A few years ago it seemed that expandable storage for Android was on the way out. Google wasn’t a big fan. Samsung didn’t offer it on the Galaxy S6. Things looked bleak. Then, however, things turned around. Android Marshmallow brought adoptable storage and Samsung brought back the microSD slot on the Galaxy S7. Most major phone releases in the last year (notably not the Pixel) have allowed for adding a memory card. With that in mind, PNY provided a review sample of the Elite-X microSDXC storage card. I’ve been using it for a while and have some thoughts on it.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a memory card for your phone. Of course there’s storage size and manufacturer. But then there are also other things like speed class, bus speed, and more. There are a lot of acronyms printed on the front of a modern memory card. I’ll briefly define these terms here in relation to the PNY Elite-X in an attempt to bring some clarity.
microSDXC – microSDXC can be broken up into three parts. First, there’s micro which just describes the physical size and dimensions. It’s the size that you’re familiar with if you’ve ever used a memory card with a smart phone. SD stands for the Secure Digital which is just an industry standard format for storage. Then there’s XC which means eXtended Capacity. XC refers to any microSD card over 32 GB in size.
Class – Class simply refers to the speed at which the card can be written. The PNY Elite-X is a Class 10, U3 card. Class 10 means that data can be written sequentially at a minimum of 10 MB/second. The U in U3 indicates the card supports Ultra High Speed (UHS) transfers. The 3 tell us the card is UHS3 compatible. UHS3 requires a minimum speed of 30 MB/second.
Bus – A bus is simply the physical method that data is passed along between computer components. There’s an I on the card which tells us it is UHS-I compatible. UHS-I supports transfers of up to 104 MB/second.
Adoptable Storage – This is a feature that was introduced in Android Marshmallow. Basically, Android has the ability to take an external storage device like a microSD card and “adopt” it like it is internal storage. That means, to your phone, the external storage will look just like internal storage. Apps, cache, photos, etc will be stored there without any concern about internal vs external storage. Since adopted storage is accessed frequently you’ll want to use a fast card to avoid OS sluggishness. Adopted storage isn’t portable. You can’t just pop it in and out of your devices without reformatting it.
For purposes of this review I only used the PNY Elite-X as external storage. I did not adopt it as internal so that I could test it against multiple devices. Most of my usage was in the Moto Z. The Moto Z supports up to 2 TB cards and UHS-I so the Elite-X is a spec fit.
I did some benchmark testing using AndroBench which is an excellent utility for testing storage. Using a 64 MB file size with 32 MB cache the Elite-X/Moto Z combo reached 31.69 MB/second write speeds. This is pretty good. For example, the Moto Z records 4K video at 6 MB/second so the Elite-X is more than capable of handling that.
The write speeds in the specs and advertising are, as always, theoretical values. They’re dependent on a lot of factors including hardware, software, buffer, etc. It’s sort of like how a 64 GB card doesn’t actually have 64 GB available when in actual use. Overhead and formatting reduce the actual availability. In the case of transfer speeds CPU, memory, and cache can all play a part in write speeds.
The Elite-X is a fast card – plenty fast enough for most modern applications. It’s backed by PNY’s solid reputation (30+ years in business) and is available on Amazon for $28 for 64 GB and $15 for 32 GB on Amazon.