Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kingston 16GB Class 4 microSDHC Card

Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: Worked well enough in the generic Android tablet it was picked up for
Cons: Worst random 4k write speeds; no included SD adapter or plastic case

My young nieces have birthdays that are close to each other, so their mom got them each a $90 generic Android tablet to play with. They enjoyed the tablets a lot, but the 4GB of internal storage was a bit lacking for all the games they wanted to download and play. Now I could have picked up identical microSDHC cards for them but I decided to be clever and pick up two different brands so that I could compare the two and review them in the process.
First of all we have this Kingston 16GB microSDHC Card (SDC4/16GBSP), and secondly we have a Mushkin 16GB microSDHC Card MKNUSDHCC4-16GB). I decided on these two cards in particular because they are both brands that I've had a positive experience with in the past. I skipped out on some of the similarly priced generic brand cards for the opposite reason. I also previously reviewed a Patriot Signature Line 16GB microSDHC Card (PSF16GMCSDHC43P) that we used in a Motorola DROID 4 Phone that I will poke comparisons at as well for variety.
Three separate manufacturers. Since all three of these cards are the same size, same speed rating, price and format the comparison should help figure out which is the better deal. This review will mostly focus on the Kingston 16GB microSD card, though I will mention the others at times and point out if they were particularly better or worse.
The first thing I noticed was that this Kingston card did not come in a full plastic package. Instead, they opted to go with sandwiched cardboard that was easier to open by snipping off the top with a pair of scissors and pulling the blister pack out of the middle that held the card. The blister pack did sort of snap shut and held the card in place, but it's flimsy and large and not something that you would want to use to keep the card secure and undamaged.
That's the second thing I noticed... unlike the other two cards, this one did not come with a rigid plastic carrying case to protect the card while it's not in a device. It was also the only card not to come with an SD adapter to use in tablets, cameras and laptops. The package I liked; the lack of a case and adapter were a little disappointing but not really a big deal overall since I already had two of each from the other manufacturers' cards.
This is a standard microSD card with the normal notched side to prevent it being inserted the wrong way. Like most cards this one is black, but it's really noisy looking with a ton of text across the front. Hey, it's not like you're going to be looking at the card anyway though -- I assume it will be crammed into a phone, camera or some other random device most of the time. It comes preformatted with the FAT32 file system and has a total formatted capacity of 15,699,279,872 bytes (14.6 GB). For comparison, the Patriot card had a capacity of 14.9 GB and the Mushkin had a capacity of 14.4 GB.
I assumed since they skimped on the adapter and the case that maybe they put a little extra work into the card; would the Kingston be the winner of the three? As it turns out... no. This was the only one of the three cards that Windows 7 would not let me use for ReadyBoost. Since it's a Class 4 card we should see a minimum performance of 4 MB/s for both reading and writing on a new card. Well, we easily got that but we assumed that going in. Looking at the benchmarks below we see a 20 MB/s sequential read speed and about the same for 512k random reads, which are moderately fast. We also see 5 MB/s sequential write speeds which falls well within the class 4 specification.
Random 512k and 4k writes are slow like they are with most cards, but the 4k write speeds in particular were abysmal. Yes, that's the correct amount of zeros, I ran the test three times (0.007, 0.006 and 0.007). You're probably not going to do a whole lot of random 4k writes so that's probably the least important of the tests, but it's also the one that was drastically and substantially different from either of the other cards (0.964 for the Patriot and 0.604 for the Mushkin). Benchmarks were taken using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1c at the default settings.
Seq Read: 20.04 MB/s
Seq Write: 5.034 MB/s
512k Read: 19.59 MB/s
512k Write: 0.788 MB/s
4k Read: 3.292 MB/s
4k Write: 0.007 MB/s

Overall the Kingston 16GB microSDHC Card is pretty average; it works well enough in the generic tablet and is fast enough for normal use. However it loses points for having a 4k random write speed that was 100 times slower than the other cards, not including an SD adapter, and not including a protective case. Both of the other cards included these two small bonus items for the same price and managed to give us a faster card as well.
While this card isn't terrible, I would avoid it in favor of either of the other cards. Out of the two remaining cards, I would recommend the Patriot because it had significantly faster write speeds across the board and also had the largest formatted capacity out of the three cards to make it the clear winner.

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