MLC MicroSD Cards

Discussion in 'General Dash Cam Discussion' started by reverend, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    As manufacturers are producing cheaper microSD cards there is a move to cheaper TLC memory (also known as 3 bit MLC) which although can work short term may not last as long as expected and results in warranty RMAs where possible from the vendor / manufacturer.

    For some people the TLC cards may even outlive the dashcam - it all depends on use types etc.

    Usually this problem appears as a card flipping to read only mode - this is a protection mechanism designed to make sure that even if the card is starting to suffer memory failure you can access your data.

    In the event of a dashcam you're probably not so bothered about that, but if it was your holiday pictures or photos of your family you'd appreciate that function more.

    Dashcams are quite heavy users of memory cards as they're always writing - TLC memory cards are great in things like phones or media players where they're mainly reading, but they're not so well suited to writes and will fail earlier than MLC or even SLC cards.

    If you don't do much driving then you'll probably never have an issue with your TLC memory cards - if you've got a dashcam that has parking modes or is recording full time then at some point you'll probably come across these issues.

    This post is just to give a quick reference of what cards are currently known to be MLC - these all carry a price premium as they're a higher quality product that will last longer and usually have a longer warranty.

    In addition to these cards there are also industrial microSD cards available from various vendors but these will cost even more than the cards below.

    As of March 2015 the list includes (originally taken from http://ourberries.com/2014/09/16/microsd-round-reviews-giveaways/):

    Barun Electronic’s Gold Flash PRO (64GB) MLC
    Memorette (memento) Standard premium (8GB) MLC
    Lexar High-Performance UHS-I cards [300x] (64GB) MLC [LSDMI64GBBNL300A]
    Lexar High-Performance UHS-I 633x MicroSD (64GB) MLC [LSDMI64GBBNL633R]
    Samsung PRO [New 2014 Series] (64GB) MLC [MB-MG64DA]
    Sony High-Speed R95 UHS-3 (64GB) MLC [SR64UXA]
    PNY Turbo Performance High Speed MicroSD (64GB) MLC [P-SDUX64U190-GE]
    Transcend Ultimate 600x UHS-1 (32GB) MLC [TS32GUSDHC10U1]

    Please add any more cards that are confirmed MLC to this list!
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
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  2. jokiin

    jokiin Well-Known Member Manufacturer

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    I would think the dominant market for micro SD cards theses days is mobile phones so I could see why the lower spec cards are OK for quite a lot of the user base
     
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  3. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    Yeah exactly mate, these little microSD cards are becoming wear and tear items that will be thrown away - if I had a card fail with family pictures on there I wouldn't be happy sending that back to the manufacturer so in a way that probably saves them some money as well!

    I did read the Raspberry Pi can be a bit of a card killer too!
     
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  4. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    And some pictures of the cards to clear up any confusion:

    Barun Electronic’s Gold Flash PRO (64GB) MLC
    goldflash.jpg

    Memorette (memento) Standard premium (8GB) MLC
    momette.jpg

    Lexar High-Performance UHS-I cards [300x] (64GB) MLC [LSDMI64GBBNL300A]
    lexar300.jpg

    Lexar High-Performance UHS-I 633x MicroSD (64GB) MLC [LSDMI64GBBNL633R]
    lexar633.jpg

    Samsung PRO [New 2014 Series] (64GB) MLC [MB-MG64DA]
    samsungpro.jpg
    Sony High-Speed R95 UHS-3 (64GB) MLC [SR64UXA]
    sony.jpg

    PNY Turbo Performance High Speed MicroSD (64GB) MLC [P-SDUX64U190-GE]
    pnyturbo.jpg

    Transcend Ultimate 600x UHS-1 (32GB) MLC [TS32GUSDHC10U1]
    transcendultimate.jpg
     
  5. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    Usually MLC cards will have a longer warranty than TLC cards - for some reason the PNY Turbo only comes with a 1 year warranty. Either that's just because they're trying to keep costs down or it suggests they don't expect them to last too long...
     
  6. AlvinDj

    AlvinDj Active Member Retailer

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    Anyone care enough to take the plunge and tryout PNY? :p
     
  7. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    Nope :p

    I've gone down the Lexar 633x route to try that and so far so good.
     
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  8. AlvinDj

    AlvinDj Active Member Retailer

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    Well... Memorette seems kind'a bad in terms of performance and reliability based on reviews..

    Seems like Gold Flash or PNY would be the bang for buck..

    I've personally tried Gold Flash Pro and it was all good on PanoramaX2 at the moment..
     
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  9. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    To be honest I think that Memorette card can be ruled out as it's only 8GB - it's a brand I've not really heard of before so is that one from your part of the world?

    I think the Gold Flash one definitely is as I've not seen that one for sale here in the UK.

