16GB Class 10 MicroSD card head-to-head shootout: SanDisk vs Kingston vs Transcend vs Samsung vs Toshiba

Fight!  Fight!  Fight!  Fight!
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
There’s a lot of information and misinformation concerning SD technology, on the Internet. I’ve read a few conflicting theories about how many different companies actually manufacture SD cards and how many re-badge other companies’ kit. For your average consumer (and by this, I mean Dummy) though, this is all a bit of a red herring. Dummy wants to know (a) which card is fastest and (b) which card is best value for money. End of.

In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve picked 16GB Class 10 MicroSD cards (with full size adapters) from the top five brands out there: SanDisk, Transcend, Kingston, Toshiba and Samsung. We’re not too concerned with who made ’em; we just want to see which is the best package overall. To that end, we’ve benchmarked the cards in two different environments: firstly using a MicroSD card USB reader on a Windows PC and secondly on an Android mobile device. This gives us a really good idea of how these five cards perform in real-world scenarios.

MicroSD cards - the contenders
MicroSD cards – the contenders

If you can’t be bothered with all the stats and just want the summary (and we can’t blame you!), click here.

Test rig

eSecure All-in-1 USB card reader connected to HP Probook
eSecure All-in-1 USB card reader connected to HP Probook
Our Windows 7-based test rig consisted of an eSecure All-in-1 card reader connected to an excellent HP ProBook 6560b. The 6560b isn’t available any more by the way, but the 6570b is a worthy successor. Our test software was the venerable and well-respected CrystalDiskMark.

Our mobile device test rig consisted of the brilliant Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (replaced by the even more incredible Note 3). Using this phone we ran the handy app A1 SD Bench. It’s less comprehensive than CrystalDiskMark, but gives you a good feel for how the card performs in one of its most likely use cases – plugged into a smartphone or tablet.

The Tests

For our tests, we ran five passes of the benchmarks on each card. When a test run contained anomalous results (which could be down to processor blips or other irrelevant causes), we discarded the test and ran again. We then averaged the scores from the five clean passes. We think this gives us a pretty bulletproof set of scores.

We ran three distinct batteries of tests:

  1. 5 passes of CrystalDiskMark with the file size set to 1000MB
  2. 5 passes of CrystalDiskMark with the file size set to 50MB
  3. 5 passes of A1 SD Bench

The results are summarised in this image (click to enlarge):

SD Card Benchmark Analysis

This is worthy of some explanation! The bottom row of the table shows the “standard deviation”. You don’t need to understand statistics to get the point: if there’s not a lot of difference between the cards, you’ll see a small figure on this row. So for example in the sequential read tests, there’s very little difference between the cards (standard deviations of 0.12 and 0.18). In the case of a 50MB file written randomly in 512k chunks, there’s a huge variation – 5.97. If you look more closely at the column, you’ll see that the Samsung card clocked in at 15.2MB/s in this test, which is very good, while the Toshiba managed a paltry 1.3MB/s.

The bar chart overlays are fairly easy to follow, we hope. For each column, the card that has the biggest bar achieved the best speeds. This is most noticeable on columns with the largest deviation (512K random writes).

The price column is colour-coded going from red to green; expensive to cheap. “Expensive” is a relative term – there’s only £3.50 difference between the most expensive and least expensive cards here. Mind you, that means that the pricy SanDisk is over 40% more expensive than the modest Toshiba.

SanDisk MicroSD card - overpriced and over here
SanDisk MicroSD card – overpriced and over here
Let’s look at the SanDisk card for a moment. It’s considerably more expensive than the cheaper cards on test, so what do you get for your money? Well it actually performs worst on one of the tests (1000MB sequential write). If you’re working with video, that is going to be noticeable. The story’s better with random writes, but that seems to us to be a fairly “edge” scenario. It also does worst when being written to in an Android environment. All in all, not good. It certainly hasn’t justified its high price ticket. We were expecting a lot better from such a well known and respected manufacturer.

With generally narrow deviations, it’s hard to pick out an outstanding card, but if you can managed to stare at the figures a bit without your eyes glazing over, we do think a hero emerges.

