With the use of devices comes a need for storage. Everything from cameras to smartphones and tablets requires space. Whether it’s for photos, music, video, or even just an operating system and apps, there’s a lot of data. And it needs to live somewhere.
Despite the prominence of cloud storage, microSD cards are not disappearing anytime soon. While the iPhone and iPad notoriously lack expandable memory and have since their inception, many more devices are adopting the microSD slot. Notably, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup dropped microSD support for its Galaxy S6 phone, only to bring it back for the S7. When choosing a microSD card, keep in mind speed, size, and usage.
All microSD cards are not equal. Sure, they may have the same minuscule form factor, but there’s quite a bit of variance. Here’s what to look for:
- Speed — microSD cards for the SDHC/SDXC specifications receive ratings by speed class. These range from speed class 2 to class 10. A microSD card of speed class 2 offers a 2 MB/s minimum write speed, whereas a card of class 10 possesses a 10 MB/s minimum write speed. There’s also UHS speed class, of which there’s 1 and 3. A 1 mandates a minimum 10 MB/s write speed. A 3 means a 30 MB/s minimum write speed. Within UHS, there’s also Video Speed Class, requirements for UHS cards to meet MLC NAND flash memory specs.
- Space — Do you need 2 GB or 200 GB? Storage capacity depends on what you’re doing with the microSD card. In general, it’s better to have more space than not enough. For this article, we’ll mainly focus on capacities of 64 GB and greater. When you can get a 16 GB card for around $15, and a 64 GB microSD for about twice the price, the price-per-storage ratio is unrivaled.
- Price — With higher classes and lower prices, it’s tough to recommend anything below a Class 10 card. Try to opt for a microSD card that’s at least a 64 GB Class 10.
For further help, check out our guide to avoiding mistakes when buying microSD cards, from compatibility to speed.
Best microSD Cards for Smartphones
Smartphone users likely value storage size over write-speed. Most high capacity cards feature a high enough write speed for most uses, as it’s unlikely you’ll be shooting 4K or 8k video on your cell.
Samsung Evo Plus — With up to a whopping 128 GB of space, the Samsung Evo Plus microSDXC card meets the UHS-3 specification. With read speeds as high as 100 MB/s and write speeds up to 90 MB/s, the Evo Plus promises the best of both storage and speed. 128 GB promises about 16 hours of full HD video, more than 10,000 pictures, and over 30,000 songs.
The Samsung Evo Plus is also X-ray, temperature, water, and magnet resistant. With 9 MB/s read and 3 MB/s write speeds for 4Kb performance, the Evo Plus is a winner. Storage Review deemed the 128 GB Evo Plus the best choice for smartphones, tablets, and general consumer products.
Samsung EVO Select — Available with as many as 256 GB, the EVO Select is a high-performing microSD offering from Samsung. Although the 256 GB iteration is about $150, the 128 GB Select can be purchased for $40. A high read/write speed of 80 MB/s and 20 MB/s respectively make the Select an excellent choice.
Best microSD Cards for DSLRs and Video Cameras
When it comes to digital photography and video, there are two priorities: storage space and write speed. You want high read/write speeds for data transfer, but also a high capacity storage card. That’s because pictures and videos can consume a lot of space, particularly at higher resolutions.
Samsung Pro Plus — Samsung once again dominates with its Pro Plus cards. With several variants, including 128 GB, 64 GB, and 32 GB, there are plenty of storage options.
Benchmarks from Have Camera Will Travel found the Pro Plus clocking 90 MB/s read and 84 MB/s write speeds. That’s performance enough for 4K resolution content. That level of transfer speed costs money, though. The 128 GB version retails for about $100. Compare that to the Sandisk Ultra’s 200 GB card for about $70. Yet the Samsung Pro Plus is UH-3 rated, whereas the Samsung Ultra is only a Class 10. Average consumers won’t notice a difference, but photo and video enthusiasts will.
Lexar 633x — Lexar’s high-performance 633x card comes in 256 GB, 200 GB, 128 GB, 64 GB, 32 GB, and 16 GB capacities. Because of its U1 and U3 ratings, the 633x is perfect for quick transfer and playback of high-resolution (1080p/4K/3D) content.
Lexar reports read speeds of up to 95 MB/s. Unfortunately, read speed is much slower: around 32.4 MB/s when sequentially writing. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly suited to 4K video recording and therefore a good choice. It’s officially recommended by GoPro for use with the Hero3 and Hero3+, and there’s a reason. The 633x boasts both storage space and speed. However, it’s a bit on the pricier side with a 64 GB microSD clocking in around $60. Thus, it’s difficult to recommend for use aside from DSLRs and video cameras.
SanDisk Extreme Plus — The Extreme Plus line from SanDisk is available in several forms, from 32 GB to 128 GB. It’s certainly not cheap, with a 128 GB microSD retailing for about $100, and a 64 GB for more than $40. But it’s a U3, Class 30 card rated for 4K UHD. 95 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write speeds mean the Extreme Plus is a great bet for photos and videos. According to PC Advisor benchmarks, the Extreme Plus hit some solid 92 MB/s reads, delivering superb value.
Best microSD Cards for Security Cameras
With security cameras, storage space trumps the need for quick read/write speeds. A security camera captures a lot of footage. Some require multiple microSD cards. Ultimately, you want to prioritize capacity over performance.
Samsung EVO — The EVO is a modestly performing card, with an up to 48 MB/s write speed. As a Class 10, UHS-1 card, it’s still speedy, but the lower read/write speeds mean it’s a cheaper card. A 128 GB Samsung EVO runs for around $50 — a great deal. It’s an excellent card for capturing full HD video. Even so, the EVO is more applicable to a security camera set up rather than a DSLR or video camera that requires constant playback.
Patriot LX Series — Patriot makes a great microSD card in the LX Series. The high-speed Class 10, UHS-1 microSD boasts solid transfer speeds of up to 90 MB/s and, moreover, it’s pretty affordable. The 256 GB version offers such speeds. Cards with capacities of 128 GB and smaller are rated to 85 MB/s for writes. With a 128 GB microSD card for around $40, it’s hard not to recommend the Patriot. Amazon users noted that it’s fine for up to 4K resolution, so the Patriot LX Series should be suitable for security cameras.
SanDisk High Endurance Video Monitoring Card — Well, it’s right there in the name. The SanDisk High Endurance Video Monitoring Card comes in 64 GB and 32 GB flavors. With its Class 10 rating, it’s sure to handle 1080p video playback and recording. This card is specifically engineered to withstand tough environments, with waterproof and shock-proof specs. Therefore the High Endurance card caters to both home video monitoring systems as well as dashcams. At around $30, the SanDisk High Endurance Video Monitoring Card is a safe bet if you’re seeking storage specifically for video cameras.
What’s the Best microSD Card?
It’s refreshing to see microSD cards making a comeback. With increasingly more storage space available in smaller form factors, expandable memory is a welcome trend. For most average consumers, high capacity microSD cards are available on the cheap. Lots of 128 GB cards clock in around $40–$50, a pretty stellar price per gigabyte. Unless you truly require high read-write speeds, you should be fine with anything. It’s mainly for high definition video and photos that high-performance cards are necessary.
Which microSD card are you using and what for? Or do you wish your device had a microSD card slot?