- From smartphones to cameras and gaming devices, microSD cards are the go-to for external storage.
- But not all microSD cards are the same, and picking one can be complicated. The letters and numbers found on microSD cards can be incredibly confusing, and you need to consider the speed or capacity (or both) depending on how your device will use the card.
- Overall, the Samsung EVO Plus microSD card does the best job in speed and capacity options for the best price, although you should also consider the SanDisk Extreme microSD UHS-3 Card and the SanDisk Ultra microSD card.
Sometimes, the storage that’s built into a device just doesn’t cut it (and sometimes there is no built-in storage option) — that’s where microSD cards come in to expand your device’s storage.
Many Android smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and LG V50 ThinQ 5G, support microSD cards — a minuscule version of the larger SD format — as do all GoPro Hero action cameras and small cameras like it; consumer drones, like those from DJI; and mobile gaming devices, like the Nintendo Switch.
Before we get into our top picks, let’s go over those aforementioned confusing numbers and letters so you know what they mean and why they’re important for your device.
Card type and capacity
When it comes to the card type, the two main kinds you’ll want to consider are SD HC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity). The only real difference between the two is how much storage they offer. SDHC cards contain 4GB to 32GB, while SDXC starts with at least 64GB of capacity and extends up to 2TB (and beyond, in the near future).
Although most newer devices accept the SDXC standard, some older gadgets, like the GoPro Hero4 and Nintendo 3DS, will only support lower-capacity SDHC microSD cards of 32GB or less. Consult your product’s user manual to see what it recommends before purchasing any card.
In general, you should get as much capacity as your budget allows. And depending on what you plan to do with the card, you will also need to consider the speed class, which we’ll explain below. The card speed and capacity will determine pricing.
Speed class is where things get complicated. The chart from the SD Association below breaks it down visually, but we also will explain below.
MicroSD cards are measured in six speed classes: 2, 4, 6, 10, U1, and U3 (this also applies to standard SD cards, if you were wondering). The class number refers to the write speeds (how fast it can record onto the card) in megabytes per second (MB/s), so Class 2 = 2MB/s, Class 4 = 4MB/s, Class 6 = 6MB/s, and Class 10 = 10MB/s. U1 supports at least a 10MB/s write speed, and U3 cards offer at least a 30MB/s write speed, but there’s something to keep in mind with U1/U3.
Most new cards support Class 10 or higher; from our observation, you’re less likely to see new cards being sold that are Class 6 or lower. But you may also see a card with both Class 10 and U1 or U3 designations. This means the card is also compatible with the Ultra High Speed (UHS) bus (in computing, a bus is the system that transfers data between components). MicroSDXC cards will always carry a Class 10 and either U1 or U3, as well as higher-end microSDHC cards.
For example, a microSDHC or microSDXC card with both Class 10 and U1 classifications will support faster transfers (U1) when used in devices that support UHS, but will throttle down to the slower transfer speed (Class 10) in most other devices. (Note: If an older device supports Class 6 or lower, you can still use the faster card we mentioned in our example, but you won’t achieve the higher write speeds.)
A high-end card will also list either UHS-I or UHS-II. This is in reference to the theoretical top bus speed and is not to be confused with the write speeds mentioned above. UHS-I Cards have a maximum speed of 104 MB/s, while UHS-II cards have a maximum speed of 312 MB/s — compare them to non-UHS cards, which have a theoretical speed of 25 MB/s. Cards that support UHS-II offer even better performance, naturally.
Lastly, as the above image shows, there’s a classification called Video Speed Class. With the increase in devices that can capture very high-resolution video, the SD Association — the governing board that created all these designations — created the Video Speed Class for cards that support these higher video resolutions, like 4K, 8K, virtual reality, 360-degree, and 3D. This classification is denoted with a V and followed by a number, which represents the speed in MB/s. For example, a V30 card will support a minimum write speed of 30 MB/s. Video Speed Class is rated as V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90. Cards labeled with a Video Speed Class are designed to support those aforementioned resolutions, according to the manufacturer.