Look at that Samsung card. Best at the 1000M sequential read. Best at the 1000MB sequential write. Second best at the 1000MB/512K random write and leading the pack for the 50MB/512K random write. In almost every test, it achieves consistently good results. It’s top dog when it comes to writing data and no slouch at reading it. All this and it’s the second cheapest.


Samsung MicroSD card - the winner
Samsung MicroSD card – the winner
If you’d like to mine the data we collected, you can download it here as a zipped Excel spreadsheet – this contains the raw data from all our tests – no less than 450 data points! Whatever you do, we think you’ll agree with us that in this class, the best value MicroSD card by far is the Samsung 16GB Class 10 MicroSD. There isn’t even a runner up in this contest; the remaining contenders are either too slow or too expensive.

Light sabre duel image copyright © Sean Dreilinger, licensed under Creative Commons. Used with permission.

Review: Underwater Video Photography with the Kodak Playsport ZX3

I’ve long been a fan of the Kodak Playsport ZX3. It’s been my mainstay action camera for a few years because of its excellent balance of value, quality and durability. It’s also got one of the better external microphone systems and brilliant image stabilization.

If you’ve ever seen any of my action films you’ll know that I feature 4×4 vehicles and the reason I’d selected a waterproof camera is because they are usually required to splash through rivers or more typically survive the rain of Welsh mountains!!!

P1010497_zps129b0c4fWell, here at Geek & Dummy we have taken delivery of some very promising new action cameras (reviews to follow) that may well be ending my love affair with the Playsport. I thought it was time to see what it could do underwater. If the claims made by Kodak prove to be bunkum and this kills one of my beloved Playsports, maybe I can live with that now replacements are at hand!

Before I start the review in detail, I always feel the need to qualify the ZX3. It’s pretty much end of life and is an action camera that has been on the market for 5 years+. Before I first reviewed them they were selling

for about £45. Unfortunately they now go for £60+, which may well be my fault for shining the spotlight on them. Amazon does have the successor ZX5 listed for £156 and whilst I wouldn’t pay that because of the abuse I give them, I’d still say that offered some value.P1010498_zpsf5009d6b

What we have then is essentially quite old tech at a bargain price.

The Zx3 is ready to go straight into the water as it is without the need for a secondary case. As I’ve described in a previous review all its compartments are sealed and water tight. What you do need to do is alter the camera’s software to cope with being underwater.

Anyway, enough chatting from me. This is just one of those reviews where you need to see the results. I’ve used PowerDirector 10
to edit the clips but other than slowing a few frames down or reversing it for fun, this is unadulterated and straight from the camera.

As I have already reviewed the main camera this review is purely covering the underwater usability.


Review: Smartphone Camera Comparison – Samsung Galaxy Note II v Apple iPhone 5

DUMMY: So ever since I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, Geek has been whinging that I’m an Apple fanboy. He’s also bleated that I’m not comparing like-for-like products. We took a walk in the local park on a nice sunny day, Geek with his tombstone-sized Galaxy Note II, me with my sleek and svelte iPhone 5 and decided to give the phones a head-to-head. The question: whose was the best smartphone/camera.

GEEK: You are a whiny Apple fanboy.

DUMMY: Whatever. So here are some of the shots we took. First, here’s the iPhone 5 in quite a shaded area:

GEEK: And then the Galaxy Note II:

DUMMY: Both cameras struggled with the transition from shade to bright sunlight but the stand-out winner in this first shot is the Note II. The level of clarity and detail is far superior and to be honest the iPhone 5 image is quite blurry in comparison.

GEEK: Oo, what a surprise.

DUMMY: On to the next picture. The same subject but in brighter sunlight. iPhone 5 first again:

GEEK: And then the Note II:

DUMMY: Curses. I can see the same kind of issues here. The Samsung camera gives greater levels of detail, certainly up close and in the foreground. As you move further back into the mid and background this difference is less pronounced and at a pinch I might argue the iPhone 5 deals slightly better with dark shaded areas.

GEEK: You’re just making this stuff up, aren’t you.

