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Summary:

When I’d originally written about the introduction of the new 15″ MacBook Pro on Monday, I was curious as to if the newly featured SD card slot would support even newer SDHC cards. A little research later, I learned that the MacBook Pro does support this standard and has a few more tricks up its sleeve. So what’s all the buzz about the SD card slot?

SD Card

When I originally wrote about the introduction of the new 15″ MacBook Pro, I was curious as to if the newly featured SD card slot would support even newer SDHC cards. A little research later, I learned that the MacBook Pro does support this standard and has a few more tricks up its sleeve. So what’s all the buzz about the SD card slot?

Back to the Basics

SD (Secure Digital) cards are one of many competing formats for storing data onto flash-based memory cards (similar to how iPod nanos and iPod shuffles work). Among other competing formats, such as Memory Stick (Sony) or CompactFlash, SD has become one of the more popular types, found in newer digital cameras and camcorders.

Great. What’s This Mean for MacBook Users?

When Apple introduced Intel Macs in 2005, many were surprised to see that they could be booted from a USB drive in addition to FireWire, as had been the standard among PowerPC Macs. Many were surprised to find out last week that with the addition of the built-in SD card slot in these new Mac portables, they are also capable of being booted from this format. While this isn’t exactly feasible, as SD cards are still more expensive than optical media for comparable capacity, it really does speak highly for the robustness of the Mac platform. Of course, what would you expect? You can now pretty much boot a Mac from any device you can connect to it, from a FireWire hard drive, to an SD card, to your iPod. (Try that on a Windows computer!)

Hidden Secrets of the SD Card Slot

In addition to being able to boot from the SD cards, the new SD card slot supports most MultiMediaCards (MMCs) as they are physically similar to SD cards. Derivatives of SD card technology, such as MiniSD, MicroSD, MiniSDHC and MicroSDHC, can also be used with appropriate adapters.

What Doesn’t Work…At Least, That We Know Of

CES 2009 brought about the announcement of a newer format, called SDXC, which will allow for capacities up to 2TB in size. Due to the relatively recent announcement of this technology, and only one or two types of this card in existence, I am unaware if this card can be read by the new MacBook Pros.

Another implementation of SD technology, called SDIO (for Secure Digital Input Output) is incompatible with the card slot. This new technology is designed to combine the functionality of an input/output device, such as an ethernet or bluetooth adapter, with an SD card for greater functionality.

Will We See This Spread?

Apple stunned almost everybody with the announcement of a built-in card slot for the MacBook Pros. Card slots in general really aren’t something Apple has favored in the past (opting for devices like iPods and iPhones to have completely built-in memory). Even its reluctance to spread the technology to the 17″ MacBook Pro indicates that Apple is testing the reception of having this functionality built into its portables. During the keynote address, Phil Schiller mentioned that Apple knew that a very small percentage (less than 10 percent) of its users actually used the ExpressCard slot on its portables. If Apple is capable of tracking usage this accurately, then it stands to reason that if the SD card slot proves popular, it could be expanded to the other products as well.

SD technology is certainly very robust, and with newer standards and higher capacities around the corner, it is keeping up with changing times. This is the exact kind of stability Apple looks for when deciding to go with a new standard, such as including USB or adding FireWire 800 or gigabit ethernet to its products. With more and more consumer electronics using SD cards, the addition of a built-in slot is definitely a “win” for consumers.

  1. Apple should have at least given us a configuration option to still keep the express card slot on the 15″ MacBook Pro! This is a giant step backwards for me as a professional who very much prefers the 15″ over the unwieldy 17″ MacBook Pro. As a media professional, I need the express card slot for some adapters I have, as well as an eSATA card for my eSATA ONLY drives. When I get ready to upgrade from my previous generation MacBook Pro very soon, I will be forced to buy the 17″ laptop, which in all other respects I DO NOT WANT! I want a 15″

    I was already extremely annoyed that Apple took the matte option away from us on the 15″ and then only allowed us to have it back on the 17″. I do not need super color accuracy on my laptop, I need seeability in all conditions and the seeability of the glaring glossy display (while probably the preference of some) is horrible for me. When I need color accuracy in a monitor for color correcting or matching purposes, I use the calibrated monitor in my office in a controlled environment. Again, Apple needs to give us an OPTION!

    The #1 liability of being a Mac user is this: Since our entire computing world revolves around ONE VENDOR and ONE VENDOR ONLY for our hardware, we are at the whims of Apple’s engineering decisions, even when those decisions hurt the user. It is times like this when one can understand the desire of PC users to stick with the PC.

    I can see how SD card slot or glossy displays would be preferable to some, but for those of us that need the matte display and the express card slot Apple REALLY needs to give us the option! I don’t understand why we can’t have options!

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    1. Hey, I’ve seen this before almost verbatim … hard to miss “seeability.”

      At any rate, I rather have the ExpressCard as well. The SD booting thing is just a red herring. What a blunder, a too short SD slot in lieu of an ExpressCard with an optional ExpressCard-to-SD adapter!

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    2. Hey TJ,
      I’ve got a 1-month-old MacBook Pro I’d be willing to sell. 320 GB HD, 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB DDR3, and one unused EXPRESS CARD SLOT.

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  2. This type of article is so common among fanatic mac owners/pc bigots. I love my mbp but I also use my Thinkpad (only whn I must). The writer, in his ignorance behaves as if having an as slot is groundbreaking technology when the fact is many PCs notebooks have had this for years – along with an express slot. Same thing with the “boot from any media” capability. I can’t remember any pc notebook I’ve owned over the last 10 years that DIDN’T have that capability! This article is just another example of how useless the Internet is for newbies because so much of the content is pure bigotted trash. Apple made a huge mistake by leaving the express card slot off. The as card slot is welcome and useful but certainly not a new idea.

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    1. To each their own Ron! You say it’s a mistake, Chris doesn’t necessarily agree. Doesn’t make the content “pure bigoted trash” though.

      Thanks for being a reader!

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  3. I have the new 13 mbp. The sd slot is really a nice feature. Although I have a usb sd adapter, it always gets lost or forgotten somewhere. The other day I was out with a friend taking pictures, popped the sd card in the mpb, edited with photoshop cs4 saved, went to wallgreens and printed! Oh, and another good thing, I don’t forget about having my camera plugged in-dead battery- now I just swap in the sd.
    As far as people being annoyed about lack of express, etc. I think Apple now has a more mainstream customer base. Before the people buying these were must likely graphic and design pros. Also most pros have a dedicated workstation, so the notebook is more for doing work on the fly.

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  4. Thanks for clarifying what the heck an SD card slot is! I spent 15 minutes on the Apple site trying to find an answer and could not find it. Then, I called their 800# only to be told the “business” store was closed. Why bother putting an 800# on your site if you’re not going to answer the phone?

    Question: If you were going to be working on your latop in the US and Overseas, needing internet access and portability…which MacBook would you recommend and what is the best way to make sure you can access the internet from other countries such as China and Italy?

    (Note: I do graphic design but I don’t need an incredibly robust laptop as most of the time I’m on email communicating and art directing as opposed to heavy hands-on usage of the Adobe Creative Suite.) Thanks in advance!

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  5. Hopefully, someone will come up with an sd card adapter for e-sata connections.

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