CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for High-Speed Memory Cards

The CompactFlash Association (CFA) has announced the release of the CFexpress 4.0 specifications, which will enable memory cards to achieve speeds of up to 4 GB/s, doubling the performance of the current CFexpress 2.0 cards. The new standard will also maintain backward compatibility with existing CFexpress devices, making it a versatile and future-proof solution for professional imaging and industrial applications.

What is CFexpress?

CFexpress is a removable media format that uses the PCIe interface to transfer data at high speeds. It was introduced in 2016 as a successor to the CompactFlash, CFAST, and XQD formats, which were based on older technologies such as ATA and SATA. CFexpress cards come in three form factors: Type A, Type B, and Type C, which differ in size, capacity, and performance.

CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for High-Speed Memory Cards
CFexpress 4.0: A New Standard for High-Speed Memory Cards

Type A cards are the smallest and have one PCIe lane, resulting in a maximum speed of 1 GB/s. They are mainly used by Sony for its Alpha series of cameras. Type B cards are larger and have two PCIe lanes, allowing them to reach speeds of 2 GB/s. They are widely adopted by Canon, Nikon, and other camera manufacturers. Type C cards are the largest and have four PCIe lanes, enabling them to achieve speeds of 4 GB/s. However, they are not currently used by any camera industry.

What is new in CFexpress 4.0?

The CFexpress 4.0 specifications, announced by the CFA on August 28, 2023, represent a significant advancement over the previous CFexpress 2.0 specifications. The main improvement is the upgrade from PCIe Gen 3 to PCIe Gen 4, which doubles the data rate and allows the cards to transfer data at much faster speeds. The new specifications also ensure backward compatibility with CFexpress 2.0 devices, meaning that users can use their existing cards with newer hosts and vice versa.

The new specifications will increase the performance of all three form factors of CFexpress cards without changing their physical dimensions. The Type A cards will be able to reach speeds of up to 2 GB/s, matching the current Type B cards. The Type B cards will be able to achieve speeds of up to 4 GB/s, matching the current Type C cards. The Type C cards will be able to attain speeds of up to 8 GB/s, surpassing any other memory card format available today.

What are the benefits of CFexpress 4.0?

The CFexpress 4.0 memory cards will offer several benefits for professional photographers, videographers, and cinematographers who need high-performance data capture and transfer. For example:

  • They will enable faster backing up of captured data in scenarios such as shooting 8K videos and capturing high-resolution still images.
  • They will reduce the buffer time and increase the burst rate when shooting continuous frames or raw files.
  • They will support higher bit rates and color depths for video recording and playback.
  • They will allow faster editing and processing of large files on computers or external devices.

Moreover, the backward compatibility of CFexpress 4.0 cards will allow users to preserve their investments made in CFexpress 2.0 cards while enjoying the benefits of the newer technology. It will also simplify the development cycle for host manufacturers who can use the same interface for different form factors and performance levels.

When will CFexpress 4.0 be available?

The CFA has not announced a specific date for the availability of CFexpress 4.0 cards or devices, but some companies have already expressed their interest in developing products based on the new standard. For instance:

  • Nextorage Corporation has announced its ongoing development of the CFexpress Type B memory card compatible with CFexpress 4.0 and aims to release it in early 2024.
  • Sony has stated that it is working on content production workflow products that will leverage the full potential of CFexpress 4.0 Type B memory cards and plans to introduce them to the market by mid-2024.
  • Kingston Technology has expressed its support for the new standard and said that it will continue to provide high-quality memory solutions for professional users.

The CFA has also said that it is preparing a new specification for VPG (Video Performance Guarantee), which currently only certifies cards at VPG 400, stating that a card will never dip below 400 MB/s transfer speeds. The new specification will likely include higher levels of VPG to match the increased performance of CFexpress 4.0 cards.

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