DUMMY: Shuttit! All in all, I’d say its pretty conclusive. The Samsung camera is without doubt superior to the camera in the iPhone 5. Come on Apple, sort your game out!

GEEK: Boohoo.


Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48

Let’s get something straight with this review, right up front. I am no David Bailey and I don’t really have any aspirations to be a photographer. When I bought this camera I had one objective: to improve the quality of the pictures I took beyond that of my existing point-and-click happy snapper. I wanted something simple to use with menu options that a non camera buff could understand without sitting a 2 day course.

Okay then, that established, on with this review.

I’ll start with my usual first impressions. I may not want to be a photographer but I feel like one with this kit in my hands. It’s a completely different beast to my usual compact in so many ways. But it also feels familiar, with simple and obvious buttons; you can take it out of the box and immediately start taking ultra-sharp pictures. It’s ergonomic to hold and I had no problems while traversing rocks and perching in strange positions for interesting angles on my pictures.

It’s here I really started to feel the appeal of this camera, which Panasonic bills as a “bridge camera”. Don’t know what a bridge camera is? (I didn’t.) From Wikipedia:

Bridge cameras are cameras which fill the niche between the single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and the point-and-shoot camera.

You can make it as easy or as technical as you like; I found that the results were so good it started to encourage me to take more time and effort in composing my pictures. Very quickly my ‘happy snapping’ progressed to something altogether different – I found interest developing as the results improved. All in all, a very enjoyable process in which good results were achieved quickly. Just the way I like it!

The zoom on this camera is amazing considering the price tag. On a recent camping trip I was able to demonstrate this to its full potential when my daft brother climbed a hill overlooking our camp-site and I captured one image without zoom and one zoomed right in.

There are buttons and features aplenty. I have only started to scratch the surface but the image clarity is truly amazing. For someone who was very used to taking very average images the pictures it produces are nothing short of incredible. It uses standard SD memory cards which is a bonus for me as all my other equipment uses these.

Okay, so I’m very happy indeed with the pictures it’s producing but what’s this – it also records in HD? Now I wasn’t expecting much from this. In my experience a device designed to do one task that has a second task bolted on, tends to handle that extra task quite poorly. Not so in this case. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the HD video and how easy it was to use that feature. Coupling HD video with the power of the zoom it is a brilliant add-on. There’s one drawback: the noise of the motorised zoom is intrusive and has to be edited out of the final video, oh yes and I guess I could do with a tripod to eliminate the camera shake.

As I felt like I was getting on better with the camera I became more ambitious and started trying to shoot wildlife. It’s here I found myself frustrated by the time it takes to process images.

I had this image in my mind of rattling off shot after shot but the camera needed a second or two to sort itself out between pictures. There may well be a setting to alter this but out of the box, a little slow, as demonstrated by my attempts to capture a Red Kite.

So just to finish, going back to my very basic requirements of this camera, I’m really happy with the results. I’ve literally picked it up out of the box and not read a thing from the manual. With a minimum of tinkering I’ve been impressed with the image quality I’ve been able to achieve. See the gallery below for examples of my first efforts.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”For the results here I’ve barely scratched the surface of this camera’s abilities.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Certainly everything I need in a camera. So many automated focus settings, how can I go wrong?” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”It’s well over double what I would usually pay for a camera but the image quality is a big step up.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”I must admit, I feel I have to take care with it. This is no action camera.” cat4rating=”2.5″ summary=”Another star buy for me. I’ve really enjoyed using it and perhaps it’s ignited the frustrated photographer in me.”]

Cannot save photos on jailbroken iPhone 4 camera roll: FIXED

iPhone 4 A few applications recently started failing to save photos to the iPhone camera roll. A quick dig around via SSH confirmed this; it was not that they were saving but were somehow hidden – they were not there at all.

It seems that some kind of permissions error had crept in over time. Connecting via SSH and issuing the command “chmod -R a+rwx /var/mobile/Media/DCIM” fixed this.

NB: Be aware that this grants all users/applications read/write access to the photo directory.

iPhone 4 image copyright © ji young YOON, licensed under Creative Commons. Used with permission.