What is a Micro Sd Card
MicroSD is the smallest variation of a Secure Digital standard for memory cards. To put it simply, this is a small chip encased in a plastic body that serves as data storage for your files just like a hard drive on any computer or notebook. A lot of phones and tablets come with a special microSD slot to increase their memory. In modern video and photo cameras, these cards serve as the only storage for your videos or photos.
All of the microSD cards have exactly the same dimensions but may come in a variety of memory size. According to the engineers' forecasts, the maximum possible capacity for an SD chip is 2 TB. But manufacturers are yet to create such card. That's why we are left with a market filled with cards of a memory capacity ranging from a few MB up to over hundreds of GB.
We tried to make an easy-to-understand guide and a quick review of 5 different microSD cards so that anyone could sort out, what unique features they have.
And if you are looking for a really large storage for your information, take a look at our picks of the best portable hard drives, external SSDs, and external hard drives. Finally, you might need to get a memory card reader to work with many microSD cards. Yes, we've already prepared a nice review of them for you as well.
What Features to Compare
First of all, we want to note that the following info is fully applicable to all SD and macroSD cards as well.
In most cases, consider your budget and go for the highest Memory Capacity available. However, this approach has a large pitfall, because not every microSD card is compatible with every device. All microSD cards have exactly the same dimensions, so there is no other way to check the Compatibility with Card's Format, except to look through the characteristics of your device and compare them with the tags, written on a card. They may have the following marks:
- SD – Secure Digital cards with a capacity from 1 MB up to 4 GB.
- SDHC – High Capacity cards from 2 GB up to 32 GB are marked with it.
- SDXC – eXtended Capacity for bigger than 32 GB cards. These have the largest amount of memory available.
The next compatibility parameter to look for is Speed Class. It refers to minimum data writing rate. Luckily, you can find the speed class marks directly on a card as well. Let’s skip the Class 2 as it became almost obsolete and take a closer look at the classes, that you may come across way more often:
- Class 4 and Class 6 cards have 4 and 6 MB/s minimum writing speed accordingly. That’s the slowest for video recording in HD quality.
- Class 10 has a minimum writing speed at 10 MB/s and maximum reading speed at 25 MB/s. It is enough for recording video in HD 1080p quality. Although it might not work fast enough with modern phone or tablet.
- U1 class has a minimum writing speed at 10 MB/s as well, but the reading speed can reach up to striking 104 MB/s, because they are built with a different technology called UHS (Ultra Hight Speed bus for data transferring).
- U3 class boasts 30 MB/s minimum speed and support recording video at 4K! The reading speed here can be up to 312 MB/s.
N.b. the U1 and U3 classes cards are compatible with Class 10 devices, but they will act at a speed of Class 10 card then. As a result, you might find Class 10 tag along with U1 or U3 at the same time.
Both SDHC and SDXC card formats can come with additional labels - UHS-I, UHS-II or just I and II Roman figures. Those refer to the UHS bus speed of the card, that in turn provide quicker reading and writing. The II cards are preferred, as they are faster, but again, not all devices are compatible with them.
In simple words, the closer to the bottom the better. Classes 4 and 6 are okay for most of the devices that don’t require super-fast data transferring speed: e-book readers, portable mp3 players, and mobile phones with up to 720p video recording. As for DSLR, P&S cameras or phones with video recording at up to 1080p, we recommend either Class 10 or U1 card with I or II Roman figure on it. For the professional camcorders or top-of-the-range DSLRs cameras, you might want to consider the U3 card with either I or II tag on it.
Never forget to check out Extra Features. As a rule, all of the microSD cards are supplied with SD adaptor. Water-resistant qualities would be welcomed if you love extreme sports. Furthermore, some manufacturers provide free software for data protection, creating backups or even restoring deleted information together with their cards. Finally, the long-term warranty is always appreciated.
In this review, we've picked up 5 different microSD cards for you to find out the best one for your device. Please, remember: you can find the very same models with different storage capacity.
PNY Elite MicroSDXC Card with Adapter
Load It, Fill It, Quick, Rewrite It
Phones and tablets nowadays require bigger and bigger storage to install and keep all the apps. Also, technologies render it possible to install better cameras in them, that record video in heavier formats. That is why you might need a card with over 100 GB of memory. For this task, we've decided to pick up and try out the PNY Elite microSDXC with 128 GB on board, not least because of an attractive price. It is a U1 UHS-I class card with the maximum reading speed at up to 85 MB/s. This means that you can readily copy information from the card to a computer or a phone pretty fast.
If you are wondering, how much 128 GB is, imagine having an empty card and then plug it into a GoPro HERO4, then fill it with 1080p 60fps FullHD video. You will get almost 9 hours of video! Not to mention, it's enough for installing tons of applications on your phone. It gets tricky with DLSR cameras due to different effects and formats. But to fill the card with uncompressed RAW photos on a 22 MP camera you will need more than 1600 captions. As for more popular JPEG image format, you will need ten times as many photos as that.
