The Best microSD Cards in 2023

When expanding storage on devices like Nintendo Switch, GoPro, or Raspberry Pi, a microSD card is essential. While many cards are suitable for various tasks, some budget-friendly options outperform others. We conducted benchmark tests on several models to assist you in selecting the ideal microSD card for your requirements.

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Key Factors to Consider

  1. Capacity: Determine the necessary storage space. Modern microSD cards range from 32GB to 512GB, with some offering 1TB options. While 2TB cards are in development, they are not widely available. Optimal sizes are usually around 128GB or 256GB, striking a balance between price and capacity. If you require more space, a 512GB card offers a better cost-to-GB ratio. Prices for a decent 128GB card are about $15 or less, while a 256GB card costs under $30. A 512GB card, during sales, might be as low as $40, with most around $50 to $60. 1TB cards typically cost around $100.
  2. Read and Write Speeds: Evaluate microSD cards based on their read and write speeds, often measured in megabytes per second (MB/s). Read speeds are typically faster than write speeds. Sequential speeds matter when dealing with continuous data streams, such as playing large videos or copying files. Random performance, important for gaming and single-board computers, gauges how quickly the card accesses scattered small files.
  3. Performance Across Capacities: Remember that a card’s performance can vary based on its capacity. For example, a 128GB SanDisk Extreme card boasts sequential write speeds up to 90 MB/s, while higher-capacity models in the same series can reach 130 MB/s. Ensure your device supports microSDXC (32GB to 2TB) as opposed to microSDHC (2GB to 32GB) cards.

Video Speed Class (V-rating): This indicates the minimum sequential write speed for recording video. Ranging from V6 to V90, most tested cards had a V30 rating (minimum 30 MB/s write speed) suitable for up to 4K video at lower bitrates. Higher-rated V60 and V90 cards are better for 8K video but are more expensive.

UHS Speed Class (U-rating): Similar to V-rating, it indicates the minimum sequential write speed. U3 mandates at least 30 MB/s, while U1 is rated for 10 MB/s.

Speed Class Rating: Identified by a “C” symbol, it ranges from Class 2 to Class 10, denoting minimum sequential write speed. Less relevant today, but still present.

Application Performance (A-rating): Indicates random read/write speeds in IOPS. A1 cards offer minimum 1,500/500 IOPS, while A2 cards have 4,000/2,000 IOPS, both guaranteeing 10 MB/s sequential write speeds.

Most ideal cards have V30, U3, and A2 ratings. A U1 card may work for basic file storage, while V60/V90 suits high-res media. Certification ensures optimal price-to-performance balance.

UHS Bus Speeds: UHS-I cards reach up to 104 MB/s, while UHS-II cards can achieve 312 MB/s. UHS-III is newer. UHS-II cards offer better performance but are pricier. UHS-I cards are more common and sufficient for most users.

Card Readers and Compatibility: Compatible card readers and devices are necessary to unlock UHS-I card speeds exceeding 104 MB/s.

Warranty: Opt for long warranties, as some offer lifetime coverage, although “endurance” cards may have shorter warranties.

Avoiding Counterfeits: Purchase from reputable retailers (Best Buy, B&H, Adorama) or directly from Amazon.com. Look for irregularities in packaging and test the card’s performance using benchmark tools.

Testing Methodology: Benchmark tests (CrystalDiskMark, BlackMagic Disk Speed Test, ATTO Disk Benchmark, AJA System Test) assessed sequential and random performance. Real-world tests involved copying files and loading games on devices like Steam Deck, Nintendo Switch, and MacBook Pro. A Kingston USB 3.2 UHS-II reader was used on both Windows and macOS platforms.

Conclusion

Understanding microSD card speed ratings helps you choose the right card for your needs. Video Speed Class, UHS Speed Class, Application Performance, and UHS bus speeds all impact performance. Choosing the best card involves considering your device’s compatibility, usage requirements, and warranty coverage while avoiding counterfeit products. Through rigorous testing, optimal microSD card choices can be identified, ensuring reliable performance for various applications.

