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

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

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

The acronym XFM refers to a recently approved JEDEC standard for building 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 to adopt the NVMe also in memory cards.

The new concept uses the PCI Express interface just like M.2 storage drives, but with a number of important differences. In the first place, they will not use the same communication interface and, therefore, we will not be able to connect a microSD card in 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 lanes, but 1 or 2 of them, so the bandwidth will be less. We are not going to see DRAM memory chips as a cache for the NVMe either, so although it is a qualitative leap in bandwidth and access speed compared to current memory cards, they are not equal in performance to state disks. solid NVMe.

The only existing problem is in the fact that a higher data transfer per second means 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 only one PCI Express lane at a slower speed.

Why is XFM memory necessary?

Aya Neo SSD NVMe

If you have a Nintendo Switch and you use to be playing with it, you will have noticed how slow it is when it comes to 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 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. As for the successor to Nintendo’s hybrid console.

SSD Red Minimag

Nor can we forget the professionals who shoot video content with their professional cameras. RED cameras for example make use of SSD drives to store data at high speed. The inclusion of XFMEXPRESS memories will make these units lighter and bring the creation of video 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 rely on very low-speed hard drives and poor performance, as well as SD interfaces that make go with pedals.

Is it a replacement to 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 a lower bandwidth. It is not about NVMe SSD units and neither is it a replacement for them, but rather its usefulness is to provide the bandwidth that lower performance and consumption devices need.

What we are going to see is an embedded version of this, the eXFM, in the same way that eMMC and eUFS exist. That is to say, a soldered-to-board 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 of the NVMe SSDs, but it is a way to bring a good part of the advantages of these to the most modest devices in terms of consumption.

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