That’s what XFM memory cards are like: as fast as an SSD!

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One of the reasons why memory cards are rarely used in PCs is because of their low performance when accessing data. This is because the communication interfaces are not fast enough. This problem is intended to be solved by the JEDEC with its new XFM standard. What improvements does it bring?

Memory cards are the replacement for the classic floppy disks of yesteryear, we carry them up and down storing our data and insert them into the readers of our devices so that they can access the data. Unfortunately in performance these have lagged behind other forms of storage such as NVMe SSDs. This is where the new XFM standard comes into play, which will mark a before and after in Memory Cards.

What is a memory card?

First of all, we have to define what a memory card is and what separates it from an external storage system such as a hard drive or an SSD that connects via USB or another type of external communication interface.

  • First of all, the memory card lacks the necessary hardware to access and manipulate its data, it by itself cannot access its own content. So it is necessary that we connect it to the corresponding interface that will perform this task, which leads us to the second point.
  • And it is that the reading and writing devices of a Memory Card must be externally accessible, normally in the casings of the devices themselves for easy removal and replacement of the same. Although there are exceptions such as mobile phones where the interface is internal.
  • They have to be portable, so they are protected by a plastic casing that covers everything except the intercom pins.
  • The memory used to store data is usually the NAND Flash.

Memory cards became popular due to the fact that it is a way to be able to transmit data between different devices through portable storage in a cheap way and without having to install the hulk that is a floppy drive in them. The first systems to use them were video game consoles when they adopted the CD. Later, digital cameras did it, the first ones went with a floppy disk and eventually the PC.

Today the type of memory card is SD in its various variations and many PCs are sold with an integrated reader, this being the successor to the classic floppy drives.

What is XFM memory?

XFM-memory

The acronym XFM refers to a recently approved JEDEC standard for the construction of next generation memory cards. The acronym stands for Crossover Flash Memory. With the new standard they hope to completely replace the SD and UFS standards once and for all in order to adopt NVMe on memory cards as well.

The new concept uses the PCI Express interface just like M.2 storage drives, but with a number of important differences. First of all, they will not use the same communication interface and, therefore, we will not be able to connect a microSD card to an interface for M.2 and vice versa. The second difference comes from the fact that XFM memory cards will not use four PCI Express lines, but 1 or 2 of them, so the bandwidth will be less. We are also not going to see DRAM memory chips as cache for NVMe, so despite the fact that it is a qualitative leap in bandwidth and access speed compared to current memory cards, they are not equal in performance to state disks either. solid NVMe.

The only existing problem is in the fact that a higher data transfer per second implies a higher consumption, so it is very likely that this type of card will not be standardized in mobile phones or that we will see a future variant called microXFM with a single PCI Express line at lower speed.

Why is XFM memory necessary?

Aya Neo SSD NVMe

If you have a Nintendo Switch and you are usually playing with it, you will have noticed how slow it is when downloading from its digital store or simply when loading the games. This is because it uses an SD interface to access data on game cards that are based on that standard.

We have another example in portable consoles based on PC hardware such as the Steam Deck or the Aya Neo, where in both we can see how an NVMe SSD unit has been added, which takes up a lot of space, generates a lot of heat and consumes a lot of energy. An XFMEXPRESS card reader would be the ideal solution for this type of system. Just like for the successor to Nintendo’s hybrid console.

SSD Network Minimag

Nor can we forget the professionals who record video content with their professional cameras. RED brand cameras, for example, use SSD drives to store data at high speed. The inclusion of XFMEXPRESS memories will make these units lighter and will bring video creation at very high resolutions closer to ordinary people.

In any case, the appearance of the XFM standard results in an important qualitative leap in ultralight computers and tablets, especially those that have to depend on very low-speed hard drives and very poor performance, as well as SD interfaces that make go with pedals

Is it a replacement for the current M.2?

XFM Express

Well, no, they are not, since they cannot achieve the same performance, since, on the one hand, they are DRAM-Less and, on the other, they have less bandwidth. These are not NVMe SSD drives and neither are they a replacement for them, but rather their usefulness is to provide the bandwidth needed by devices with lower performance and consumption.

What we are going to see will be an embedded version of this, the eXFM, in the same way that the eMMC and eUFS exist. That is to say, a soldered-to-plate version that we will surely see in some ultralight laptops, iPad Pro-style tablets and next-generation portable video game consoles. In other words, it is not the replacement for NVMe SSDs, but it is a way of bringing a good part of their advantages to more modest devices in terms of consumption.