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Best for most: Samsung Pro Plus

The Samsung Pro Plus shines with outstanding sequential write speeds (around 130 MB/s) and impressive random read/write speeds. Suitable for cameras, tablets, and gaming devices, it boasts essential ratings (U3, V30, A2). While sequential read speeds are slightly lower, it remains competitive. In transfer tests, it lagged by just four seconds compared to the fastest models.

Initially priced from $19 to $60, recent sales lowered costs to as little as $12. This makes the Pro Plus an exceptional choice, potentially rendering other cards irrelevant. Samsung also offers a USB reader bundle for better speeds at a slight extra cost. The card includes a 10-year limited warranty.

When purchasing, ensure you select the latest-generation model launched in April 2023, as prior versions have slower speeds. Check for sequential read speeds of 180 MB/s and write speeds of 130 MB/s. We tested the 256GB variant, but both 128GB and 256GB models perform similarly based on Samsung’s specifications.

Runner up: Kingston Canvas Go Plus

Should the Samsung Pro Plus be unavailable, consider the Kingston Canvas Go Plus as a robust substitute. With U3, V30, and A2 ratings plus a lifetime limited warranty, it’s a compelling choice. Across various tests, it demonstrated the highest sequential read speeds, narrowly surpassing SanDisk’s Extreme and Nintendo Switch-branded cards.

In large file transfers, it performed similarly to these models. Although its sequential write speeds (just over 100 MB/s) trail the Pro Plus, they remain suitable for various tasks. In terms of random read/write speeds, it’s only surpassed by Samsung’s card, making it a good choice for apps and games. However, it’s less appealing if priced higher than the Pro Plus.

Best value: Samsung Evo Select

The Samsung Evo Select lags slightly behind our top choices, especially in sequential write speeds (just below 70 MB/s). As a result, it might not be the best fit for cameras. However, it remains perfectly suitable for various applications. Past sales have seen its 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models drop to around $12, $18, and $35 respectively. These prices align with the popular SanDisk Ultra, despite the Evo Select holding higher V30, U3, and A2 ratings. While the Pro Plus has also been available at these prices, the Evo Select tends to maintain consistency in this range.

Another good option: SanDisk microSDXC Card for Nintendo Switch

The SanDisk microSDXC Card for Nintendo Switch is a viable option, especially if its price falls below the Pro Plus and Canvas Go Plus. Its sequential read speeds are comparable to the Kingston card, though sequential writes are slightly slower (and further behind the Pro Plus). In random read/write speeds, it’s slightly behind according to benchmarks. The 128GB model typically costs around $20, while the 512GB version may be $10 less than the Canvas Go Plus. SanDisk offers a lifetime warranty for this card. Our test covered the Apex Legends version of the 128GB card, while the Super Mario model’s performance remains uncertain.

Other notable microSD cards

Premium UHS-II Option: Delkin Devices Power

For robust video recording, consider the Delkin Devices Power UHS-II card, lauded for its impressive sequential write speeds. Though we didn’t personally test it, positive feedback from elsewhere suggests it delivers notably faster performance. While scarce in availability, it comes at a steep price, starting around $55 for 32GB.

SanDisk Extreme: Comparable Option

The SanDisk Extreme performed well in several sequential write tests, rivaling the Pro Plus. Sequential reads matched the Canvas Go Plus due to testing only the 256GB model. However, its random performance lagged behind Samsung and Kingston options. Despite costing more lately, it’s a solid choice when found on reputable sales.

SanDisk Extreme Pro: High-Performance Consideration

The SanDisk Extreme Pro boasts even higher speeds (up to 200 MB/s sequential reads), but availability is limited or comes at a premium.

Budget Contender: PNY Elite-X

The PNY Elite-X offers competitive random read/write performance similar to the Pro Plus and Canvas Go Plus. Although trailing in sequential tests, it often comes at a budget-friendly price.

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