SD-HC is now the cheapest form of flash memory card. It stands for Secure Digital High Capacity because it has exactly the same form factor as Secure Digital (SD) but enables higher capacities. While nearly all SD cards are limited to 2 GB of capacity, SD-HC currently go to 32 GB. Since the cost-per-gig of flash memory is so low now, most stores stock much more SD-HC memory cards than SD cards. Knowing that you can buy a 4 GB SD-HC card from a reputable brand with a lifetime warranty for under $10 USB, most buyers do not even look at lower-capacity SD cards.
Despite being cheap and easily available, SD-HC cards are far behind SD cards in terms of compatibility. While most recent digital cameras themselves support SD-HC cards (unless they support Compact Flash, Memory Sticks or xD), compatible devices are rare. Take laptops for instance, most models sold come with a built-in SD slot, alas none that I know of has an SD-HC slot yet. As a matter of fact, I bought 4 laptops (not for me) in the last month and all had SD slots. The 3 other laptops I have access to also have SD slots which are not compatible with SD-HC cards.
By now, most people know that transferring images from a digital camera to a computer is the least efficient when connecting the camera directly to the computer. Not only can this be considerably slower, it uses the battery’s own power to do the transfer unless an AC/DC adapter is used. Well, since most – if not all – built-in slots only accept SD, you need a flash-reader add-on to avoid using the camera to transfer images.
Guess what then? Most flash-readers are not compatible with SD-HC cards either, particularly multi-card readers. At this time, I only found a handful of such readers. Luckily, some SD-HC card manufacturers sell SD-HC cards with a reader. These are only SD-HC readers, which are obviously compatible with SD cards, but if we use other types of flash memory, you get to keep one more reader than you had before.
Now, suppose you like to bypass the computer step and send you pictures directly to either a printer, a digital photo kiosk or a direct flash-to-optical burner. In any such case, you need to get lucky. Are there any printers or all-in-ones with built-in SD-HC slots? Not yet. Are there any digital photo kiosks which accept SD-HC cards? Maybe, but I’ve never seen one. Are there any direct burners with SD-HC slots? Nope. What about these very popular digital photo-frames? Never seen one with SD-HC either.
The easiest solution is to not buy any SD-HC cards until compatible devices catch up. To procure lower-cost SD cards, there are many sellers which sell packs of 2 or 4 SD cards to provide higher total capacity without any of the SD-HC headaches. Another solution to the computer-compatibility problem is to get a SD-HC Plus card from Sandisk. These cards fold to reveal a USB connector which can then be connected without a reader directly to a computer’s USB port.
The missing devices are sure to appear eventually because those built-in SD slots may not be very useful for long. As you find SD-HC compatible laptops, photo-frames, direct-burners, photo-printers, all-in-ones, etc, feel free to pass the word along by adding a comment to this post.