    It will be interesting to see what feedback is on the cards already in use with the latest firmware release :)
     
  10. AlvinDj

    AlvinDj Active Member Retailer

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    Never heard of Memorette before either and neither is it selling over in Singapore..

    The same goes for Gold Flash Pro, and from what I know, it is more widely available only in Korea..

    I got exposed to GoldFlash only through SM after he introduced me otherwise, I wouldn't have heard of it either.. :p
     
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  11. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    All the reviews on these cards give read and write speeds which are not all that important for dashcam use, at least not until we get 16K resolution dashcams!

    What is important is how long they last before there is a serious risk that the video you need will turn out to be corrupted.

    Someone should do a write cycle test, see if they actually last 10,000 cycles... and then repeat the test at 60 degrees C and again at -30 degrees C...

    Of course by the time the test is complete the result wont be much use since the current version of these cards will have been replaced by something new!
     
  12. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    That's not right at all mate, there are lots of cameras already having problems at 1080p video at just 15Mbps due to issues with the random write speeds of the cards they are using - lots of Ambarella cameras are affected by slow cards and will spit out slow card errors as well as the other brands having issues looping etc where the timing of the code is off.

    If you're just constantly looping large files it's easier for the microSD but a lot of cameras now and running files across multiple folders and then the deletions seem to take too long and the buffer of the camera is exhausted and you lose video or get other random behaviour.

    Bizarrely some of the fastest cards are TLC but even then they can cause more issues than they fix as they also usually tend to run hotter in dashcams.

    It does feel like there are also compatibility issues with some controllers running hotter than others which can cause issues.

    The absolute latest Ambarella cameras seem to be having better compatibility but with some of the other platforms the card used can make a big difference.

    The whole point of MLC memory is that it lasts around 5 times longer than 3 bit MLC or TLC - there are already destruction tests out there but these take months to complete and you are right in that by the time you know the results there are already better cards out there.

    The point of this is more to highlight that the problem with cheap TLC cards flipping into read only mode is only going to get worse as bitrates increase and parking mode usage becomes more prevalent - that's why for long term dashcam usage MLC cards are going to be the way to go.

    I've personally not had any cards fail yet but there are posts almost daily around microSD card issues now on here.

    If you have a look around it's hard to find any TLC cards that use error correction or wear levelling - usually down to cost - but if you have a look at some of the higher end MLC cards they all come with those features as well.

    It's mainly cost cutting and the cheaper cards are more suited to phones than dashcams - although even there look at how many cards some of the Android phones destroy when they use them as primary storage - it's scary!

    Don't forget that the 10,000 cycles figure you're quoting from the manufacturer are mating cycles - i.e. how many times you can insert the card into the slot and not always actual expected write cycles as even with decent MLC it could be less than that depending on what other clever sauce they've got in the controller software of the card.

    They all seem to be very careful with what info they release now and usually a sign of warranties dropping is the sign of a cheaper card.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2015
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  13. Street Guardian USA

    Street Guardian USA Well-Known Member Retailer

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    It says a lot when the new Transcend branded DashCam products are only shipped with MLC based microSD cards. It's all about MLC it seems.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2015
  14. Yooshaw

    Yooshaw Active Member

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    I decided to do some quick internet research on this to understand the characteristics of SLC and MLC (TLC is a form of MLC, from what I read). Everything I read seems to point to the opposite of what is being said here. SLC is more reliable, faster, and more expensive than MLC. MLC is found in most consumer electronics because it is cheaper to produce but has a shorter life than SLC. SLC generally uses lower voltages than MLC. TLC stores 3 bits per cell, while MLC stores 4 bits per cell - meaning TLC wears slower due to less read/write cycles per cell. SLC stores 1 bit per cell - thus even longer life.

    http://www.integralmemory.com/faq/what-difference-between-slc-and-mlc-flash-memory-chips

    http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1279762&page_number=3

    http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/MLC-vs-SLC-Which-flash-SSD-is-right-for-you

    All things being equal, it seems SLC>TLC>MLC in terms of speed and longevity. Of course performance varies based on the manufactures implementation.

    I'm no expert, but it seems for long life and faster read/writes, SLC is the way to go (but more expensive). A quick search on Amazon yielded some SLC Micro SD cards -16GB going for $60 by Industrial Micro.
     
  15. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    Good post there :)

    If cameras are having issues with the slowness of current generation MLC cards then that is the fault of the cameras and those cameras need to be blacklisted. Cameras should be designed to use the memory cards in a memory card friendly fashion, using suitable sized buffers to ensure that the memory card does perform lifespan friendly writes. writing to multiple files shouldn't be an issue as long as the buffers are the correct sizes. Possibly the cameras should also avoid completely filling the cards so that the wear levelling can work in the optimal way.