Well, we can go on and on with numbers and formats, but the fact remains the same: this 128 GB microSD card works just as intended with most of the modern mobile phones, cameras or any other device without stuttering. Moreover, it currently beats its opponents in term of price.
It's worth mentioning, that PNY company has started a special project called Ambassador Program. The idea is that the company provides the famous photographers and camera operators with a lifetime supply of the necessary PNY products for their job. At the moment, their so-called ambassadors include the people that capture the best moments of our society and the world around us. For instance, Rick Friedman is the notorious photojournalist, who has captioned every presidential candidate, starting from Jimmy Carter's election. What's more, his private collection boasts probably the largest number of academics in the USA. Another representative is the Lorenz Holder, whose trademark is the snowy photos with artful use of camera flash. There are also many other artists worldwide. Work well, and maybe you'll join their team as well.
More Products to Consider
When you plug a standard SD card into MacBook Pro Retina 13, the card's end sticks out from the MacBook's body. We searched for a special mciroSD to SD adapter in order to permanently boost its memory capacity with our card and found a well-made microSD to SD adapter for MacBooks by BASEQI that does not stick out of the side panel when plugged in. Check it out, because it works like a charm.
Samsung EVO Class 10 Micro SDXC Card with Adapter
Samsung company often provides authentic and fully compatible accessories for its devices like phones or tablets. This microSD card from EVO series is no exception, but you can also plug it in products made by other companies. This is a Class-I U1 card with a reading speed at up to 48 MB/s. This is not the fastest card in this review. But if you calculate, that means about 2.5 GB per minute, so it is just fine. Of course, it works well with almost any modern cameras and phones.
This card has a couple of features that makes it unexpendable for people who love extreme sports. Most of the cards won't lose recorded data if they are dropped in a glass of water and then immediately wiped dry. But Samsung went even further with this model because it can withstand up to 24 hours in seawater! In combination with a waterproof action camera, it can safely record your reckless riding on the biggest waves, and even if the water somehow soaks through a camera, your video will remain intact.
As a conclusion, we can recommend it right off the bat to any traveling photographers, sportsmen or if you are just going to spend a few days at a sea with your DSLR camera.
Samsung R&D team has had a new perspective technology of a new flash drive in development for several years, that is called UFS drive. It is actually a miniature solid state drive, that has the same size as microSD. However, the microSD has connectors near the narrow part, while the new UFS cards have connectors in the middle. The reading and writing speeds are impressive - 530 MB/s and 170 MB/s accordingly. This is an overwhelming result for such a small chip as microSD. And on July 2016, Samsung presented the first models at 32, 64, 128 and 256 GB. It is very interesting, how these fast cards may influence the industry of portable devices in the future. Let's wish them luck in their development.
More Products to Consider
Speaking of extreme sports, check out our review of the best action cameras for different sports and situations.
SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter
Control and Assistance
Sandisk is one of the three companies that created the Secure Digital format in January of 2000. It is also among the largest SD-cards manufacturers in the world. Of course, we couldn't avoid its products in our review.
We've decided to pick up the Class 10 card. We had to double-check if it has the UHS bus because it has I-mark but no U1. The maximum reading rate here turned out to be around 80 MB/s, so we may say that it is a U1 UHS-I card. That means you can readily upload your info anywhere anytime.
In our opinion, the 64 GB storage will fully satisfy most people's needs. Grab it if you hate when your camera suddenly runs out of storage mid-session but don't want to sort out gazillion photos at once like that happens with more capacious cards.
What's more, a free SanDisk Memory Zone Android app is available on Play Market. It can create backups of the information from your card and upload it to an online storage like Google Drive or DropBox. You can even program your phone to upload them automatically on a daily basis to always have the copy on hand in case if your phone is unavailable or even stolen. Overall, it's a nice tool for managing files on your smartphone.
To Unite All People With Our Product
SanDisk is another company that lends a helping hand to the team of professional photojournalists with its products. So-called Extreme Team members range from fashion to extreme sports photographers with a clear-eyed view and inspirational photos of people's life stories. They are committed to creating artful captions all over the world. Professionals seem to have approved SanDisk products and service. Coming back to our 64 GB microSD card, you are getting a 10-year warranty after buying it, which is probably even longer than the service life of most digital devices that you might use a card in. We encourage you to enjoy the same quality as the renowned professionals.
More Products to Consider
We recommend taking a look at our guide on card readers. There are even wireless models that will allow you to upload or copy your files from a microSD or SD card directly to your phone or tablet, without using your PC or notebook.
