Best Memory Card of 2020
For the majority of memory card users, we think the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC is the best option. It offers impressive write speeds, logging a relatively blazing 88 mb/s in our tests. This is more than enough speed for even serious photography hobbyists that like to record 4K video or capture RAW images. You can also rest assured devices that require higher-speed cards to function, like certain camera drones, will be satisfied with the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO. Notably, it manages to achieve these speeds while avoiding the high price tags of the fancier UHS-II cards. To boot, it is covered by SanDisk's lifetime limited warranty, and is touted by the company as being shock, temperature, water, and X-ray proof.
While the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO isn't particularly expensive, it is a bit pricier than the average memory card. However, that extra price brings extra speed and with it the peace of mind that a lagging card isn't going to ruin your next photography session, or cause your camera drone to malfunction. For those that want a card they don't have to worry about, the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC is the perfect choice.
We've been impressed with SanDisk's Extreme Pro line, and the MicroSD version is no exception. The SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro MicroSDXC is our first recommendation to those seeking a MicroSD card for pretty much any use. We measured a top-tier write speed of 86 mb/s, making this card perfect for everything from capturing high-quality imagery to expanding phone or tablet storage. It comes with a convenient converter so it can be used in either micro or standard SD card slots. Like all of the high-end products from this manufacturer, this card enjoys a lifetime limited warranty and is advertised as impervious to water, heat, cold, and X-rays.
This extra speed does come at a cost. The SanDisk Extreme Pro MicroSDXC usually costs slightly more than the average microSD card. However, we feel the extra expediency will be well worth the extra cost for most people.
If your card needs are fairly basic — non-RAW photography, 1080p video recording, or similar — you likely don't need extreme speeds or huge storage capacities. That's where the SanDisk 32GB Ultra SDHC comes in. It provides enough firepower for common tasks while costing significantly less than faster cards. You also get the benefit of SanDisk's ruggedized guarantee, citing that the card can handle water, temperature extremes, shock forces, and won't be affected by the X-ray machines at the airport.
That low price does come with a number of tradeoffs. First off, the warranty is reduced from the normal limited lifetime to only a limited 10-year. Additionally, while the speeds are adequate for most uses, they aren't sufficient for some advanced camera drones and will slow you down if you like to shoot burst images in RAW. That being said, we had no issues recording 4K video with this card. As long as you're not looking to complete data-intensive tasks, the SanDisk Ultra SDHC provides reliable performance at a low price.
A multitude of devices, like dash cams, security cameras, or storage depleted phones and tablets, can benefit from an inexpensive and reliable microSD card. The Samsung 32GB EVO Select MicroSDHC fills that niche almost perfectly. In our tests we measured its write speed at 35 mb/s, which is plenty fast enough for basic data transfer and capturing 1080P HD video. In our tests, it was even fast enough for capturing 4K video. And it does all this at a relatively rock bottom price. Like most reliable manufacturers, Samsung certifies the card as water, shock, temperature, and X-ray proof.
The one time we found the EVO Select's speed limiting in our testing was in the burst shooting of high-quality RAW images. It was only able to keep the shutter chugging along for about 3 seconds before it got bogged down, whereas faster cards were able to double and even triple that figure. Additionally, the warranty is slightly less generous than average, with the 10 year limited plan not extending to "write intensive" uses like dash cams and security cameras. As long as you're not shooting RAW images and don't mind a somewhat limiting warranty, the Samsung 32GB EVO Select microSDHC is a great choice for budget-conscious microSD card shoppers.
If you're constantly testing the speed limits of your cards by recording lots of 4K video or taking many RAW images in rapid succession, it may make sense to upgrade to an ultra high speed class 2 (UHS-II) option. If that's the case, we can't recommend the Sony Tough High Performance SDXC UHS-II enough. This card reached a blazing write speed of 250 mb/s in our tests, significantly faster than the other UHS-II cards we tested and orders of magnitude quicker than even the best UHS-I cards. To top it all off, the card is built more ruggedly than nearly any other on the market. Sony claims it is 18 times more bend resistant than standard cards. It is also one of the few that sports an independently certified IP68 dust and waterproof rating, meaning you can bury it in the sand and submerge it in a meter of water without compromising its effectiveness. Sony even offers free file rescue software to its customers to help recover accidentally deleted photos from the card.
All of this speed and performance comes at a correspondingly high price, with this being one of the priciest cards we've tested. Additionally, while the card will work in any SD card device, you'll need UHS-II compatible devices to fully take advantage of its high speeds. This means buying a fancy card reader and likely buying a camera whose price is well into the quadruple digits. If you're in search of the fastest card possible and already have UHS-II compatible equipment, the Sony Tough High Performance SDXC UHS-II is sure to please.
