Smart Media Card Vs. SD Card

By Jason Artman

Smart Media is a once-popular memory card format released in the mid-1990s as a competitor to the aging floppy-disk medium. Smart Media cards are no longer being produced, having fallen out of favor in the face of the Secure Digital (SD) format. If you are considering upgrading a Smart Media-based camera to one that uses Secure Digital media, you may be curious about how the formats compare. Learning about these two memory card formats can help you make a more educated decision.

Capacity and Speed

The largest-capacity Smart Media cards produced were 128 MB, while Secure Digital cards have reached 32 GB (32,000 MB) and continue to grow. While Smart Media cards can transfer data at up to 2 MB per second, manufacturers of SD cards advertise speeds of up to 45 MB per second on some cards.


All flash memory has a finite life. After the data has been changed around 100,000 times, the memory will begin to become unreliable, and data can be lost. Secure Digital cards contain a small chip that controls all write operations, balancing them so that the same address of the flash memory is always being written to. This prevents one area from wearing out before the rest of the card does. Smart Media cards do not have onboard controller chips, and because of this may not wear as evenly.


Because Smart Media cards are no longer being produced, you must find a merchant who is still selling old stock in order to purchase one. A 128MB Smart Media card costs approximately $60 in 2009. The same amount of money is sufficient to purchase a 16GB Secure Digital card.


The Smart Media format does not lend itself to the high level of portability that the Secure Digital format does. A Smart Media card is approximately one fifth the size of a 3.5-inch floppy disk. Although this size was considered impressively small when the format made its debut, SD cards are considerably smaller; about a 10th of the size of a floppy disk. The makes Secure Digital cards far more appropriate for use in extremely small cameras.

Device Support

The Smart Media format is not supported by any new cameras. Cameras manufactured by Sony use the proprietary Memory Stick format, and the rest of the cameras being produced as of 2009 are divided between the Secure Digital and CompactFlash formats.