The Exascend Nitro CFexpress is the world’s first VPG400-certified CFexpress Type B card. It is claimed to offer higher performance and higher capacity than existing VPG400-certified CFexpress Type B cards from other manufacturers. As far as I am aware, no other manufacturer has launched any CFexpress VPG400-capable Type B cards to date. UPDATE: Lexar has also just recently launched the Lexar 128GB and 256GB Professional CFexpress Type B Memory Cards (DIAMOND Series).
The Exascend Nitro CFexpress’ has 1,850 MB/s read and 1,700 MB/s write speeds.
Exascend states that the Nitro card has sustained write speeds that make it perfect for use with cameras such as the Canon EOS R3, EOS R5, EOS R5 C, Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, and Nikon Z9.
The cards are available in two capacities:
For this review, I will be testing out the 512GB version of the card.
- Sustained read speed of up to 1,850MB/s
- Sustained write speed of up to 1,700MB/s
- IP67-certified environmental hardening (dust-proof & water-resistant)
- Graphene heat spreaders for increased thermal efficiency
- Next-gen CFexpress controller ready for the next generation of the CFexpress standard
The Exascend Nitro has been certified VPG400 by the CompactFlash Association using its stringent Video Performance Guarantee Profile 4 (VPG400) qualification. This means that the Nitro CFexpress is capable of delivering sustained video recording performance in even the most demanding cinema camera systems. To get VGP400 certification a card needs to be able to provide sustained write speeds of 400MB/s without dropping any frames.
The 512GB capacity is over three times the capacity of existing VPG400-rated CFexpress Type A cards, which until now, were the only cards with a VPG400 rating.
The Nitro card is also IP67-certified and it features a next-generation-ready CFexpress controller and ultra-thin graphene heat spreaders. It also has shock resistance (MIL-STD-810G), electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection, an X-ray proof design, and protection against damage from magnetism. The Nitro CFexpress is Exascend’s flagship CFexpress series card.
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 1850 MB/s read and 1800 MB/s write, which is over 3 times faster than the best CFast 2.0 and XQD cards.
According to Exascend, the Nitro CFexpress’ has sustained 1,850 MB/s read and 1,700 MB/s write speeds.
There are currently no cameras on the market that require sustained write speeds above 850MB/s that utilize CFexpress Type B cards, but who knows what is likely to come in the future.
So how do these speeds compare to some other 512GB cards on the market?
|READ SPEED||WRITE SPEED|
|Exascend NITRO 512GB||1850MB/s||1700MB/s|
|OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 640GB||1791MB/s||1699MB/s|
|OWC Atlas Pro 512GB||1791MB/s||1698MB/s|
|PERGEAR 512TB CFE-B Pro||1600MB/s||1200MB/s|
|Angelbird 512GB AV Pro||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
|Delkin Devices 512GB POWER||1730MB/s||1540MB/s|
|Silicon Power 512GB CFexpress Cinema EX||1700MB/s||1500MB/s|
|Exascend 512GB CFE4 Series||1700MB/s||1700MB/s|
|Wise Advanced 512GB 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 claimed 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 NITRO 512GB||1700MB/s|
|OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 640GB||Not listed||above 1390MB/s|
|OWC Atlas Pro 512GB||Not listed||Not listed|
|Exascend Archon 1TB||Not listed||850MB/s|
|PERGEAR 512GB CFE-B Pro||Not listed||420MB/s|
|Angelbird 512GB AV Pro||1000MB/s||1000MB/s|
|Delkin Devices 512GB POWER||Not listed||Not listed|
|Silicon Power 512GB CFexpress Cinema EX||Not listed||Not listed|
|Exascend 512GB CFE4 Series||Not listed||1000MB/s|
|Wise Advanced 512GB 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.
It is also equipped with a next-generation CFexpress flash storage controller, Exascend Nitro CFexpress is future-proof and user-upgradeable to the next generation of CFexpress.
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 ExascendNITRO 512 GB CFexpress card it shows the actual capacity as being 511.93 GB. 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 offers 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 III, Canon R5, Canon R5C, Canon R3, Panasonic GH6, and the Nikon Z9 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 that Exascend Archon 1TB card is one of only two cards that are certified for use with the V-Raptor. Even though the Exascend NITRO cards are more than capable of meeting the requirements they haven’t been certified by RED.
In contrast, the Canon R5 only needs a card that is capable of sustaining 400MB/s to record 8K RAW. This means you don’t necessarily need to buy a high-performance CFexpress Type B card if you are just using this camera.
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. The data rate for recording 8K 60p in N-RAW (High-quality setting) is 850MB/s. I will test this further down in the review.
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, and the specifications of your computer.