    Parking modes will definitely have a significant impact, especially if they spend a lot of time recording at full frame rate and full resolution.

    I think most of the decent cards use wear levelling but the marketing departments make it a sales feature of the more expensive models and so don't say if the cheaper models use it or not. I think it is probably necessary to get a decent lifespan when used in card unfriendly devices (Android phones?).

    The 10,000 cycles figure wasn't actually the mating cycles, I got it from an MLC card specification. However it was a specification for a previous generation of MLC which used larger cells and had better lifetime as a result. Current generation MLC seems to be specified around 3000 cycles but I assume that it is similar to the TLC where Samsung claim a 1000 cycle lifespan but their TLC memory actually achieves around 3,000, that would put their MLC real lifespan at around 10,000 cycles.

    There is a test here of Samsung's TLC based 840 SSD , it's probably not entirely valid for a micro SD card but I assume the TLC memory is basically the same and I don't see why they would use different wear levelling controllers in the two devices since they are built into the memory chip silicon. The conclusions are interesting even if it isn't entirely valid for their micro SD cards.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2015
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  16. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    @Yooshaw I never mentioned SLC as it's getting rare in microSD cards these days and is hard to get hold of in the UK but that is the most reliable type available and used to have 10 times the write cycle capability of MLC. It's only available in the smaller sizes though and I've got to admit I do prefer using a larger card which is why I went down the MLC route. Also if you look at some of the speeds of the SLC cards some are not great - look at the Delkin Industrial range for example. I've no idea about the speeds of the Panasonic ones as there aren't a massive amount of figures out there.

    In theory, if you've got a 64GB MLC card that should last about half as long as the SLC card would. In practice like Nigel said without physically testing multiple cards of the same type we just have to guess a lot of the time.

    TLC is also known as 3 bit MLC and in reality SLC > MLC > TLC.

    Not sure where you read about TLC being more reliable than MLC but that's wrong - maybe it's in that EETimes link but it's not working from here.

    @Nigel I did find an SD card destruction tool which I'm going to sacrifice a couple of my cards to and see how long it takes to kill them :)

    I totally agree with the compatibility thing - it's a pain in the arse having to keep trying different cards but on the plus side now I have a selection it makes testing any awkward cameras a bit easier.

    The Mini 0806 for example worked with everything I threw at it and that's great as far as I'm concerned :)

    I am starting to wonder if some of the cheaper cards actually do have decent wear levelling and ECC etc as the speed some are failing at is suggesting they don't!
     
  17. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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  18. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    If one camera can work with all cards it sort of suggests that it is not the cards that are the issue!

    @kamkar1 found the same thing with the mini 0806 and I reckon his collection of cards was probably more of a challenge than yours!

    But that must be a different issue to the issue of cards wearing out after 1,2,3 thousand write cycles, that is down to the construction of the cards.

    I really haven't got any decent idea of how much longer an MLC card actually lasts compared to a TLC card and if they are actually worth the extra cost, somebody must have done some testing to save us having to wait till summer for your cards to die, or even longer if your testing MLC cards!
     
  19. reverend

    reverend Well-Known Member

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    This one makes quite interesting reading mate:
    http://forum.embeddedarm.com/showthread.php?3-SD-card-endurance-test

    They test 40 Sandisk Ultra cards until they all die - but if you read through there you'll see some quite interesting comments on compatibility and killing cards by taking away power at the wrong time.

    It's a good point on cost - MLC cards are more expensive, but in a way as a dashcam is insurance you're just paying more insurance to ensure that if something does happen you're not going to take the card out and find it's in read only mode and hasn't recording anything for a week or two!

    A lot of people like cheap so they'll still go for the cheapest they can find which is why we see so many people on here with fake cards / upgraded cards which saved them probably less than the cost of a Mars bar :D
     
  20. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    I'm fairly certain that an MLC is better value per write cycle which is why I have a Samsung Pro as my main card, the knowledge that it is far more likely to be working when needed is also important. However I'm not sure if I'm actually likely to exceed it's write cycle limit before it's obsolete and if you don't use the write cycles then they may have been a waste of money! I suspect the MLC is worth it but it would be nice to know.

    Taking away the power during a write seems to be very bad for SD cards as the write levelling can be in the middle of reorganising the card and if you mess up it's information then you can end up with the wear levelling not working or even parts of files in the middle of other files. Considering there is nothing to stop you removing an SD card in the middle of a write and there is no supercapacitor backup embedded in it this seems a rather poor design feature! Not sure if this applies to all makes though, maybe the cheaper ones are as easy to corrupt as FAT format disks while the decent ones are more like NTFS format disks and pretty difficult to kill.

    Wonder if that is why windows phones have the SD card located where you have to power off to change it?
     
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