Fast is the word: ProGrade Digital’s newest CFexpress, SDXC, microSDXC cards, Thunderbolt 3 reader

Except for faster cards, the company further updated its range of card readers with a Thunderbolt 3 reader for CFexpress B and XQD cards that is capable of transferring data at speeds up to 40Gb/sec and a new USB 3.2 Gen 2 reader that enables the simultaneous transfer of data from both card slots at up to 10Gb/s, supporting CFexpress B and SDXC, UHS-II cards. These readers come with a generous-length cable included as well as the adhesive metal plate to mount the magnet-holding readers onto any surface in your environment, including your laptop’s lid.

One of the major updates is that ProGrade Digital’s Refresh Pro is supported. This is a software tool that monitors card health and ensures cards will always perform at maximum performance. Despite it being around for almost a year, the Refresh Pro software is only compatible with Windows 10 and higher, with a macOS version yet to be released. The new cards and readers all support Refresh Pro whereas the previous versions seemingly didn’t.

I tested my ProGrade Digital CFexpress Cobalt 325GB test card with my iMac and its Thunderbolt 3 reader as well as with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III which has a pair of CFexpress slots and is capable of 20 fps fed to a 1000 images buffer.

The iMac numbers were impressively high with a 733MB/sec write and 1413MB/sec read speed.

The camera figures were pretty impressive as well. I set the EOS-1D X Mk III to JPEG first, then shot at 20fps and timed when the buffer would start slowing down the capture speed. That happened only after 160 images and a few hundreds of a second below 10 seconds, which results in the ProGrade CFexpress B Cobalt card supporting a nice 16fps which is close to the Canon’s 20fps capability.

ProGrade SDXC II, microSDHC II and reader

The two other cards ProGrade Digital sent me, a 128GB SDXC U3, CLASS 10 UHS-II V90 card and a microSDXC V60 card have been upgraded for speed and capacity. Both types of card have been expanded to a maximum size of 256GB. The ones I got were a 128GB SDXC card and a 64GB microSDXC card that I both tested with the previous generation USB-C and the new USB 3.2 Gen 2 combination CFexpress B/SDXC reader.

In tests with AJA System test, the SDXC card managed to read data at 244MB/sec and write it at 203MB/sec with a few drops in speed at two moments in the transfer of the 1GB test file. The microSDXC card read data at 225MB/sec and wrote it at 94MB/sec. Both worked fine in a GoPro HERO 8 where this card had no trouble shooting at 4K/60 without a glitch.

In the meantime, only days after writing this review, ProGrade Digital has released their newest 650GB and 1TB CFexpress B cards that now have a maximum throughput of up to 1700 MB/sec. That should keep the company on top of things for a while…

The ThunderBolt 3 reader retails at $129.99; the USB 3.1 Gen 2 reader at $79.99. My test CFexpress Cobalt card will cost you around $550. The test SDXC card retails at $129.99 and the test microSDXC card at $34.99. All of these can be purchased directly from the ProGrade Digital website or (often) at your local photography equipment store.

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