Today we’re looking at a budget Micro SDXC card from Toshiba, the Exceria N301. This card is available online for about £15 (for a 64GB unit), putting it in the same price tier as faster specification offerings from Sandisk, Lexar, Kingston and others. Let’s see whether it’s worth the extra expense.
Summary and score
The N301 isn’t a bad card, but it’s just not as competitive as other offerings on the market right now. Its performance is consistent, but consistently poorer. At the moment, it makes sense to go with an alternative; if the price was closer to £12 then it could be worth a look.
Features & Specifications
- Capacities: 8 / 16 / 32 / 64GB
- Up to 48MB/s read speed
- UHS-I interface
- UHS U1 speeds (min 10MB/s)
- SDA version 4.20
- X-ray proof ISO7816-1 compatible
We tested the Exceria N301 in a Kingston USB 3.0 UHS-II card reader to perform benchmarks, then in a Nikon D7000 DSLR for our real world test.
We tested the N301 against the £140 Exceria Pro N101 UHS-II card we reviewed earlier, and two other cards that are much closer in performance: a £10 Sandisk Ultra (32GB) and a £30 Transcend R95 / W60 (64GB).
We’ll be testing the Exceria N301 in our test rig, which has a Core i5 6600K processor, 16GB of Crucial DDR4 RAM and runs Windows 10.
CrystalDiskMark has been one of my favourite benchmarks for evaluating storage speeds for a while now, thanks to its varied incompressible workload and extremely readable results. Here’s the 3.0.3 x64 version of the benchmark; all results are in MB/s.
|Read (Seq)||Write (Seq)||Read (4K)||Write (4K)|
|Toshiba Exceria N301 (UHS-I & U1)||47||16||6||1.0|
|Toshiba Exceria Pro N101 (UHS-II & U3)||248||220||13||0.9|
|Transcend R95 W60 (UHS-I & U3)||94||66||5.5||0.7|
|Sandisk Ultra (Class 10)||96||15||7.5||2.2|
Sadly, the N301 lags behind its competitors. The read and write speeds are slower than every other card we tested, even the cheaper Sandisk Ultra card which boasts a doubly fast sequential read speed. However, write speeds are almost identical between these two cards. 4K read and write is less important, as we shouldn’t be writing files of this size anyway, but still shows a performance differential.
AS SSD Benchmark
AS SSD is another benchmarking tool quite similar to CrystalDiskMark, which uses predominantly incompressible data across a range of workloads including sequential tests, random performance and access times. First three numbers are MB/s and access time is in ms.
|Read (Seq)||Write (Seq)||Access (Read)||Access (Write)|
|Exceria Pro N101||211||214||0.377||3.7|
|Transcend R95 W60||90||28||0.615||7.05|
The N301 again falls a little behind the times, with read speeds half that of the Sandisk Ultra. Access times are also fractionally up across the board too. That suggests you won’t notice much difference writing to the card, but reading the photos off the card and onto the computer will take roughly twice as long.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO produces rather less comprehensible results than CrystalDiskMark, but still provides a good test of compressible data transfer. It also provides a lot of data points; I’ve selected six from across the range. Settings were the default: 256MB total length and queue depth of 4, testing from 1KB to 8MB. All results are in MB/s.
|Exceria Pro N101||5||19||178||244||257||257|
|Transcend R95 W60||2||9||90||94||95||95|
|Exceria Pro N101||.3||1||185||220||228||228|
|Transcend R95 W60||.2||1||61||63||64||64|
The N301 starts slow on this test, and doesn’t improve much compared to the other contestants. It reaches its maximum read speed by the 64KB block size, and write speeds only increase glacially. Ultimately, it ends up where we expect: a little behind the Sandisk Ultra in writing, and half the speed when reading.
We conclude with HD Tune, a benchmark which produces three scores for average read speed (in MB/s), read access time (in ms), and burst read rate (in MB/s).
|HD Tune Pro 5.50 Read||Average Read||Access Time||Burst Rate|
|Exceria Pro N101||160||0.4||82.8|
|Transcend R95 W60||80||0.6||35.4|
Read performance starts fairly promising at 45 MB/s, and this level is maintained throughout. That makes the N301 our most consistent performer, albeit our slowest as well. Access times are reasonable, but burst rates are far below what we’ve seen from other cards.
Real world test
We’ll also perform one real-life benchmark, originally proposed by Bob Janes at dpreview.com. His original post is fairly comprehensive, so we’ll give a slightly shorter version:
- Set up the camera to shoot RAW files at its highest continuous shooting rate at a fixed exposure, fixed shutter speed and with manual focus.
- Bring up an online stopwatch on a PC monitor, and make it giant.
- Ensure that focus and ISO are set to get a readable image down to 1/100th of a second accuracy
- Start the stopwatch and shoot continuously using the camera
- After some time, the rate of shooting will slow significantly, as the camera’s buffer is full. Continue shooting for 10 more shots.
- Note the stopwatch reading from each shot, starting one shot after the first slow-down. This should show how quickly each image is written to the card.
So, we did that; here are the results. We noted that after the buffer filled, we got two shots quickly, then a delay, then another two shots… so we’ll calculate our speed rate by dividing the file size of two images (2 * 17.8 MB = 35.6 MB) by the average time between each two shot burst.
Our budget Exceria card writes two (slightly larger) images, totalling 35.6MB on average every 1.532 seconds, working out at a rate of 23.24 MB/s. Not bad!
For the expensive Exceria card, we got an average time of 0.787 seconds, for a rate of 45.2 MB/s. On the Transcend card it was an average time of 0.843 seconds, for a rate of 43.4 MB/s. (Feel free to check our math). Let’s put that in a table!
|File size||Average shot-to-shot time||Write speed|
|Exceria N301||35.6 MB||1.532 seconds||23.2 MB/s|
|Exceria Pro N101||35.6 MB||0.787 seconds||45.2 MB/s|
|Transcend R95 W60||36.6 MB||0.843 seconds||43.4 MB/s|
|Sandisk Ultra||36.6 MB||1.650 seconds||22.2 MB/s|
The N301 performs better than expected in the practical test, out-performing the similarly budget Sandisk Ultra — even if it’s about half as fast as the more expensive options we’ve tested. Still, it’s decent performance for a UHS-1 chip.
The N301 is a reasonable card, but it’s outclassed by others at its current £16 price point. For this reason, it’s hard to recommend the card unless it becomes more competitive in price; perhaps around £10 to £13. Check the current price on Amazon below, or read on for two alternatives.
Alternatives to consider
The SanDisk Ultra should offer nearly double the read speeds at a similar price. This seems the obvious choice for a 64GB SD card at the £16 price point.
Kingston’s 64GB UHS-I card is a pound cheaper than the Toshiba N301, and offers similar specs. If you want to save a pound or two and don’t read about slower read performance, this is a good choice.