Samsung has introduced a line up of Universal Flash Storage (UFS) cards that serve as an alternative to the microSD standard prevalent in the industry for almost a decade. The cards come in sizes ranging from 32GB to 256 GB and are much faster than their more common brethren. The UFS cards are based on the UFS 1.0 extension approved this March. They have been unveiled just after Samsung passed the Universal Flash Storage Association’s (UFSA) certification program that tests electrical and functional specifications for the compatibility of a certain UFS card. It is notable that though Toshiba also makes UFS cards, theirs aren’t based on the 1.0 extension.
Storing more and more data at greater speeds is a big issue in the world of tech. The best USBs max out at a consistent transfer speed of around 30-40 MBps* and the best portable hard drives transfer data at just over 200 MBps*. That seems like a lot but when you’re talking about gigabytes and even terabytes of storage, the speed can often be found wanting. SD cards are the worst in this regard. The minimum sequential write speed of even the UHS (Ultra High Speed) class microSD variants goes up to 30 MBps. And the storage for mobile devices is now reaching a quarter of a terabyte. The new iPhone 7 is supposed to come out with 32/128/256GB base models and the Samsung Galaxy S7 has expandable storage up to 256 GB along with up to 64 GB of internal memory. And then there are digital cameras and DSLRs. 4K video and photos with a higher pixel count also mean faster and faster data transfer speeds.
The UFS cards claim to have better sequential read and write speeds than microSD cards. Samsung claims that the sequential read speeds for the 256 GB UFS cards is 530 MBps and the random read speed is around 20 times faster than a microSD card. The sequential write speed is 170 MBps, which Samsung claims is twice as fast as a microSD card and the random write speed is around 350 times as fast. Now that’s a lot of technical jargon but what does that truly mean? Well Samsung says that you’ll be able to read a 5 GB movie in 10 seconds. And you’ll be able to shoot 24 continuous, extra fine JPEG photographs with a DSLR in seven seconds; a chore that would take you 32 seconds with a UHS-1 card. However you look at it, that’s impressive.
The way that the UFS accomplishes this is that it allows for command queueing and simultaneous reading and writing by using separately dedicated paths. This doubles throughput and lets the card take multiple commands at once.
The only drawback of these cards is that they don’t offer as much storage as microSDs. The latter currently offers up to 512 GB while UFS maxes out at 256 GB. There is also no standard industry tech that uses these cards or has the slots to use them; almost no laptops, smartphones, tablets or cameras have this technology. They have appeared as embedded memory in the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones but didn’t reappear for their descendants. Hopefully the S8 and S8 Edge will feature them.
Technology like this needs to embraced as soon as it comes out. Next year’s Android phones should have this capability Storage options have always evolved from the Floppy disk to the solid state drive and will keep evolving until humans no longer need space to put their stuff, which is never.