If you have a specialized, UHS-II compatible device that requires a microSD card the Lexar Professional 1800x 64GB microSDXC UHS-II is our top recommendation. It is the fastest such card we've tested, reaching write speeds of up to 125 mb/s in our tests. This allowed it to easily shrug off the recording of 4K video or capturing burst RAW images. All this is backed up by a limited lifetime warranty.
Apart from the high price inherent in all UHS-II cards, the main weakness of this card is that it fills a very narrow niche. Devices with UHS-II compatible microSD card slots are few and far between, meaning you'll likely be using the included standard SD converter more often than not to access the high speeds. In those cases, we've found that full-sized UHS-II cards are much faster, so you might as well use one of those instead. However, if you want a super fast card that can be used in both micro and full-sized SD card ports, the Lexar Professional 1800x 64GB microSDXC UHS-II and its included converter is a great choice. Just remember you won't be able to unlock it's top speeds when using it in most microSD ports.
Perhaps one of the most useful abilities of a microSD card is boosting the internal memory of a phone or tablet (sorry Apple users, you're out of luck here). If that's why you're shopping for memory cards, look no further than the SanDisk 128GB MicroSDXC for Nintendo Switch. Not only can it store games on its titular gaming device, it can store music, movies, and photos on phones and tablets. Thanks to the near blazing 86 mb/s write speed and even faster read speeds, you won't be left waiting to upload media to or access media from the card. It also enjoys SanDisk's limited lifetime warranty, and offers high-capacity options at relatively economical prices.
The most significant downside to the SanDisk 128GB MicroSDXC for Nintendo Switch is that it doesn't come with a converter for using it in full-sized card readers, meaning it can't pull double duty in your camera unless you buy a converter separately. However, if you're sure you'll only be using it in your phone or tablet, it's nice to not have another piece of plastic to deal with.
If you're looking for a high speed card that is a bit friendlier to the wallet, the SanDisk 64GB Extreme SDXC is a great compromise. Though not as fast as some of the upper-tier models, it logged a respectable 70 mb/s write speed in our tests. We found this to be more than sufficient for recording 4K video. It was also able to keep the shutter moving for 6 full seconds when shooting RAW images in burst mode, making it suitable for advanced photography as well. Finally, it enjoys SanDisk's limited lifetime warranty and guarantees of water, weather, shock, and X-ray proofing.
While you can save a bit by opting for this card over a higher-level one, the savings are relatively small, to the point where most people will likely want to pony up for the extra performance cushion provided by the slightly faster cards. However, if you're in need of a relatively fast card and want to save a few bucks the SanDisk 64GB Extreme SDXC will serve you well.
The PNY Elite Performance 32GB was a decent all-around performer in our tests. We measured a maximum write speed of 40 mb/s, which was fast enough for recording video in 4K and burst shooting RAW images for about 5 seconds before the card started to buffer. Though this performance doesn't quite live up to the name, it is good enough for most applications.
While we like the PNY Elite Performance, we feel it is a bit overpriced given its speed. For similar prices there are significantly faster cards available. If you're able to find it on sale, however, the PNY Elite Performance may present a good value.
The Lexar Professional 1000X 32GB SDHC UHS-II offers an above average write speed of 56 mb/s, as measured in our tests. This is comfortably above average, and as such we had no issues with 4K video and RAW image bursts when using this card. It also carries a limited lifetime warranty.
This card belongs to the faster UHS-II class, and is priced accordingly. Unfortunately, in our tests its performance did not live up to that pedigree. While it is reasonably fast, we tested "slower" UHS-I cards that are nearly twice as fast, and more capable UHS-II cards that are almost five times as fast. Therefore, unless you can find the Lexar Professional 1000X 32GB SDHC Uhs-II on sale there are much better values available.
Why You Should Trust Us
The design of our memory cards testing processes and the interpretation of the ensuing results both lean on the expertise of our in-house photographers, Laura Casner and Jason Peters. Combined they have multiple decades of professional photography and videography experience and have burned through many hundreds of memory cards throughout their careers. Senior review editor Max Mutter has tested and reviewed many data transfer devices, most recently dozens of USB flash drives, as well as over 100 devices that utilize memory cards such as drones, security cameras, and dash cams.
To reveal the differing levels of performance behind the near identical faces of the memory cards on the market we objectively measured their write and read speeds both when plugged into a computer and when used in a camera. For all of these tests we used both large movie files and folders full of lots of photos in order to assess their ability to capture and transfer both high-quality video and still imagery.
Analysis and Test Results
Write speed, or more colloquially the rate at which data can be collected, is the major differentiating factor of memory cards. Faster write speeds translate into capturing high-quality video and images without any buffering, lagging, or impaired image quality. We separated our write speed tests into two categories: large file and small file. Large file write speed corresponds to a card's ability to record video, while small file write speed is indicative of a card's prowess in taking many still images in rapid succession. We also measured read speeds, or how quickly a card can upload existing files to your computer.