Transcend MicroSDHC UHS-1 Memory Card
This Transcend Premium 32 GB microSD card can reach up to 45 MB/s reading rate under optimal conditions. You might have already noticed the tendency that the smaller the memory capacity is, the slower the speed a card has. However, it works just fine with any compatible digital device.
We've found out, that the Transcend provides a special RecoveRx software for recovering information from a card, in case it was deleted. Actually, it may work with cards from other manufacturers, and even with hard drives or USB sticks. You can additionally protect your information with a password by using the same RecoveRx tool. You will also need a Transcend microSD card, Windows OS on your PC and special RDF8 card reader. Without both RDF8 card reader and a password, no one will be able to access your precious files.
Did You Know That
The amount of storage memory shown by reading device differs from the one stated by the manufacturers on their devices. For instance, when you plug a 32 GB microSD card in a computer or a phone, it will show you that it has around 29.8 GB available. Why is that?
In the metric system, the Kilo prefix means 1000 times the amount of something, Mega stands for million, and Giga is for billion. If you take 32 billion bytes and divide them by billion, you will get exactly 32 Gigabytes. Everything is fine, right?
The difference appears because the computers utilize the binary system instead of metric. In binary, Kilo stands for 1024, Mega is for 10242, and Giga is for 10243. When you plug the device with the same amount of bytes in a PC or phone, it will divide bytes by 10243. And that will be equal to 29.8 GB.
As you might have guessed, manufacturers of memory products are using this loophole in order to display larger numbers and to promote their devices this way. You can't blame them as they are correct grammatically. Anyway, the market has been like this for a few decades already, so it's not a big deal and everyone is used to this.
More Products to Consider
If you travel quite a lot with your camera, consider buying a water-resistant hard case for your SD cards to keep them safe and sound even under extreme weather conditions.
Kingston Digital microSDHC Flash Card with SD Adapter
Blast from the Past
Kingston is a premiere manufacturer of memory devices and the biggest one there is of DRAM modules. If you have a desktop PC or a notebook at home or at work, there are high chances that you have Kingston DDR card installed in it. So no wonder, why we've picked up one of its products.
Class 4 was chosen to inspect the capabilities of older models. This one has 16 GB memory, that was a dream capacity in an era of keypad mobiles. Nowadays, you can find such card at a small price and use it for limited modern devices, like e-book readers or mp3-players. We want to add, that 4 MB/s might not be enough to record video at 720p by modern smartphones.
The superior feature here is that Kingston microSD cards are almost unkillable and have a lifetime warranty. The company states that each of them is tested before releasing into the wild-wild market. As for protection, the card design has passed military-grade probations for shock and water resistance. Moreover, it can survive being in freshwater at 1-meter depth for over 30 minutes.
Overall, grab this one if you like to keep your information safe and sound and do not mind waiting for a bit, while the data is being transferred between the card and a device.
Manufacturers like to promote their products with somewhat obscure statements. Like gluten-free or non-GMO drinking water. There are some thought-provoking marketing spoofs that you can see around microSD cards as well.
The most common one is probably the magnet proof and X-ray proof qualities. Gone are the days of floppy discs that could be destroyed by simply lying near a PC speaker. SD technology just doesn't work that way. While strong magnetic field can disrupt your phone's performance, the memory of microSD card will stay intact even if you put it directly on a magnet.
The same goes for the X-rays. Any card can withstand such small dose as 0.1 Gy that is produced by airport scanners. Otherwise, imagine how many cards would we have out of order after a short trip from DC to JFK.
The same can be applied to the working temperatures. The cards are made of polymer and metal alloys. It's not like they would evaporate at 212 degrees. However, many digital devices have processors, that can become very hot. Therefore, here are the actual info that applies to almost any microSD card on the market: the cards can operate at temperatures from -13 °F up to 185 °F. As for storing, you can safely keep a card at -40 °F up to 185 °F.
Some of these parameters are the vestige of the past, but others are still pretty important for people, who work in extreme conditions.
More Products to Consider
You might be interested in a USB Solar Charger that will allow you to recharge your phone's battery on-the-go on your travels or bike cruises around the city.
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2. Chris Hoffman How to Buy an SD Card: Speed Classes, Sizes, and Capacities Explained, How-To Geek. May 29, 2014.
3. Andy Betts 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your Next MicroSD Card, MakeUseOf. October 23, 2015.
4. Richard Easton How to Choose an SD card - Class and Speed Ratings Explained, expertreviews. February 11, 2016.
5. Jack Schofield How Should I Decide Which Type of SD Card to Buy? The Guardian. December 19, 2013.
6. Will Greenwald Flash Memory Cards: What You Need to Know, PCMag. July 13, 2011.
7. Ryan Zanoni Memory Card Buying Guide, B&H. 2015.
8. Ian Burley Memory Card Buying Guide, Wex Photographic. September 17, 2013.
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