App Performance Class for smartphones and tablets
The App Performance Class denotes which MicroSD cards are best for smartphones and tablets. An A1 rating means that the card can open apps and process apps quickly, because it can handle a random read input-output access per second (IOPS) of 1,500 and write IOPS of 500. A1 cards are new, and anyone who wants to use Google’s “Adoptable Storage” feature, which formats your card as internal storage in an Android device, should look for the new rating.
The right microSD card for your device
Depending on what you’re using your microSD card for, you’ll want the right amount of capacity.
For smartphone users: Because the photo and video capabilities of modern smartphones have dramatically increased in quality, we recommend avoiding SDHC cards entirely, and starting at the 64GB capacities found in SDXC cards. The price of microSD cards, even at high capacities, has plummeted in recent years, so price should not be nearly the inhibitor it once was. With that said, although modern phones can support cards up to 1TB, unless you’re taking a lot of photos and videos, you are unlikely to ever need that much capacity. If you like to shoot 4K video on your phone, then you should buy an SDXC microSD card that has a U3 speed class rating, with 128GB or 256GB capacity. Many phones, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and LG V50 ThinQ, support SDXC microSD cards with up to at least 1TB of storage (the LG V50 actually supports up to a whopping 2 TB).
For the Nintendo Switch and 3DS: The Nintendo Switch accepts SDXC microSD cards with up to 2TB of capacity. Since games take up a lot of storage, we recommend you get the highest-capacity card for your Switch that you can afford. The older Nintendo 3DS only supports SDHC cards (32GB or less), so don’t waste money on high-capacity SDXC cards.
For GoPro and similar small cameras: If you need a microSD card for your GoPro, consult the company’s list of recommended cards. The site says that GoPros require a minimum of Class 10, but U1 or U3 are better speed classifications. The Hero8 supports SDXC microSD cards with up to 128GB of capacity, as does the DJI Osmo Action. We have been testing the Hero8 with a SanDisk 32GB SDHC U1 card and have not had any issues
Avoid poor quality cards made by less scrupulous manufacturers by sticking with tested and verified brands and clicking on our links.
Here are the best microSD cards for your phone, GoPro, or Nintendo Switch:
- Best microSD card overall: Samsung EVO Plus microSD card
- Best microSD card for action cams or drones: SanDisk Extreme microSD U3 Card
- Best microSD card for the Nintendo Switch: SanDisk Ultra microSD card
Updated on 11/12/2019 by Jaron Schneider: Updated recommendations and copy. Added new version of the SanDisk Ultra microSD cards and the new SanDisk Extreme microSD card. We are currently testing new options for our next update.
SEE ALSO: The best SD cards you can buy for your DSLR camera
The best microSD card overall
The Samsung EVO Plus microSD card is a jack of all trades — you can use it to expand your smartphone, shoot photos and videos with your action cam, or expand the storage of your mobile gaming console.
Samsung makes the best microSD card you can buy. The EVO Plus is available in a wide range of capacities from 32GB up to 256GB, in both SDHC and SDXC card types. You can use it in any device that supports a microSD card, whether it be your smartphone, tablet, action camera, or mobile gaming console.
The card offers fast read and write speeds, which is just what you need when you’re using a microSD card to expand storage in your smartphone or tablet. The EVO Plus’ fast sequential speeds are ideal for recording Full HD video with your phone, but it can also handle 4K.
Although it’s not the fastest microSD card you can buy, it is very close to matching those top-end UHS-I cards and its price is much lower.
In case you’re still on the fence, both Digital Trends and Android Central recommend the Samsung EVO Plus as one of (if not the) best microSD cards available. Samsung is one of the largest makers of solid-state memory cards, and in our experience, we have found them to be very reliable.
