Ever since Android and iOS hit the market, the ability to add additional storage capacity has been a fundamental difference between them. Many Android devices (though not all) offer a microSD slot with the option to add a variable amount of storage. iPhones categorically don’t. Over time, Android has moved towards integrating additional storage as a functional part of the phone, allowing apps and data to be stored on a microSD card in some cases, provided the hardware met certain qualifications. At MWC this week, SanDisk has unveiled a microSD card fast enough to outpace the integrated storage on some devices, with a whopping 400GB capacity on top of that.
PCMag has details on the new chip and SanDisk’s high performance specifications. The new SanDisk drives are rated as A2 performance class, which puts them in a (pardon the pun) class of their own. Uncertain what “A2 Performance Class” is in the first place? We’ll break it down.
There are a number of defined speed classes for microSD cards, depending on what type of workload you’re handling and what kind of performance you need. Application Performance Class is one of these subtypes and it was developed to ensure that microSD cards integrated as part of Android’s overall storage capacity could sustain the performance needed to run various apps directly from the microSD card itself.
Here’s the listed performance difference of the two specifications:
In terms of IOPs, this is an impressive gain. Minimum read performance is up by 2.7x, while minimum writes are 4x faster. But what does this translate to in the real world? That’s harder to estimate. It’s possible to convert IOPs to MBps of throughput, but we really need to know the queue depth used to generate the A2 Performance class’ expected performance.
PCMag reports that the CrystalDiskMark results they were shown indicated a 400GB drive with 167MB/s random read performance and 94MB/s of random write performance. That’s actually higher than we would’ve predicted mathematically using a QD=32 and the specs above, but it’s also possible that SanDisk’s drive delivers higher performance than the minimum requirement for A2 classification. While the 400GB microSD card’s performance may not sound great compared with the latest SSDs, it’s excellent for an SD card that you can fit on a fingernail. In fact, the expectation is that we’ll have to wait a year for a device like this to even hit its full potential, because no current phone supports transfer speeds high enough for it to flex its muscles.
Separately from this 400GB announcement, WD is demonstrating an experimental PCIe SD card, with up to 900MB/s read speeds in CrystalDiskMark. Results like this suggest we could be on the cusp of a revolution in overall phone storage performance.
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