ProGrade versus Sony CFexpress Type A cards: is there a difference?


ProGrade Digital has just launched the first CFexpress Type A Cards They are not made by Sony and, while they are not “cheap” by any stretch of the imagination, they are More affordable that Sony offer. But does that discount have a performance cost?

At the time of publication, Sony was only using the CFexpress Type-A memory cards in some of its newer cameras, such as the Alpha 1. The form factor is much smaller than a CFexpress Type B card and while Type A cards will never be that fast, Sony chose them for its line of cameras because they have a secondary benefit: the small size allows them to share a card slot that it can also be used with legacy SD cards.

SD cards are actually larger than CFexpress cards, allowing Sony to build a slot in both its cameras and its CFexpress card reader that allows one slot to do double duty. For photographers, this means that Sony could support faster read and write speeds to get the most out of its new cameras without forcing photographers to choose entirely new media.

That choice is great because Sony CFexpress Type A Cards are – at the time of publication – $ 400 for 160GB capacity, a considerable investment.

As you can see above, ProGrade chose to keep its two memory card reader slots separate.

While the format is not widespread yet, ProGrade Digital believes it will become more popular in the future and as such decided to join the party and just launched your version of the media.

What is the difference?

Performance wise, both Sony and ProGrade They promise the same read and write speeds and physically both devices look almost identical; in fact, both cards indicate that the country of origin is also the same: Taiwan. The only real differences between them appear to be minor design options on the back of the cards and a $ 70 price margin.

The only real way to repeatedly test and determine if there is a difference between these two cards is to run them through speed tests. In theory, you could shoot a burst of photos in-camera with each card and measure the time it takes to clear the buffer, but there’s no reason to believe that the speed tests here would provide a different result, especially since, as I’ll explain. next: I used two different card readers. Also, this method is much more repeatable and controlled.

For this test, I have the Sony and ProGrade CFexpress cards, as well as the official card readers from both companies: the Sony MRW-G2 and the ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type A and SD Reader. I ran both cards through both readers to see if there was any benefit to using a card reader and card from the same manufacturer, but also to ensure that there was no unfair advantage that appeared when using a Sony card in a Sony reader, for instance. I didn’t think there was one, but it’s safer to be sure.

I ran speed tests with the BlackMagic Speed ‚Äč‚ÄčTest application on an Apple MacBook Pro several times. Both card readers were connected via USB-C cables to the reader and the laptop; I did not use the cable that converts the USB-C design to USB-A. Test speeds on cards vary with each run the card goes through and performance will vary slightly across individual cards and over time, but the screenshots below are good overall averages of what you can expect from the cards. .

Sony Versus ProGrade via ProGrade card reader

First, I want to show the results of running both cards through the ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type A combination and the SD card reader:

ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type A Card
Sony CFexpress type A card

As you can see, both cards fell short of their promised read costs of “up to” 800MB / s and write speeds of 700MB / s. The ProGrade Digital card averaged around 679MB / s write speed and around 785MB / s read speed with the ProGrade reader. The Sony card performed quite similarly, averaging write speeds of around 683MB / s and read speeds of around 780MB / s through the ProGrade reader.

While the ProGrade Digital card appears to read data a little faster than Sony and Sony wrote data a little faster than ProGrade, the difference here is within a tolerable margin of error of around 5 MB / s, which means that there is indeed no difference in performance between these cards with the ProGrade reader.

Sony Versus ProGrade via Sony card reader

Next, I ran both cards through the CFexpress combination and Sony’s SD card reader:

ProGrade CFexpress Type A Card
Sony CFexpress type A card

The Prograde CFexpress card averaged around 654MB / s and read speeds of 730MB / s when tested through the Sony reader. The Sony card averaged around 651MB / s write speed and 731MB / s read speed through the Sony reader. The results here are much closer than when the cards were compared via the ProGrade card reader and are absolutely within the expected margin of error.

As far as I’m concerned, this confirms that the cards should effectively work identically across all media and cameras.

Interestingly, both the ProGrade card and Sony card performed worse through the Sony reader than through the ProGrade reader by a factor of almost 20MB / s in both read and write, which is more than I am comfortable with. attributing to only a margin of error. I’m unfamiliar with the inner workings of card readers and what might make one work better than the other, but in my testing ProGrade takes the win here when it comes to media readers.

Look for the best price, not the brand

If you were afraid that the $ 70 price discount between Sony and the ProGrade Cards would result in worse performance for ProGrade, I have good news: both cards should work almost exactly the same.

One thing worth noting though is that when it comes to card readers, ProGrade Digital’s CFexpress Type A and SD combo card reader seems to be a bit better than the one. Sony MRW-G2 Cfexpress Type A Reader. Sony’s reader too $ 120, while ProGrade is $ 80. So while I can comfortably recommend that you can buy the Sony or ProGrade card (whichever is on sale) and get the same performance, it seems like the ProGrade card reader will give you better performance, if only slightly.

That said, the ProGrade reader is made primarily of plastic, while Sony’s is an all-metal casing. I’ve never come across a situation where I need my card reader to be tough as nails, but if that’s important to you, Sony is probably the best option, even if it’s a hair slower.

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