The Exascend Archon 1TB CFexpress Type B Memory Card is a high-capacity, high-performance media solution that has been certified and approved by RED. Although it is being primarily targeted at users of the RED V-Raptor, it would also be a good card for use with cameras such as the Canon R5, Canon R3, Canon C500 Mark II, Canon C300 Mark III, Nikon Z9, and the new DJI Ronin 4D.
CFexpress cards have only been around for a few years and higher capacity versions can be expensive. With more and more cameras starting to come out that are recording to CFexpress Type B, hopefully, prices will eventually start to come down. What you clearly need to know with most types of media is that they aren’t all created equal. Different cards have varying degrees of performance and often card manufacturers won’t quote minimum sustained speeds, instead, they quote maximum possible read and write speeds. This can make choosing the right card confusing.
With the design of the PCIe Gen3 interface, the fastest cards can provide speeds of up to around 1700 MB/s read and 1700 MB/s write, which is over 3 times faster than the best CFast 2.0 and XQD cards.
The Exascend Archon 1TB CFexpress Type B Memory Card has a claimed maximum 1700MB/s read speed, and a 1600MB/s write speed.
It is claimed to be capable of recording 8K 120p.
So how do these speeds compare to some other 1TB cards on the market?
|READ SPEED||WRITE SPEED|
|Exascend Archon 1TB||1700MB/s||1600MB/s|
|PERGEAR 1TB CFE-B Pro||1600MB/s||1200MB/s|
|Angelbird 1TB AV Pro||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
|Delkin Devices 1TB POWER||1730MB/s||1540MB/s|
|Silicon Power 1TB CFexpress Cinema EX||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
|ProGrade Digital 1TB Gold||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
|Exascend 1TB CFE4 Series||1700MB/s||1700MB/s|
|Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
What you clearly need to be aware of is that these listed speeds are largely irrelevant in the real world and you are not going to see maximum read or write speeds. The most important speed to try and find out is sustained read and write speeds which are generally a lot lower than maximum speeds. Unfortunately, some manufacturers don’t quote sustained speeds.
So what are the minimum sustained speeds of the cards? Well, below you can see the ones that I was able to find information about.
|MINIMUM SUSTAINED READ SPEED||MINIMUM SUSTAINED WRITE SPEED|
|Exascend Archon 1TB||Not listed||850MB/s|
|PERGEAR 1TB CFE-B Pro||Not listed||420MB/s|
|Angelbird 1TB AV Pro||1000MB/s||1000MB/s|
|Delkin Devices 1TB POWER||Not listed||Not listed|
|Silicon Power 1TB CFexpress Cinema EX||Not listed||Not listed|
|ProGrade Digital 1TB Gold||Not listed||400MB/s|
|Exascend 1TB CFE4 Series||Not listed||1000MB/s|
|Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series||Not listed||400MB/s|
As you can see, the minimum sustained write speeds of the cards can vary greatly. Please note that these are the minimum guaranteed write speeds and they are not necessarily as high as what you will get in the real world.
The Exascend card incorporates a lot of features such as:
Afterburner is a performance-enhancing Exascend technology that leverages SLC cache to boost sequential read and write speeds in storage devices with 3D TLC NAND.
Adaptive Thermal Control
Adaptive Thermal Control technology tackles the issue of overheating and thermal throttling that is unavoidable in high-performance PCIe NVMe flash storage devices.
Exascend offers unlimited over-provisioning (OP), allowing customers to set the ideal level of OP to match their application’s exact demands. No artificial limitations. Unlimited flexibility.
The card allows for a unique level of control over hardware, firmware, and manufacturing. This allows the card to be tuned. By tuning the performance of the product specifically for particular applications, it is claimed that Exascend can achieve the highest possible performance to thermals and performance to power ratios.
SuperCruise is a signature Exascend technology that optimizes write performance for stability. This is claimed to ensure unbeatable stable write performance even in the most demanding applications.
The card also supports AES-256, data retention, firmware encryption, RAID ECC, TCG Opal, multi-image firmware backup, and other Exascend technologies.
CFexpress cards can be found in capacities up to 2TB. 512GB capacity cards tend to be the most popular, but with more cameras coming to market that are recording in higher resolutions and higher bitrates, the need for larger capacity cards will only increase.
So when I mounted the Exascend Archon 1TB CFexpress card it shows the actual capacity as being 1.02TB. Given the RED Mini Mag controversy, it is good to know that you are getting what is being advertised. However, with some memory cards and media, companies reserve more space for buffer cleaning purposes which offer more stable writing performance.
Record 8K RAW
Cameras with dual-lane PCIe 3.0 interfaces, can certainly take advantage of the high write speeds CFexpress offers. From what I understand, the Canon C500 Mark II, Canon C300 Mark II, and R5 all use a dual-lane PCIe 3.0 interface. I am also assuming that is the case with the RED V-Raptor.
The maximum data rates when recording on the RED V-Raptor can reach up to 800MB/s so you need a card that is capable of sustaining those speeds. This is why certain cameras require certified media to be used because sometimes the data rates that are required can’t be met by just any card.
Above you can see the only two cards that are certified for use with the V-Raptor.
In contrast, the Canon R5 only needs a card that is capable of sustaining 400MB/s to record 8K RAW.
Above you can see the card requirement speeds listed by Canon for recording 8K on the R5. The speeds offered by CFexpress Type B cards far exceed the requirements of most cameras that use this type of media.
The card should also have no problems recording 8K RAW from the Nikon Z9.
