ALL ABOUT MICRO SD CARDS
by BlackVue Australia
Dash cams utilise various different types of media to store the data from recordings, however the most prevalent in industry is by far, the micro SD Card. BlackVue in particular takes advantage of micro SD cards, in part for their small form factor, increasing reliability and impressive speeds: both read and write.
We dissect some common brands, get into various technical points and identify different types of flash memory. Our goal is to help point BlackVue dash cam users in the right direction for the most suitable micro SD card for their camera.
What's the difference?
What do most micro SD cards share in common? They're all micro, and we can never find them when they fall underneath our tables. A little known fact is that micro SD cards contain a whole plethora of differences, starting from the way data is written to the cells to how the IC (integrated circuit) corrects for errors.
With such a large selection of micro SD cards on the market today, it is crucial to find one that is suitable for your BlackVue dash camera.
Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash
Dash cam manufacturers often work directly with the SD card manufacturer to ensure the correct algorithms are implemented onto the micro SD card. They do this to help prevent card faults, provide better profiles and increase reliability. As the field is rapidly developing and changing, many improvements can come out in a short period of time. Our mission is to find the most compatible cards, as well as provide excellent customer service if you find yourself face-to-face with any SD card problem.
TLC, MLC, SLC... V-NAND?
The terms above may appear familiar, as these actually all relate to the type of flash memory available. There is TLC 2D planar NAND flash making up the bulk of micro SD cards available today, and now we have the surge of 3D V-NAND, or simply V-NAND (Vertical NAND). NAND refers to the flash storage medium itself, and is again associated with the way data (for example, a video) is written to the micro SD card.
TLC, MLC and SLC are known as Triple Layer Cell, Multi-Level Cell and Single Level Cell respectively. They represent the amount of bits stored on each cell on the micro SD card. TLC uses 3 bits per cell, MLC uses 2 bits and SLC uses 1 bit per cell. In lay-mans terms, it represents a possibility for higher capacity, with TLC over MLC and SLC, but in contrast, slower write speed due to the amount of bits that require checking per cell. To say it plainly, TLC cards are more computationally expensive for the micro SD card, yet are able to support higher capacities due to the higher density of bits per cell. Unfortunately, this also means it is less tolerant to cell-to-cell interference, a physical limitation of the 2D NAND architecture, which in turn results in lower read/write life cycles and increases the chance of card failure. From this, we can infer that MLC cards are going to be more reliable!
Vertical-NAND (V-NAND) is a newer technology that overcomes the limitations of regular NAND types. It still incorporates the usage of TLC, MLC and SLC, however it provides a newer and better method for increased reliability and card storage capacity. This is great news for dash cameras, as it means we can expect larger micro SD cards (greater than 128GB) with higher reliability and longer life cycles. With a more reliable micro SD card, we can worry less about potential card corruption and continue on driving with peace of mind.
Which one to use?
High quality dash cameras require MLC type cards as a bare minimum. SLC cards are not so easy to find in a consumer market and are therefore not a worthwhile recommendation. TLC cards are a big no-no, which is simply due to the fact the life cycle of a TLC card is too low to reliably operate a dash cam with. As flash memory is consumable, it can only do so many cycles (when the card fills up and starts over, or writing over the oldest file) before it reaches its end of life.
We hold the recommendation to always use BlackVue micro SD cards (pictured at the top) for the most optimal use with your BlackVue dash camera. This is due to the fact that BlackVue have a strong existing relationship with their micro SD card manufacturer, and are able to fine-tune the cards for use with BlackVue cameras. Using a non-BlackVue micro SD card in your dash camera will not void your warranty, however it will potentially provide you with a problem quicker than you realise. It is a very fair position to purchase a third-party micro SD card (instead of using the dash cam supplied), as we as BlackVue Australia are continually testing different micro SD cards. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure your BlackVue dash camera is working well.
We are not able to make guarantees on a fault free micro SD card, due to the ever developing nature of the industry and how dash cameras are furthermore becoming more advanced: utilising faster CPU's, recording in 4K, saving front and rear footage.
As with all micro SD cards, it is a matter of trial and error. We need to re-iterate our point and be honest in the sense that every single card will eventually fail, what is important is making sure you are using the right card for the right camera.
Our unchanging position is to always use the BlackVue micro SD card for the most performance and longevity, yet we fully respect your rights (as the customer) to seek your own micro SD card and use that with your BlackVue camera.