Pros: Extremely affordable, at least 80MB/s transfer speed, records Full HD video and even 4K, stores high-resolution pictures, waterproof, resistant to extreme temperature, X-ray proof, magnetic proof, compatible with microSDHC and microSDXC slots
Cons: No UHS-II offerings (although you probably don’t need that anyway)
The best microSD card for the GoPro
The SanDisk Extreme microSD U3 Card is perfect for GoPro, Osmo Action, or drone users who need a fast card with high capacity that handles 4K video.
If you have a GoPro Hero8 or a DJI Osmo Action, you need a high-performance microSD card that can handle 4K video recording. The SanDisk 64GB Extreme microSD card is our recommendation.
The UHS-I/U3-rated SanDisk Extreme card offers read speeds of up to 160 MB/s and write speeds of up to 60 MB/s, so your footage can be captured, stored, and transferred quickly. It also comes with recovery software, so if you lose your footage, you may be able to get it back.
A reason why we recommend a U3-rated microSD card is because the card can sustain a higher reading and writing speed that U1 cards can’t. And while you may think that a more expensive UHS-II offers better performance, you should know that the Hero8, Osmo Action, and many consumer drones, like the DJI Mavic Pro 2, can only support up to the top-end of UHS-I speeds.
For the price, the SanDisk 64GB Extreme microSD card is a great balance of performance and capacity. Besides 4K video, this card is great for time-lapse footage (or GoPro’s new TimeWarp feature that speeds up video) or long-duration shooting. Having that ample storage also means you can shoot longer with a drone — we found 16GB to be far too little for drone flying. And because it’s affordable, you can buy a few and swap them out when a card becomes full.
The card is also protected against shock, water, and X-ray. SanDisk is a reliable brand we’ve used and trusted, and the Extreme series is one of the company’s best.
You can also use this card with your smartphone, tablet, or mobile gaming console — just make sure your device supports SDXC cards. In addition, the card is rated A2 for compatible smartphones and V30 for video.
Note that SanDisk makes an Extreme version of a 32GB microSDHC, which we’ve also successfully used in the Hero8 without issues. Also, older Hero cameras (prior to the Hero5) won’t support SDXC cards to their full capabilities.
Pros: Ideal for Full HD and 4K video, UHS-I/U3, A2, V30, transfer speed up to 160 MB/s, includes SD card adapter
Cons: Higher capacities see a quick jump in price and can be quite expensive
The best microSD card for the Nintendo Switch
The SanDisk Ultra microSD card is the one to buy if you own a Nintendo Switch.
If you have a Nintendo Switch, you’re going to want to prioritize capacity over speed, since the Switch uses the microSD card just to store game data, not actively transfer content. The 128GB SanDisk Ultra microSD card, then, is a perfect choice.
Although 128GB may sound like a lot of space, if when you consider games like “Breath of the Wild,” which takes up 13.4GB, it will add up as you build your game library and install updates; the 32GB of internal storage that comes with the Nintendo Switch isn’t enough. Speaking from experience, just buying two games from the Switch’s online E-Store pushed me beyond the built-in capacity. I opted for a 128GB card after that, so I wouldn’t have to think about storage again for a long time.
If you’re really into downloading games and you have deep pockets, you can even get a card with 200GB, 256GB, 400GB, or even as high as 512GB. Even at the highest capacity, you won’t spend more than $100. You can, of course, get a lower-capacity version of this card, since it comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB sizes, but we don’t recommend it. Given that the 128GB card costs about $20, it is already a great deal for considerably more storage capacity.
As with most high-end cards like this one, you can also use it in a smartphone or tablet for storage purposes, but it’s not the best option for GoPro users because it isn’t rated for 4K recording.
Pros: Up to 512GB available, affordable at all storage levels, Class 10, UHS-I, included SD adapter, 10-year limited warranty, durable design
Cons: Slower write speeds means it isn’t ideal for 4K recording
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