In cameras such as the Nikon Z6/ Z6 II and Z7/ Z7 II that only feature a single lane PCIe 2.0 interface, the camera can only read and write to CFexpress cards at throttled down speeds that are similar to what you would already get with an XQD card. As these cameras don’t even use the full write speed capabilities of XQD cards, CFexpress won’t offer any increased in-camera performance.
Fast Media Offload
What you clearly need to remember, and this goes for any type of media, is that transfer speeds will vary depending on both the read and write speeds of your card, your card reader, and what type of hard drive you are transferring to.
If you are using a CFexpress card and transferring to an HDD drive, you won’t be getting fast transfer speeds. If you are transferring to a very fast SSD then you will see lightning-fast offload speeds.
Real World speed tests
I did a few tests to see what the sustained read/write speeds of the Exascend Archon 1TB CFexpress card were and also how fast I could offload material through a USB-C card reader to an ultra-fast SSD.
For the sustained read/write speeds I was using a Wise CFexpress USB-C card reader that has a maximum read speed of 1000 MB/s
Above you can see the results for the Exascend Archon 1TB card with the stress set to 5GB.
Above you can see the results for the Exascend Archon 1TB card with the stress set to 1GB.
As a comparison, above you can see the read/write speeds using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test for the Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series card.
I also tested the Exascend Archon 1TB card using the AJA System Test Lite software under a 64GB load to see what the read and write speeds were. The write speeds are super consistent. Look at how stable the green line is.
Above you can see the same test using the much cheaper and slower PERGEAR 1TB CFE-B Pro card.
As another comparison, above you can see the same test for the Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series card.
I also did another test to see how many frames per second the Ascend card could handle recording 4K DCI ProRes 422HQ. As you can see it could sustain recording 206fps in 4K DCI ProRes 422 HQ.
Above you can see the same test using the much cheaper and slower PERGEAR 1TB CFE-B Pro card.
As another comparison, above you can see the difference when using the Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series card.
It was interesting to see that the results I obtained during all of these tests were better than advertised for the Ascend card. The minimum sustained write speeds were above 900MB/s.
What you clearly need to remember, and I am going to reiterate this over and over, is that the CFexpress Type-B card readers are currently the stumbling block when it comes to speed. There are currently only a very small number of Thunderbolt 3 CFexpress card readers available. The majority of readers are only USB3.
Above are the only card readers I am aware of that use Thunderbolt 3.
- Atech Flash Technology Blackjet TX-1CXQ CFexpress Type B / XQD Thunderbolt 3 Card Reader $149.97 USD
- ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type-B & XQD Single-Slot Thunderbolt 3 Workflow Reader $129.99 USD
- Sonnet SF3 Series CFexpress/XQD Pro Card Reader $199.99 USD
Now, I also wanted to do some other tests to see how long it would take to copy and verify a 172GB file and a 141GB file from a fast NVMe drive to the Exascend Archon 1TB card.
The copy speed started off at well above 900MB/s, but it did start to slow down about a third of the way through the transfer. For a lot of the time, the speeds varied quite dramatically.
The total time to copy and verify both the 172GB and 142GB files was 13min and 27sec.
I also tested the card out with the Canon R5 and set the camera to record 8K RAW. The card worked without any issues and I was able to record 8K RAW without encountering any problems.
I reached out to several owners of the RED V-Raptor who have been using the card and all of them were very happy with the card’s performance.
Price & availability
The Exascend Archon 1TB card retails for $1,199 USD. This is certainly not cheap, but like a lot of certified and approved media for expensive cameras, it pays to buy the correct media. At $1,199 USD the price isn’t so bad if you compare it to the RED DIGITAL CINEMA PRO 660GB CFexpress 2.0 Type-B Card that costs $959.95 USD.
If you are working on high-end productions you want to use the best available and reliable media possible. Yes, no media is full proof and cards can fail regardless of their price and certification, but it is always good to know that a camera manufacturer has done a lot of the hard work for you. There is a reason why certain cards are approved by camera manufacturers are others are not.
How does the price compare to the competition?
|Exascend Archon 1TB||$1,199 USD|
|PERGEAR 1TB CFE-B Pro||$399 USD|
|Angelbird 1TB AV Pro||$599 USD*|
|Delkin Devices 1TB POWER||$671.68 USD|
|Silicon Power 1TB CFexpress Cinema EX||$449.99 USD*|
|ProGrade Digital 1TB Gold||$749.99 USD|
|Exascend 1TB CFE4 Series||$599.99 USD|
|Wise Advanced 1TB CFX-B Series||$749.99 USD|
*Currently on sale.
As you can see, the Exascend Archon 1TB card is the most expensive card on the market, however, it is currently the only certified 1TB option available for the RED V-Raptor. The Exascend Archon card comes with a 5-year warranty and they also offer a data recovery service.
The card is also claimed to feature built-in protection in the event of a power failure when you are recording.
If you own a RED V-Raptor then this is a card you will probably want to get. Not only do you need large capacities when recording 8K, but you also need the correct sustained write speeds and reliability.
The card will also work well in the Canon C500 Mark II, C300 Mark III, Canon R5, Canon R3, DJI Ronin 4D, or the new Nikon Z9.
The card performed very well in my tests and the sustained read and write performance is very impressive. With some cards, you really do pay for what you get.
If you are using CFexpress Type B cards with some of the latest cameras that can record 8K RAW then you need a fast, reliable option, and that is exactly what the Exascend Archon 1TB card is.