MicroSD cards are almost identical to SD cards in every way except, instead of DSLRs and point and shoots, they’re more commonly used in devices like phones, tablets, GoPros, and the Nintendo Switch. Seth Miranda, content producer and host of Adorama TV, tells us that MicroSD cards, as opposed to SD cards, “tend to cap out at UHS-I and V30 U3 speeds, but they’re still very capable and tend to cost less than faster, full-sized cards, so you can lean a little harder onto the [storage] capacity.” That doesn’t mean you should pick up any microSD card with a lot of storage and assume it’s the best one, however. The experts we consulted say that’s a risky proposition. They tell us it’s important to find a microSD card with a good balance of read speed, write speed, and storage.
Storage capacity is how much information your card can hold — how many games, how many hours of video footage, etc. — and it’s usually measured in gigabytes (although some microSD cards now hold up to a terabyte). Write speed is how fast a card can create and write a file, and it’s measured in megabytes per second. Read speed is measured the same way, and it’s how quickly your card can access the file you’re trying to open. We spoke with multiple experts, including Miranda, our colleagues at the Verge, a photo and video pro at B&H Photo, and a professor of video storytelling at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Here are their picks for the best microSD cards available.
Best overall microSD card
It’s a little pricey, but this card can handle the needs of nearly any device and any type of user. It has a maximum read speed of 100 MB/s and a maximum write speed of 90 MB/s. It’s also shockproof, waterproof, and can withstand extreme temperatures. Our colleagues at the Verge like this card because “it has the obvious advantage when it comes to storage capacity.” They also point out that “if you plan to use [it] for both gaming and recording video, it’s good to know that it can perform both functions well.”
Best microSD card for gaming
Although Joseph Palma at B&H Photo likes Nintendo’s official SD card, which has read speeds up to 100 MB/s and write speeds up to 90 MB/s, he actually recommends saving a little money and buying this 128 GB card from SanDisk. Why? SD cards in gaming devices are mostly “used to store the game info and read the game, not write beyond save files and installation,” he says. So the extra speed is unnecessary. This card has a lower maximum read speed of 80 MB/s and a much slower write speed of 10 MB/s, but that’s still plenty for typical gaming. It’s what Palma uses for his own Switch.
Best (high-capacity) microSD cards for gaming
“Whether you’re trying to add more storage to your Nintendo Switch, a phone, a laptop, or a GoPro, this is the card that will get you the biggest bang for your buck,” says the Verge’s Cameron Faulkner. “It commonly sells for less than $50, making it an affordable, yet huge storage upgrade.”
Best microSD card for cameras
Where write speed really comes into play is recording video. You need a card with great specs, so pay attention to video class, which measures the minimum levels of write speed for recording video, and Ultra High speed class, which tells you what type of video, HD or UHD, the card can handle. Video class is marked with a V on the front of the card and ranges from V6 to V90. Palma says V30 should be sufficient for shooting ultra-high-definition 4K video. Ultra High Speed class is a number inside a U on the front of the card. A U1 card should be able to handle 1080p recording without any issues, but if you want to record 4K, get a U3 card like this one. The Verge likes this PNY 512 GB Pro Elite microSD card, which has up to 100 MB/s read speed and a 90 MB/s write speed, so it can always keep up.
Most versatile microSD card
Bob Sacha, a photographer and associate professor of video storytelling at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, recommends getting a card like this one that can handle all types of devices. He shoots with many different cameras and likes to have a microSD card that can work with all of them. For cameras that take standard SD cards, “I often will put that microSD card into an SD-card adapter” — like this one — “and then use it in my DSLR or video cameras,” he says. “It’s a great trick to have one set of cards that will work in all the cameras I use.”
Most versatile (less-expensive) microSD card
This smaller version of the card above comes recommended by Miranda, who says it’s great for people who aren’t creating that much content or who aren’t worried about saving as many Switch games.
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