I reviewed the Transcend Extreme Plus 600x 16GB CF cards back last August. Since then, I've also picked a pair of SanDisk Extreme Pro 600x 16GB CF cards as well. I've been using both cards in tandem and have put both through their paces at dozens of shows and thousands of images shot and transferred over the last half-year.
For all intents and purposes, these cards are identical in terms of specifications. Priced at $64 for the Transcend and $99 for the SanDisk, the question remains: Is there any practical difference between these cards? Here's the answer.
When I originally bought the Transcend 600x CF cards, they were on sale for $69, slightly less than their then price of $75 at B&H and Amazon.com. At $69, they were nearly half the price of SanDisk's flagship Extreme Pro 600x cards. For me, it was a no-brainer. I bought two pairs of the Transcend 600x cards, which handily replaced a handful of 4GB SanDisk cards I had been using for years.
A several months later, B&H in New York was having a stupidly great sale on SanDisk CF cards. Specifically, the 16GB version of the SanDisk Extreme Pro 600x CF cards were on sale for $59.95, half of their normal price. At this price, even after having bought a pair of the 16GB Transcend cards, I bought two of the SanDisk CF cards. Days later, the price went back up over $100 per card.
SanDisk vs Transcend – Battle of the 600x 16GB Cards
Let's keep this short and sweet. There are plenty of geeky benchmark reviews comparing flash storage. This is real, professional photographer's thoughts on these two fast, big capacity cards.
I personally chose the 16GB size because it's a massive capacity that offers plenty of shooting overhead. While it's overkill for cameras like the Nikon D3, with its “modest” 12mp resolution and two CF slots, 16GB is great for single-slot cameras like the Nikon D700 or D7000.
The one thing that bugged me about the Transcend Extreme Plus was that they feel a little hollow and light – more so than my other go-to CF cards at the time. If you shake the Transcend cards, there's a very subtle rattle of the flash chip board against the casing.
The SanDisk Extreme Plus CF cards, on the other hand, feel heavier and there is no rattle. They feel rock solid, actually.
For all intents and purposes, the speed of these cards is the same. They're both specified at 600x and are UDMA-enabled to take advantage of fast read/write speeds, both in-camera and transferring to your computer.
The cards perform identically for all real world shooting, and transfer very quickly using a SanDisk FireWire 800 UDMA card reader. No complaints at all. I will say that both cards can occasionally exhibit delays during image review with my D3 and D700. It's not a regular occurrence, but it does happen every once in a while. I originally thought that it was just the Transcend cards (which I bought first), but the SanDisk Extreme Pro displays the exact same behavior.
I've shot both the SanDisk and Transcend cards in my Nikon D3 and Nikon D700 side by side for the last four months. Despite the slightly flimsier feeling of the Transcend, they have had the exact same reliable performance as the SanDisk Extreme Pro cards. I've accidentally dropped both cards from 3-4 feet, as happens from time to time, and they've both performed identically.
I've had absolutely zero corrupt images or any other issues with these two brands of 600x cards.
Verdict & Recommendation
Despite a nicer feeling of build quality with the SanDisk cards, I say go for the cheaper Transcend Extreme Plus 600x CF cards. In my personal experience, they're just as fast and reliable as the SanDisk Extreme Pro. I've used both side by side for professional assignments and they perform with no practical differences.
If you are extremely clumsy and often drop your CF cards on concrete or hardwood floors, or like to practice your fastball with your flash storage, that might be a reason enough to go for the SanDisk Extreme Pro. For everyone else, happy shooting with the Transcend Extreme Plus 600x CF cards.
Winner: Transcend Extreme Plus 600x CF cards
There you go. I have two pairs each of the SanDisk Extreme Pro and Transcend Extreme Plus 600x 16Gb CF cards. They perform identically for professional shooting. My advice? Save some cash and go with the Transcend, as they're almost 1/3 less than the SanDisk cards.
I am a self-admitted snob when it comes to photography gear and generally prefer to just but the best and to buy it once. That said, having used these two 600x CF cards and received identical performance, I don't see any reason not to go with the cheaper Transcend Extreme Plus CF cards.
While you're at it, if you want to pick up a nice little case for your CF cards, I use the Think Tank Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket. It has a horrible name but it keeps your cards safe and sound when they're not in your camera.