1 TB of storage.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the WD My Passport Ultra and
WD My Passport SSD on Amazon.com

October 31, 2018

Western Digital Portable Wireless Drives

The Western Digital My Passport Ultra hard-disk drive and My Passport SSD drive provide highly portable and rather inexpensive storage that you just cable up to your computer (see previous post).

Or you can go wireless with the Western Digital My Passport Wireless drives that also can communicate over Wi-Fi, so you can access them from multiple devices, including computers, smartphones and tablets, and even for direct FTP transfers from a camera.

Plus they have a built-in SD card reader, and can serve as an external battery power source for your other portable devices.

The WD My Passport Wireless Pro is a wireless hard-disk drive, SD card reader, and powerbank. It's about 5 x 5 inches square and 0.9 inches thick, and weighs around 15 1/2 ounces.

It's available with 1 TB of storage for around $149, 2 TB for $139, 3 TB for $199, and 4 TB for $189.

The WD My Passport Wireless SSD provides the same functions with a solid-state drive. It's especially durable with the SSD electronics and a protective bumper, so it's protected from shock, vibrations, and drops of up to 1 meter, even in operation.

It's available with 256 GB of storage for around $229, 500 GB for $299, 1 TB for $499, and 2 TB for $799.

For the fastest wireless connection, you connect directly to the drive as its own Wi-Fi hotspot. Or you can connect your devices and the drive to your local Wi-Fi connection, which then allows you to access the Internet as well -- although with lower transfer rates since the connection is indirect and shared.

You then can use the drive's Dashboard Web interface to set up the drive and transfer files. Or you can access the drive using the WD My Cloud app for iOS or Android. The drives also include DLNA and Plex media servers to stream to smart TVs and other devices.

You also can use the built-in SD card reader to share files from cameras or other devices, or to back up the contents of SD cards.

Plus, for wired connections, these drives have both a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port. With these, you can connect directly to a computer as a standard external drive, plug in another USB device and share its contents wirelessly, or power another portable battery from the built-in battery. The battery provides 10 hours of continuous use, whether recording files or streaming media.

These WD My Passport Wireless drives are multi-talented wireless hubs -- both to share from the built-in disk, SD cards, another USB drive, and even wireless cameras over FTP -- and to share to multiple other devices including laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

That's a lot of features, but wonderfully flexible and useful when you need them, whether assembling files and media from multiple sources in the field, or providing access to common files among several people and systems.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the WD My Passport Wireless Pro and
WD My Passport Wireless SSD on Amazon.com

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About October 2018

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in October 2018, listed from oldest to newest.

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