CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for Faster Memory Cards

CFexpress is a type of memory card that uses the PCIe interface to achieve high-speed data transfer. It is widely used in professional cameras and camcorders that require high-resolution and high-frame-rate video recording. Recently, the CompactFlash Association (CFA) announced the new CFexpress 4.0 standard, which promises to double the performance of the current CFexpress 2.0 cards.

What is CFexpress 4.0?

CFexpress 4.0 is the latest specification for CFexpress memory cards, which was released by the CFA on August 28, 2023. It introduces two major changes: PCIe Gen 4 interconnect and NVMe 1.4c host controller interface.

CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for Faster Memory Cards
CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for Faster Memory Cards
  • PCIe Gen 4 interconnect: This is the fourth generation of the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) bus, which is a standard for connecting devices to a computer. PCIe Gen 4 offers twice the bandwidth of PCIe Gen 3, which means it can transfer data at up to 16 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) per lane. CFexpress 4.0 cards use two lanes of PCIe Gen 4, which results in a theoretical maximum throughput of 32 GT/s or 4 GB/s.
  • NVMe 1.4c host controller interface: This is the latest version of the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol, which is a standard for accessing solid-state drives (SSDs) over PCIe. NVMe 1.4c adds new features and enhancements to improve performance, reliability, and power efficiency of NVMe devices. CFexpress 4.0 cards use NVMe 1.4c as the host controller interface, which enables them to support low standby power modes, thermal throttling, and advanced error recovery.

How fast are CFexpress 4.0 cards?

CFexpress 4.0 cards are available in three formats: Type A, Type B, and Type C. Type A cards are the smallest and have a single slot for PCIe Gen 4 x2 interface. Type B cards are larger and have two slots for PCIe Gen 4 x2 interface. Type C cards are the largest and have four slots for PCIe Gen 4 x2 interface.

The CFA has not yet released the official speed ratings for CFexpress 4.0 cards, but some manufacturers have already announced their products based on the new standard.

  • ProGrade Digital: The company has launched its third generation of CFexpress Type B Cobalt-class memory cards in a new 1.3 TB capacity. The card claims to offer read speeds up to 3,400 MB/s, burst write speeds up to 3,000 MB/s, and sustained write speeds up to 2,800 MB/s. The card also features a metal enclosure for durability and heat dissipation, and is approved for use with RED V-Raptor and Komodo X cameras.
  • Nextorage: The company has announced its plans to release its first CFexpress Type A memory cards in winter 2023. The card will have a capacity of 160 GB and will offer read speeds up to 1,700 MB/s and write speeds up to 1,000 MB/s. The card will also support low power consumption and thermal management.

What are the benefits of CFexpress 4.0 cards?

CFexpress 4.0 cards offer several benefits for photographers and filmmakers who need fast and reliable memory cards for their work.

  • Faster data transfer: CFexpress 4.0 cards can transfer data at speeds that are twice as fast as CFexpress 2.0 cards and four times as fast as SD Express cards. This means that users can offload their files to their computers much faster and save time in their workflow.
  • Higher performance: CFexpress 4.0 cards can handle higher resolutions and frame rates than CFexpress 2.0 cards. This means that users can capture more details and dynamic range in their images and videos.
  • Longer recording time: CFexpress 4.0 cards can sustain higher write speeds than CFexpress 2.0 cards3. This means that users can record longer bursts of continuous shooting or video without dropping frames or encountering buffer issues.
  • Greater compatibility: CFexpress 4.0 cards are backward compatible with CFexpress 2.0 devices. This means that users can use their existing cameras and card readers with the new cards, although they will not get the full speed benefits of the new standard.

What are the challenges of CFexpress 4.0 cards?

CFexpress 4.0 cards also pose some challenges for users who want to take advantage of the new standard.

  • Higher cost: CFexpress 4.0 cards are more expensive than CFexpress 2.0 cards and other types of memory cards. For example, the ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B 1.3 TB Cobalt card costs $1,459.99, while the ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B 650 GB Gold card costs $899.99.
  • Limited availability: CFexpress 4.0 cards are not widely available yet, as only a few manufacturers have announced their products so far. Users may have to wait for more options and competition in the market before they can buy the cards easily.
  • New hardware requirements: CFexpress 4.0 cards require new hardware to support their full speed potential. Users will need to buy new cameras that have PCIe Gen 4 and NVMe 1.4c interfaces, as well as new card readers that have USB 4.0 ports. These devices are not very common yet, and may also be more expensive than their predecessors.

CFexpress 4.0 is a new standard for memory cards that offers faster data transfer and higher performance than the previous generation. It is suitable for professional photographers and filmmakers who need to capture high-resolution and high-frame-rate video. However, it also comes with higher cost, limited availability, and new hardware requirements that may limit its adoption in the near future.

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