microSD cards have plummeted in price but skyrocketed in capacity. These tiny cards boast incredibly large storage capacities in ridiculously small form factors. But as newer cards debut in larger sizes like SanDisk’s 400GB card, the latest capacities retail for more than lower capacity cards.
Yet there’s more to data storage than pure storage size. There’s also read/write speed, price, and avoiding fake microSD cards. Learn all about the largest microSD card you should buy!
Why Buy a microSD Card?
A microSD affords many benefits. Even with superb cloud storage options, like Google Drive, Dropbox, or a do-it-yourself (DIY) server, local storage is faster and more accessible, particularly when you don’t have an internet connection. When selecting your next phone, it’s best to ensure it sports a microSD card slot.
On top of its speed and offline accessibility, a microSD card presents a viable option for housing media files like music and videos, as well as photos. I use a SanDisk 200GB microSD card in my Samsung Galaxy S4 primarily to lug around my obnoxiously large music collection and save photos taken when I’m not using my Pentax K70.
In my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, I’ve got a 128GB microSD card with a mix of music, pictures, and e-books. For phone users, a microSD transforms your device into a capable camera and media player. But it may also free up internal memory on your device. Often, it’s possible to move apps to your microSD card to save space.
What Size microSD Cards Are Available?
Currently, microSD cards range from just under 1GB to 400GB. For high-capacity cards, options span 64GB to 400GB. In between, tiers clock in at regular intervals: 64GB, 128GB, 200GB, 256GB, and now 400GB.
But standards determine size. Originally, microSD cards arrived in SD Standard Capacity (SDSC) certifications. These varied from 1MB to 4GB. Next, SD High Capacity (SDHC) cards debuted in everything from 2GB to 32GB. SD Extended Capacity (SDXC) raised that from 32GB to 2TB. However, the 2TB theoretical limit hasn’t been released to consumers. Even if it were, those cards would be ridiculously expensive. 400GB microSD cards released in 2017 and retail for $250. That’s not a terrible purchase. However, compared to price-per-gigabyte for smaller capacities, it’s a hefty sum.
Size Isn’t Everything
Sure, capacity is awesome. But just as important, if not more, there’s speed. On microSD cards, you’ll find various speed ratings which are denoted as a class. These include:
At the bottom, there’s Class 2, the slowest speed available. They’re not ideal, but a Class 2 microSD card is fine for an inexpensive digital camera. Classes 4 and 6 should be a minimum for general use. Ideally, shoot for a class 10 card if you require HD video, RAW photography, or smartphone app storage. Class 10 offers fast consumer-level speeds.
Then there’s Ultra High Speed, which surpasses class 10. UHS is professional grade, and you’ll want a UHS-rated microSD card if you’re working with 4K video. For UHS cards, you’ll find ratings of 1 and 3. UHS-I, however, offers only a small speed advantage over most Class 10 cards.
What Size microSD Card Should I Buy?
With increasingly lower prices for higher capacity cards, I wouldn’t suggest anything below 64GB. Additionally, as file sizes continue to grow with higher resolution cameras producing larger file sizes and lossless formats replacing the lossy MP3, the need for more space continues.
Currently, a 200GB microSD slides in from $78-$100 while 128GB microSD cards range from $45-$90. Interestingly, getting into higher-capacity cards, there’s a slightly lower price-per-gigabyte rating. Even 256GB microSD cards are around $120-$160. That’s still a solid deal and on par with the price per gigabyte of high capacity cards.
A 400GB card is the equivalent of 6.25 64GB microSD cards. Yet it’s currently priced at $250 instead of the $180 you’d pay for a number of smaller capacity cards. Still, for 400GB of space, $250 isn’t completely outlandish. That’s slightly higher, about $100 more, than most SSDs at that capacity, and for a piece of hardware much smaller in physical size.
The verdict: Stick to microSD cards between 64GB and 256GB for the best price per gigabyte. If you’re willing to shell out the extra cash though, a 400GB microSD card is a worthwhile investment.
How to Avoid Fake microSD Cards
Fake microSD cards might not be as prevalent as bootleg DVDs and CDs, but they are far too common. With a few key strategies, you can avoid getting duped. Primarily, only make purchases from trusted vendors. Outlets such as Best Buy and Newegg are safe. Amazon is generally legitimate, but you’ll want to read reviews of both products and vendors. For instance, this 512GB microSD card may seem like a steal. In a sense, it is — because 512GB microSD cards don’t exist.
The tell-tale signs of a scam are a shockingly low price for the storage capacity and reviews. The faux 512GB card has a one-star rating. Presumably, the only reason it’s that high is that Amazon doesn’t allow for sub-one-star reviews. Chances are that if a price is unbelievable, it’s a fake. The only potential exceptions are blow out sales such as Black Friday deals at trusted stores.
- Read product and vendor reviews
- Only buy from trusted sources
- Avoid unbelievable prices
What Are the Best microSD Cards Available in 2017?
The main considerations when searching for the best microSD cards are speed, space, and price. Device also comes into play. What you’ll want for a smartphone differs from a microSD suitable for capturing full HD pictures and videos in a DSLR, video camera, or drone. Then security cameras require their own set of standards.
If Money Is No Issue
SanDisk 400GB microSDXC: With its UHS-1 rating and whopping 400GB of storage space, this is absolutely the best card available. Its 100 MB/s maximum read speed and 10 MB/s minimum write speed mean it’s a high-performing card able to handle 4K pictures and video.
If You’re on a Budget
SanDisk Ultra microSDXC: Ranging from 32GB to 256GB, SanDisk’s microSDXC options are super cheap. The 256GB variant is one of the most inexpensive cards at that size. The 200GB iteration is less, and its 128GB tier costs the same as some 64GB cards.
If You Have a Need for Speed
Lexar 633x: With this card, you’ll benefit from 95 MB/S read and 20 MB/s write speeds. It’s a class 10 card, so you’ll witness high performance. With its blisteringly fast read/write speeds, the Lexar 633x is a best pick for those who need fast data recording and access.
What’s the Largest microSD Card You Should Buy?
Ultimately, the largest microSD card you should buy depends on required space, speed, and price. The specific application you need a microSD card for further determines which microSD card is right, what’s the largest size you should buy. Regardless of storage capacity, don’t dip below 64GB. The sweet spot is anywhere from 64-256 GB currently based on price-to-gigabyte ratios.
With 400GB microSD cards, the price isn’t quite low enough to recommend for the average consumer. Instead, if you’re willing to wait you’ll soon see exponential price drops on 400GB microSD cards. At its current retail value, a 400GB card isn’t a poor deal, it’s just not on par with the cost of 64-256 GB microSD cards. Looking for a new microSD card? Avoid these five mistakes when selecting your next microSD.
What size microSD cards do you recommend?