Large File Write Speed
We tested large file write speed in two ways. First, we transferred the same 5 gigabyte 1080p video file using the same SD card reader onto each card and timed the transfer. This allowed us to get a controlled measurement of how quickly each card could record the exact same video file. Transferring large files is the easiest task for cards, so this speed represents the maximum functional write speed. We then conducted a pass/fail test, putting each card into a camera and recording 5 minutes of 4K video and then reviewing the resulting footage for any dropped frames or pixelation. All of the cards that made our final cut passed the latter test.
By far the fastest card we tested is the Sony Tough High Performance SDXC UHS-II, which posted an impressive speed of 250 mb/s in our tests. Unfortunately you need UHS-II compatible devices to fully unleash this card, so it's only worth the investment if you already own correspondingly high-quality equipment.
The Lexar Professional 1800x 64GB microSDXC UHS-II earned a distant second in this test, reaching speeds of 125 mb/s. Again, however, you'll need UHS-II compatible devices to hit this top speed.
The fastest of the UHS-I models we tested is the SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC. It reached 88 mb/s in our test, offering plenty of speed for pretty much every task imaginable. The microSD version of this card achieved nearly the same speed in our tests, as did the SanDisk 128GB MicroSDXC for Nintendo Switch. The SanDisk 64GB Extreme SDXC was just a bit slower at 70 mb/s.
After this there was a significant dropoff in speed. However, all of the models passed our 4K recording test, indicating they can all handle even taxing large-file tasks. If you have a device that requires a faster card, or just want the peace of mind that your card won't limit your devices, you'll want to look at the models mentioned above.
Small File Write Speed
Our first small file write speed test involved loading the same 5 gigabyte folder full of nearly 2000 photos onto each card, timing the transfer each time. This provided a baseline speed measurement for how quickly each card could ingest multiple photo files. We then tested this speed in-camera, shooting RAW images in burst mode until the cards started to bog down. While doing so we recorded each camera using a microphone and basic audio recording software. The shutter clicks showed up in the resulting waveforms as large spikes, allowing us to visually assess how quickly each card was able to process images, and at which point they started to get overwhelmed and bogged down. These in-camera measurements almost perfectly lined up with the results from our first test.
Here again the Sony Tough High Performance SDXC UHS-II reigned supreme, reaching speeds of 72 mb/s. It also performed very well in our RAW image burst tests, seemingly able to go on forever before the shutter started to skip.
After this there was a precipitous drop off in performance, with the 38 mb/s speed achieved by the SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC being the closest competitor. This speed allowed it to keep the shutter of our camera moving at full speed in our RAW burst shooting test for a full 6 seconds before pausing to buffer. This is more than enough speed for almost any photography application.
Beyond this point the cards got progressively slower, but in a functional sense the differences were relatively small. For instance, the top performing Sony Tough High Performance and the SanDisk Extreme PRO were able to write our 5GB folder of photos in 1:09 and 2:12, respectively. Even the slowest cards we tested still stayed inside the 5 minute mark, with just a single outlier (the SanDisk 16GB Ultra MicroSDHC) taking 8:20. Even this slow performance in our file transfer test translated into decent in-camera performance, as the SanDisk 16GB Ultra MicroSDHC was still able to shoot 4 seconds of full-speed burst RAW images before slowing down, meaning you're very unlikely to notice its lack of speed in everyday photography pursuits.
Read speed is the rate at which a card can transfer files from itself to another device. We measured read speeds by offloading the video and photo files from our previous tests from each card onto a computer with a stopwatch running the entire time. For the most part we found very little difference in read speeds, with only some of the high-quality UHS-II cards displaying significantly faster speeds. If you specifically need a card that can read files faster it is likely worth spending the extra money to upgrade to a UHS-II card. Just remember that not all devices have the extra hardware required to take advantage of the extra speeds of UHS-II cards, so you'll also need a fancier card reader and/or camera to make the extra cost worthwhile.
In testing read speeds we timed how long it took to extract both a single 5GB movie file and a 5GB folder full of photos from each card. For the large file, the UHS-I cards all clocked in at right around 53 seconds (94 mb/s) with very little variance. The UHS-II cards were able to improve that time to 17 seconds (294 mb/s). The folder of photos was a similar story, with all the UHS-I cards hitting right around the minute mark (83 mb/s) and the UHS-II cards reaching 26 seconds (192 mb/s). While the UHS-II cards are undeniably faster, the actual time savings are minimal unless you're transferring hundreds of gigabytes of data from your card onto your computer.
As cameras and smart devices become more and more ubiquitous, the need for memory cards and their reliable, solid-state data storage has grown. Unfortunately, all of those memory cards also look almost exactly the same, with only arcane statistics and advertising differentiating them from one another. We hope that our testing results have helped to cut through all of that confusion and allowed you to find the perfect memory card for your needs and budget.
— Max Mutter