Are these memory cards really worth it? We review OWC’s Atlas memory card range

OWC's Atlas series of memory products, including SDXC, CFexpress Type A and B models, and high-performance readers, don't come cheap. However, they promise leading performance and integration with the Innergize card management system. But can users really take advantage of all these capabilities? In this review, I'll take a look at the ecosystem and test out all the features.

While you can buy standalone cards in different form factors and performance levels, I'd take a look at their latest announcement from NAB a few weeks ago: the Atlas Pro CFexpress Type A and Atlas CFexpress Type B Card Reader.

The remainder of the series includes Type B and SDXC cards. The Ultra series sits above the Pro-class cards and offers higher performance ratings, with up to 2x write speeds for SDXC and CFexpress Type B. These higher minimum write sizes can have a significant impact on high frame rate video and certain codec settings. For more information, visit the OWC website, which provides comprehensive compatibility guides for each card, showing speeds and a variety of late-model cameras.

OWC Atlas Pro Type A Card

As a shooter player in the Sony ecosystem, I'm excited to see the Type A version of the OWC card coming to market. Model A, while not as fast as Model B, still offers a huge performance jump over the SDXC. Many Sony cameras, including my a7R V and FX3, support Type A or SDXC – choosing the faster Type A usually means better support for heavier frame rates or codecs, as well as improved buffer clearing.

OWC provided the 480 GB model of the Atlas Pro for testing, but a 960 GB model is also available. The cards only differ in capacity and have the same speed rating.

Atlas Pro Type A supports CFexpress 4.0 and is fully compatible with existing devices using the CFexpress 2.0 standard. This means you can easily insert your card into cameras like the FX3, FX6, a1, a7S III and a9 III and use the latest card readers that support faster transfer speeds.

The card is manufactured to high standards and has a durable metal casing. OWC rates it for impact, flex, impact, ESD, UV and X-ray performance and comes with a 3-year warranty. While destructive testing was not planned for this review, I can say that it is more durable than SDXC cards due to their thin plastic bodies. You'll still want to store your cards safely, but the build really matches the price.

The speed also matches the price: this card has very fast read and write speeds. OWC rates it at a maximum write speed of 1,700 MB/sec and a minimum sustained write speed of 400 MB/sec (important numbers for video applications). The card is VPG200 certified, an important mark required by some Sony cameras to unlock certain modes, frame rates, or codecs.

When out shooting, the advantages of any Type A card are obvious: write speeds are much faster compared to SDXC, which means your buffer lasts longer and clears faster, while video shooters can Use the heaviest codec or frame rate.

For example, on my a7R V, shooting in lossless compressed RAW, the buffer with an SDXC card lasts about 50 to 60 shots, and can take about 15 seconds to clear. With the Type A card, the buffer is bottomless and clears as soon as I release the shutter.

Photographers using Sony's faster cameras will notice more of a difference. Cameras like the a1 and a9 III have fast burst rates, which puts more pressure on the card's sustained write speed, since most of the time is spent clearing the buffer. Tests have shown that a good Type A card is about 5 times faster than a good SDXC card, which can make a huge difference between being ready for the next burst of action or missing the next one.

Both OWC's marketing materials and my review only mention Sony equipment, but Sony is pretty much the only camera brand that meets the Type A standard compared to the larger Type B. Model theoretical speed is higher than Type B cards with more channels. In exchange, however, you get the same slot compatibility with SD cards, allowing you to choose between speed and price per gigabyte.

In practice, you will find that many card readers are specifically built for Type B cards. OWC's own reader is no exception. Fortunately, OWC includes a Type A to Type B converter in the box with this memory card, allowing you to easily use it with a Type B card reader.

OWC Atlas CFexpress card reader

Just as Atlas Pro drives the latest standards, Atlas Reader incorporates the latest developments: USB 4 and pairing support for CFexpress 4.0. All in all, this means that the card can match both the fastest cards on the market and the fastest connection standards.

The bus-powered card reader is small, sleek and in line with Apple's design language, with rounded corners and an aluminum body (OWC has a long history in the Mac accessory ecosystem). It has a fanless design and stays much cooler than some other CFexpress card readers I've tested, likely thanks to greater thermal mass and surface area for cooling.

I think OWC made a smart choice in connectivity standards. USB 4 is a huge leap over USB 3 or even 3.2 card readers while maintaining backwards compatibility, which is important since USB 4 hosts are less common and most photographers' devices are likely to be supported by the latest Apple Silicon Macs .

In testing, I got transfer speeds of more than 1,500 MB/s from the Type A card, and OWC found a 4x speed improvement when using the Type B card relative to a USB 3.2 card reader.

OWC's Innergize software completes the ecosystem and is designed to support health tracking of its cards, “cleaning” to help maintain actual flash memory performance, and card firmware updates. This free software is available for Windows and Mac and supports all OWC memory cards and various card readers. While Type A cards are still too new to see any health effects, tracking this important statistic is very welcome as the level of “wear and tear” on other cards can be difficult to track.

Overall, the Atlas memory card ecosystem is a very good option for a range of photographers and videographers. Sony shooters who need top-end performance will be pleased to see such a competitively priced option for Type A cards, especially at these higher capacities. While I can't fully recommend the Model A, as photographers who don't fill the buffer regularly won't notice the performance difference in the field, the Atlas series still has compelling SDXC options and also provides access to Innergize software. If you're a high-speed shooter, the Atlas Pro Type card is an excellent choice. it is Now available in 480 GB and 960 GB capacities. If you're looking for a CFexpress card reader that matches the incredible speed of its form factor, the Atlas card reader is also a good choice. At just $99, it's a small cost to ensure you're getting the most out of your card when you pick it up, with a level of future-proofing thanks to smart connectivity options. this Atlas CFexpress reader now available.

what do I like

  • Perfect performance and reliability
  • Meets or exceeds all rated specifications
  • Accessories at no extra cost (Type A to Type B converter, fast high-quality cable for card reader)
  • Very competitively priced compared to other Type A cards with similar performance

What can be improved?

  • Type A cards are only valuable to certain shooters
  • Older host devices may not be able to take full advantage of the speed of Atlas Reader

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