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 as long as your computer utilizes USB3.1 Gen 3.
Exascend has developed a brand-new 20 Gbps CFexpress reader in tandem with Nitro CFexpress to enable very fast offloading of footage. The new Exascend CFexpress card reader can offload footage from a full Nitro CFexpress in under five minutes. The high-speed CFexpress reader also allows users to upgrade their Nitro CFexpress cards to unlock even higher performance when the next generation of the CFexpress standard launches in the future.
Real World speed tests
I did a few tests to see what the sustained read/write speeds of the Exascend NITRO 512GB CFexpress card were.
For the sustained read/write speeds I was using the brand-new 20 Gbps CFexpress reader. Without a 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 card reader, my results are going to be limited by the reader I am using, primarily because my iMac Pro doesn’t have USB3.2 only USB3.1.
Above you can see the results for the Exascend NITRO 512GB card with the stress set to 5GB.
As a comparison, above you can see the exact same test using the OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 320GB card.
As another comparison, above you can see the same test for the Wise Advanced 320GB Pro CFX-B Series CFexpress Type B Memory Card.
If you want to see why the sustained read and write speeds are not the same across all CFexpress Type B cards, above you can see the same test with an affordable PERGEAR 512GB CFE-B Pro card.
I also tested the Exascend NITRO 512GB 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. This is the best result I have seen from any CFexpress Type B card.
As a comparison, above you can see the same test using the OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 320GB card. The OWC has a ton of frame drops and it can’t match the Exascend when it comes it sustained write performance.
Ok, so let’s have a look at how the Wise Advanced 320GB Pro CFX-B Series CFexpress Type B Memory Card performs. Above you can see that this card also had quite a few dropped frames.
Finally, let’s run that same testy with a much more affordable card, in this case, the PERGEAR 512GB CFE-B Pro card.
I also did another test to see how many frames per second the Exascend card could handle recording 4K DCI ProRes 422HQ. As you can see it could sustain recording 216fps in 4K DCI ProRes 422HQ.
As a comparison, above you can see the same test using the OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 320GB card. Again, look at the difference. The OWC isn’t able to offer the same level of consistency.
As another comparison, above you can see the difference when using the Wise Advanced PRO 320TB CFX-B Series card.
Finally, let’s run that same testy with a much more affordable card, in this case, the PERGEAR 512GB CFE-B Pro card. This clearly shows you why the performance of CFexpress cards isn’t the same.
What you clearly need to remember, and I am going to reiterate this over and over, is that the CFexpress Type-B card readers can be a 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
Real World Testing
I tested the Exascend NITRO 512GB card out with the Nikon Z9 and set the camera to record 8K 60p N-RAW. The Z9 when recording 8K 60p in N-RAW (High Quality setting) requires a card with a sustained data rate of up to 850 MB/s.
I was able to record 8K 60p N-RAW in the High quality setting without encountering any problems. This didn’t come as any big surprise as the performance of the card exceeds the requirements for recording 8K 60p N-RAW.
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.
Price & availability
The Exascend Archon 512GB card retails for $699 USD. The 1TB version of the card costs $1,199 USD. This is certainly not cheap, but depending on what camera you are using and what resolution, frame rate, and recording format you need to capture, it pays to buy the correct media.
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?
So how do these speeds compare to some other 512GB cards on the market?
|Exascend NITRO 512GB||$699 USD|
|OWC Atlas Pro Ultra 640GB||$719 USD|
|OWC Atlas Pro 512GB||$349 USD|
|PERGEAR 512TB CFE-B Pro||$269 USD|
|Angelbird 512GB AV Pro||$399.99 USD*|
|Delkin Devices 512GB POWER||$481.18 USD|
|Silicon Power 512GB CFexpress Cinema EX||$394.99 USD*|
|Exascend 512GB CFE4 Series||$660 USD|
|Wise Advanced 512GB CFX-B Series||$484.99 USD|
|Wise Advanced 640GB CFX-B Series||$779.99 USD|
*Currently on sale.
As you can see, the Exascend NITRO 512GB card is one of the most expensive cards on the market, however, it offers outstanding performance and comes with a 5-year warranty as well as 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 Z9 and plan on recording 8K RAW then this is definitely a card worth considering. It offers outstanding performance and it is capable of recording anything that you can throw at it.
The card will also work well in the Nikon Z9, Canon C500 Mark II, C300 Mark III, Canon R5, Canon R5C, Canon R3, Panasonic GH6, and DJI Ronin 4D.
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.
The Exascend Nitro CFexpress comes with a five-year global warranty that covers any issue with the card and its components. For accidents and damage that render customers’ footage inaccessible, Exascend offers a factory data recovery service that can retrieve data from even severely damaged cards.