Flash Memory Cards

What is Memory Stick?

Memory Stick is Sony's proprietary standard for portable memory storage. As a standard, it's been around since 1998, and since then the company has developed several different Memory Stick products. The initial Memory Stick format is for a small stick measuring 50x21.5x2.8mm with capacities up to 128MB. This rather meagre storage offering was quickly outpaced and even with the introduction of a switchable Memory Stick variant (Memory Stick Select) -- which had two identically sized banks of memory that the user could switch between -- larger capacities were needed to keep pace with Sony's array of Memory Stick compatible devices. That's when the Memory Stick Pro format was launched; it supports storage sizes currently up to 4GB with write speeds at a minimum of 15Mbps.

This is not where standards stop, however. There is also a series of miniature memory stick variants, the Memory Stick Duo, the Memory Stick PRO Duo, and the Memory Stick PRO (High-Speed) Duo are used in mobile phones (mostly Sony Ericsson ones) and devices like Sony's PlayStation Portable. A Memory Stick PRO (High-Speed) Duo is the same as Memory Stick PRO Duo, except the read/write speed is increased to 80Mbps (when used with a compatible product). They measure in at a tiny 31x20x1.6mm. Adapters are available to physically upsize Memory Stick Duo products so that they can be used in devices that support full-sized Memory Stick products.

Sony Memory Stick

Sony also manufacture an even smaller Memory Stick standard -- Memory Stick Micro. These tiny memory sticks are intended for use in Sony Ericsson phones and other Sony products. Memory Stick Micro is pitched firmly at the mobile phone market, as it's very small (15x12.5x1.2mm) and has very low power consumption, using either 3.3V or 1.8V of power.

To extend the range, Sony mixes and matches technologies; Memory Stick Duo also has a Memory Stick Pro Duo variant, for example, with higher data transfer rates and storage speeds. In December 2006, Sony also added the Memory Stick PRO-HG, a high speed variant of the PRO, to be used for high-definition still and video cameras.

All of the Memory Stick standards support MagicGate, a Sony technology that enforces copyright on encrypted copyright material such that content can be copied to the Memory Stick for playback, but not copied off it to a different device. The feature-rich Pro sticks -- be they Memory Stick Pro or Memory Stick Pro Duo -- cost more than the plainer variants.

Practically speaking, you're not likely to run across much non-Pro original Memory Stick media outside of eBay, but it's worth making sure that the Memory Stick that you're buying is compatible with your device. Sony has put memory stick slots in everything from mice to notebooks, mobile phones to digital cameras and even USB keys, but older devices may not be able to handle newer formats. Generally speaking, backwards compatibility isn't a problem in the Memory Stick world, although you can't use a physically larger Memory Stick in a Memory Stick Duo or Micro slot.

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GoodGearGuide Staff

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