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Pretec's 3GB CompactFlash card. Copyright © 2002, Michael R. Tomkins.  All rights reserved. Pretec takes CF capacities to an amazing new high
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, November 19, 2002 - 19:13 EST)

Fremont, California-based peripherals company Pretec Electronics Corp. has announced three new additions to its CompactFlash line that take the popular flash memory format to truly stunning new capacity highs.

Pretec has broken a capacity record that it says it jointly holds with a number of other manufacturers. Delkin, Kingston, Lexar, SanDisk, SimpleTech and Toshiba are amongst the companies offering Type-I CompactFlash cards in capacities of 1GB, and Pretec state in their press release that they also offer a 1GB card (although in talking to booth staff, it became apparent that their 1GB Type-I card is not yet shipping, and availability is undecided. Pricing should be around $900 for this card, incidentally...)

Now, the barrier has been raised to a whopping 3GB - but most current digital cameras aren't capable of addressing such a large capacity due to the file systems they use. Three new CompactFlash cards were announced in the press release, a Type-I 2GB card and Type-II cards with capacities of 1.5 and 3GB respectively. A price of US$2499 for the 3GB card is quoted in the press release, with availability set for year's end - but note that this is only for sampling quantities, and not retail.

Pretec reps wouldn't be drawn on when the cards would reach retail, noting that they currently only have a total of 3 or 4 working samples of the 3GB card in total. Nor could they give an indication of expected retail pricing, which we'd speculate is unlikely to be decided until nearer to volume production. They did, however, offer some other details that weren't in the press release. Sampling pricing for the 1.5GB card will apparently be in the region of US$1250, and for the 2GB card in the region of US$1700 - 1800.

We also chatted briefly with Pretec about the suitability of these new cards for digital camera use. Obviously, with the increasingly large file sizes produced by current digital cameras, many photographers will see a 3GB card as ideal - allowing a large number of images to be captured before you run out of capacity. Kodak's recently announced 14 megapixel DCS Pro 14n, for example, writes 15MB RAW files - allowing a couple of hundred images to be stored on a 3GB card.

However, most current digital cameras use the FAT16 file system, which has a maximum addressable capacity of only 2GB - so whilst the smaller two of the newly announced cards will be just fine, you'd be unable to address 1/3rd of the capacity of the 3GB card in most cameras. If you want to get the most out of the 3GB card you'll specifically have to select a camera that uses a less restrictive file system such as FAT32, which limits your choices of camera greatly.

Pretec has not attempted to offer any workaround through the card's own firmware, in the manner that happened when hard-disk capacities outstripped the operating systems that were in use some years ago. Instead, the company is relying on the camera manufacturers to offer FAT32-based cameras by the time the 3GB card ships. There's a potential for some manufacturers to upgrade existing cameras as well, but whether this will happen will likely depend on how many users want to make the jump to such large cards.

To be sure, this is a very impressive step from Pretec - but whether the cards sell in any significant quantities is going to depend heavily on retail pricing, and manufacturer support for alternative file systems.

Pretec's 1.5GB, 2GB and 3GB CompactFlash cards. Copyright © 2002, Michael R. Tomkins.  All rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!

Original Source Press Release:

Pretec introduces the world's largest capacity 1.5 GB, 2GB and 3GB CompactFlash Card

Las Vegas, NV, November 18, 2002 - Pretec Electronics Corp., the innovative and quality flash disk manufacturer since 1993, today introduced 1.5 gigabytes (GB), 2GB and 3GB CompactFlashTM Card (CF), the highest capacity of any small form factor flash memory card in the world. The new devices offer great solution for the need of high storage capacity dictated by the ever increasing demand for storing large digital content files, such as audio, digital still and video images.

The highest capacity CF card currently available in the market is 1GB, also available from Pretec. The demonstration of the 1.5GB CF card will be shown at Pretec booth #11258 at Central Hall, LVCC. Samples available immediately. 2GB and 3GB CF cards from Pretec will be demonstrated at Pretec private suite in Comdex by invitation only. 3GB CF card will be priced at $2499 for sampling quantity by the end of this year.

Industrial and military grade 1.5GB, 2GB, and 3GB CF cards are also available from Pretec. Designed with precision mechanics, and full metal protection, the breakthrough product sustains a wide range ( -40℃~125℃) working temperature and offers ultimate level of new data protection and security features to prevent user's image files, software, crucial data and products from being damaged. The card supports ATA/True IDE standard and consumes low power when operating, ideal for the applications used in harsh environment such as military aircraft, medical instrumentation, transportation vehicles, test and measurement equipments. The new ruggedized 1.5GB, 2GB and 3GB CF cards are another excellent track record of Pretec's relentless pursuit of innovation.

About Pretec
Pretec™ Electronics Corp. (http://www.pretec.com) offers a complete spectrum of small form factor memory cards and card readers such as ATA/CF card, IDE & Mini-IDE Flash Drive (MIDE), SmartMedia™, MultiMedia Card™, and SD Card for the digital imaging, mobile computing, and Military/Industrial Control markets; and is the creator of Innovative CompactI/O™ cards for PocketPC™, digital cameras and many IA devices. Pretec has consistently demonstrated the highest capacity CF cards in the world; such as 80MB, 128MB, 160MB, 320MB, 640MB, 1.5GB, 2GB and 3GB CF card at various locations around the world for the past four years.

*Note: MIDE, CompactI/O, CompactModem, and CompactLAN are trademarks of Pretec Electronics Corporation. PocketPC™ is trademark of Microsoft Corporation. All other trademarks mentioned herein are recognized as the property of their respective holders.

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