Flash memory cards are quickly becoming part of our everyday lives. What used to be confined to only digital cameras, now show up in our newest mobile phones for taking pictures, movies, storing music and even dictating voice files. It is the latter usage that I have most experience with, since my boss uses a digital voice recorder (we have a Philips Digital Pocket Memo - or DPM for short) which records his correspondence as voice files onto these flash memory cards. This DPM uses Secure Digital (SD) memory cards, which are also the types of cards used in cell phones these days. These SD cards are also to be found more and more in digital cameras. We mostly buy SanDisk flash memory cards because they have proven to be very reliable, and are also reasonably priced. However, we did purchase a PNY memory card some time ago (one with 256MB), and we recently bought this 512MB card. This recent purchase was mostly because the salesman insisted that these were "just as good, if not better than" the SanDisk cards, and the PNY were on offer for less than the SanDisk cards - which is usually not the case (see Technical Stuff below).
While "you get what you pay for" is usually a good rule of thumb, especially when it comes to technology and electrical products, I'm afraid that in this case, this norm hasn't been proven as true. I've been using a PNY 256MB SD card for quite a while now, but up until we got this 512MB card, I thought that the small problems I had with the 256MB card were due to human error. But when we got the new 512MB card and my boss took it straight out of the packaging and put it into his DPM to dictate a very lengthy and important report, I realized that the problem I'd noticed was with the PNY cards, and not my boss.
Let me explain what happened. Downloading the file worked fine, as usual. I put the card into my computer's card reader, which recognized the file was there, and I moved it into the directory for my transcription program and started playing the file. As I began to transcribe the file, I found that in some parts, bits of words were getting cut off. Often this occurs when my boss starts talking before he pushes up the switch for recording. When that happens, it usually effects the start of a word, sentence or paragraph. However, in this case, I was finding that the ends or middle parts of words were getting cut off, and even short phrases were missing. This made transcribing this document extremely difficult, as you can imagine. What's more, my boss sometimes repeats himself when he wants to add a word or two into something he's just said, and when the whole phrase "no, make that" was missing, I ended up typing almost the same thing twice. This also made editing and correcting the document far more tedious than usual.
Finally, that same day we used the older PNY 256MB card for some short correspondence and I found that even that old card had tiny gaps in the recordings, albeit not as large chunks as were missing from the dictation on the 512MB card, and I could figure out almost all of what was missing. For instance, I heard he' when he was actually saying the', or he said yours' but I heard only urs'. This can be considered as workable, but less than optimal, quality. With the amount of dictation that my boss does, you can believe that we would prefer to use equipment that gives us the best quality recordings as possible. The two PNY cards have now proven that they do not afford us this.
Now, why would all this matter to you, my faithful readers, who probably have never seen or even heard of a DPM, and even if you did, would most likely never have reason to use one? Well, as I mentioned above, these SD cards are now appearing in mobile phones as memory extenders, for storing music and pictures. I've also found that many digital camera manufacturers are switching from xD cards to SD cards, as they are considered less expensive and more reliable. This means it is more than likely that you'll soon be needing or are already using an SD card.
So, imagine if you will, wanting to capture a short movie of your baby's first steps on your digital camera. There you are, with your PNY SD card snuggled into the machine and you hit record', believing that you'll soon have an electronic account of this historic moment to watch and send to friends and relatives. When you've finished all the hugging and cheering, you zip over to your computer, and quickly download the movie clip, only to find on viewing that the film jumps and your attempt to document the event is missing that first, all-important stride. This is what I can imagine would happen if you use a less than optimal quality SD card. I can also envision that your favourite song might end up having skips or gaps in it, if you put it onto this card for listening to on your mobile phone. I should say that the problems I've encountered with these cards might not effect the quality of still photographs, but you never know.
I therefore cannot recommend the PNY 512MB SD flash memory card (or any PNY SD card, for that matter). The quality of these PNY cards is simply not up to snuff. What's more, since PNY cards cost more than the consistently more reliable SanDisk cards, why waste your money on a poorer quality card? Sorry PNY, only one star from me.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © November, 2007
According to the PNY site, this card's suggested retail price in the USA is US$17.99 while according to SanDisk's site, the equivalent card costs US$14.99. In price comparisons from UK sites, I found the SanDisk card available for £5.20 (at Amazon.co.uk) and up to £5.86 elsewhere, while the PNY card sells at Agros for £9.96, and is no longer available on Amazon (surprise, surprise)!
Specifications of this card, including a PDF file about it can be found at http://tinyurl.com/38ss6x along with links to sites where you can purchase these cards.