ProGrade Digital Demonstrates First CFexpress 1.0 Cards and More

ProGrade Digital Demonstrates First CFexpress 1.0 Cards and More

ProGrade Digital, a new memory card company started by industry veterans, announced the first CFexpress 1.0 cards featuring capacities up to 1 TB and read and write speeds of 1,400 MB/s and 1,000 MB/s, respectively. These cards could also be compatible with XQD formats and come alongside new V90-rated SD cards.

The new CFexpress 1.0 format is the future of digital storage for high-end photography and video applications. With a theoretical limit of up to 8 GB/s thanks to support for eight channels that each run at 1 GB/s, these cards have a lot of room to grow. But that doesn't mean they're slow today. In fact, as the first public demonstration of CFexpress 1.0, these are some of the fastest cards to date — period.

While XQD is a format that may well die out with the advent of CFexpress (it may seem nearly dead already with Sony as the format's sole manufacturer), it is possible that with the right firmware, CFexpress cards could be used in XQD-accepting cameras, as the formats are potentially interchangeable. You will still be limited to the speed of the card being used, but it's possible that the transition from XQD to CFexpress could be painless. Moreover, this could easily be what other manufacturers have been waiting for before making the switch to a smaller, more capable, longer-term solution. CFexpress seems to be just that.

ProGrade's CFexpress cards will be available in 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB capacities when they are released later this year around September.

ProGrade also announced V90-rated SD cards, which feature read and write speeds of 250 MB/s and 200 MB/s as well as minimum sustained write speeds of 90 MB/s for guaranteed performance for writing up to 6K and 4K video formats. The cards will ship in early May for $99.99, $189.99, and $379.99 for the 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB capacities.

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8 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

The rebrand-lexar guys??

Adam Ottke's picture

It's a different/new company, but yes, many come from Lexar.

I may or may not be confused... are they saying the new CFexpress cards could be used in XQD slots? So say you had a D850, you could use a CFexpress card? With an assumed firmware update, I guess?

And the prices above were for the V90 SD cards right?

Adam Ottke's picture

Yes, the prices are for the SD cards. The CFexpress cards aren't yet priced. A premium can be expected, but I was told it will not be some kind of crazy 100-percent markup. A lot could change between now and their release date, though. So we'll see.

Also, yes, if the manufacturer put the time into creating the proper firmware update, technically, there is nothing stopping CFexpress cards from being used in XQD cameras (and vice versa). It's up to the manufacturer of the reading device to enable this, though. So again, we'll see on that front when the time comes. It probably wouldn't help at all in terms of write speeds to the cards from the camera. But it would be nice to be able to potentially use CFexpress cards in legacy XQD cameras, but then still be able to get CFexpress offload speeds to the computer, etc.

The CFExpress card can fit into an XQD slot, and have the same electrical contact interface. Whether the host can read the CFExpress is dependent on many factors.

For certain, a firmware update will be necessary, but ① that may not be possible if the EEPROM does not have the capacity for the update, and ② the hardware —that is, the RISC/ASIC— in the host has to have the necessary capabilities.

Some keep saying that the CFExpress is based on PCIe, just like the XQD, and PCIe requires backward compatibility. What they fail to understand is that what is required is that all new hosts be able to communicate with all old clients. The D850 is an old host, whereas the CFExpress is a new client. No such compatibility is required, nor guaranteed, even with a firmware update.

All CFExpress hosts (such as a new camera with an CFExpress slot) are required to accept old clients (such as XQD cards). The opposite is NOT true. It is possible that your D850 may never be able to accept a CFExpress card. You will have to wait for Nikon to announce one way or the other.

Brilliant response! Thank you!

The difference between XQD and CFx is that XQD uses the AHCI protcol and CFx uses NVMe. CFx also has specifications for 1, 2, 4, and 8 lane cards, XQD 2.0 is a 2 lane card.

These protocols are not unique to cameras they are on PC's as well, early M.2 slots only supported AHCI, but many had BIOS updates to support NVMe. The chance that camera manufacturers (at least ones like Nikon) did not allow for the card protocol firmware to be updated is almost zero since XQD was very new with all of the cameras they have used it in.. the only question is if they will update it (they may want to refrain from doing so to get people to upgrade or because they just don't care).

The other difference is PCIe 2.0 on XQD and PCIe 3.0 on CFx. However those differences are not important as long as they're using standard PCIe. PCIe 3.0 cards MUST support usage in 2.0 slots as long as it has the same number of lanes. There may however be a loss in performance.

«The chance that camera manufacturers (at least ones like Nikon) did not allow for the card protocol firmware to be updated….»

Not the issue. The issues are as explained; ① if the Nikon EEPROM has enough space to fit any new firmware which can take advantage of the new cards. If, for example, the current firmware is using xMB of the yMB available, and the new firmware requires an additional zMB, such that x+z>y, then it cannot be updated, and ② if the SoC which is in the D850 has the capability to recognise the new client.

«…those differences are not important as long as they're using standard PCIe.»
…And therein lies the issue. PCs are required to hold to these standards. Purpose-built systems are not. Why put in all the needed requirements of a PC when one will never be attaching all the possible devices of a PC? If one connected an OTG dongle to the USB port of your camera, and plugged in a mouse, can you use the mouse to access your menu? Probably not. (I think someone ought to try, but I am not putting my camera at risk ;-) ).

I know on my security system, with two USB ports, one is labeled, “external storage,” and the other, “mouse.” I can plug a mouse into either port, but a USB HDD will only work in the port labelled “storage,” and a keyboard —full, or number keypad— will not work in either port. That is how it is with purpose-built systems, and DSLRs are purpose-built systems; they are not required to follow the protocol/standards.

«PCIe 3.0 cards MUST support usage in 2.0 slots….»
False. The PCIe standard does not REQUIRE ver. 3.0 client devices to work in ver 2.0 host slots. They encourage it, but do not mandate it at all. The only mandate is that if they do not work, they must gracefully fail, not bringing down the system. If you want to build a PCIe 3.0 client device that does not work in a ver 2.0 host slot, you may do so. However, Any ver 2.0 client device placed in a ver. 3.0 host slot, must work.

Then again, that is only for PCs. Even that requirement is not mandated for purpose-built systems.