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CompactFlash 5.0 Spec Fights Back With 144PB Limit

Gordon Kelly


CompactFlash 5.0 Spec Fights Back With 144PB Limit

It wasn't so long ago that I would paraphrase 'Terabyte' with an explanation of what it is. Well folks, get ready for the Petabyte...

Equal to 1,000 terabytes or 1,000,000 gigabytes, the Petabyte is a standard which is suddenly being talked about thanks to - wait for it - developments in CompactFlash! The professional photographer's format of choice has just seen the CompactFlash Association roll out its new 5.0 specification and it should provide headroom for many years to come. Key aspects are:

48 bit Addressing (Mandatory)

Capacity points beyond current limitation of 137GB (up to 144PB) & more efficient data transfer (32MB per transfer versus 128K per transfer)

Data Set Management Command/Trim (Mandatory)

More efficient cleanup of unused space on memory card (LBA’s)

Update ATA References to ATA-6 & ATA-8/ACS-2

Access to advancements in the ATA standard

Performance Control (optional)

Card performance quality of service framework

Video Performance Guarantee (Optional)

Quality of service for video capture applications to ensure quality recordings with no dropped frames

Identify Device CFA Specification Version Number (Mandatory)

Easier for host to determine card capabilities

Changed Interface Electrical Specification to Better Comply with the ATA Standard (Mandatory) Easier and better card design, compatible with advanced hosts.

Can anything possibly take advantage of these benefits? Not for years to come, and it will take some time before CompactFlash 5.0 cards start to hit the market. Still, at least the CF Association can now go and take the rest of the decade off before considering specification 6.0...

In related news SanDisk has joined the SDXC party with its debut card. With a 64GB capacity it matches the first through the door Toshiba SDXC card, though offers little benefit to SDHC with transfer speeds of just 15MB/sec. Even the Tosh card managed 35MB/sec back in August. A £259.99 RRP also means the SanDisk card carries a higher cost per megabyte than your average SSD.

All of which means SDXC is off to a rather drab start for a format which can top out at 2TB and bring read and write speeds of up 300MB/sec. Sigh...


CompactFlash 5.0 specification Press Release (Pdf warning)

SanDisk SDXC Card Product Page

Geoff Richards

February 23, 2010, 7:23 pm

Woo - 144,000TB :)


February 23, 2010, 9:00 pm

This bit....

"more efficient data transfer (32MB per transfer versus 128K per transfer)"

Sounds like the most important improvement for the short term. That is 256X increase in available bandwidth.


February 23, 2010, 9:41 pm

Does all this extra ATA support make them suitable for SSDs?

Geoff Richards

February 23, 2010, 10:52 pm

@jopey - the full wording is "up to 32MB per transfer" and I think just refers to the size of the chunks. Which is still good, because it means your 12MP JPG photo that might be 5MB in size can be transfered in one hit rather than 40 smaller chunks.

@Ryan - geeks worldwide have been doing this for a couple of years now; you don't need CF5.0 to do it. Just grab a SATA-CF card adapter and slot in the fastest / largest compact flash card(s) you can afford. Gives you silent solid-state running that's upgradeable over time. However, even ninja 90MB/sec UDMA CF cards can't match "real" SSDs from Intel, OCZ et al.


February 24, 2010, 3:15 am

Is it just me or does 32MB sound very low for a 144PB.

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