MicroSD cards are ubiquitous these days and they’re used in many devices, chiefly phones. But you’ll want to pick a different microSD card for your phone than a device with a camera such as a dash cam, drone or action camera.
That’s because some are optimised for recording high resolution video, others for running apps and accessing the small files often used on phones and tablets. Sound confusing? Well don’t worry. We’ll compare and recommend the best ones to buy, and explain how to choose the best microSD card for your device.
Which microSD card should I buy?
Stick to the well-known brands which will offer a warranty on their cards. Reputable brands include: Samsung, SanDisk, Lexar, Kingston, Integral and Verbatim, among others.
There are plenty of fakes and counterfeit microSD cards, so make sure you buy from a trusted seller. If you see a card on eBay that’s a lot cheaper than you expect it to be, there’s probably a good reason!
We’ve shortlisted the best brands and models for you below.
Benchmark results – How the best microSD cards compare
How we test microSD cards
We use CrystalDiskMark 6 to test the read and write speeds of each card. This tests both the sequential speeds (reading and writing large blocks of data) and small-file performance, using 4KB reads and writes.
Tests are carried out on our Intel Core i7-based test rig over USB 3.0. We use the full-size SD adapters which come with cards and a Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader. If a card comes with its own USB 3.0 adapter, as with Lexar’s own card, we use that instead.
Best microSD cards – Our reviews
1. SanDisk Extreme PRO
The fastest microSD card that SanDisk offers for consumer electronics, the Extreme PRO starts at 32GB and goes up to 1TB.
It’s rated A2, which makes it faster for loading apps and dealing with the stuff necessary for phones and tablets. But with read speeds of up to 170MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s, it’s also ideal for 4K video recording in your drone, action camera or dash cam.
Unfortunately, most devices are limited to the UHS-I speed of 104MB/s so unless you happen to have one that allows for faster transfer speeds you won’t see that 170MB/s.
We only had a standard USB 3 microSD card reader available to test the Extreme Pro on our PC, and that’s the situation most people will be in. We saw a read speed of 94.6MB/s and a more-than-decent write speed of 85MB/s. It managed the fastest 4KB read speeds we’ve seen of 9.9MB/s but write speeds of 3.3MB/s weren’t great.
So, while the Extreme PRO may technically be one of the fastest around, most people won’t see noticeably faster speeds than are available from the Extreme Plus or even Ultra cards from SanDisk. So the same advice applies as for the Extreme Plus: buy if you can take advantage of the speeds, but if not you can save and go for an Ultra (or the Samsung Evo Plus).
Pick it up from Western Digital or from Amazon.
2. Manfrotto Pro Rugged
Manfrotto is a brand best known for its tripods, but storage for your camera is now part of its range. In addition to CF and SD cards are its microSD offerings which come in 64- and 128GB capacities.
Along with the other types of storage, the microSD cards also get the Rugged branding and the company says they’re built to be the toughest around, able to survive being submerged for 72 hours and temperatures ranging from -25C to 85C. We asked which company actually manufacturers the cards for Manfrotto, but were only told that “we source components and collaborate with extremely specialized partners for some product line ups”.
There’s a two-year warranty so you’re protected against any manufacturing defects.
Although labelled V30, which means a minimum sequential write speed of 30MB/sec, the Pro Rugged actually reads and writes at 90MB/s and this was bourne out in our tests.
CrystalDiskMark reported a read speed just shy of 95MB/s and a read speed a little down on the claim at 88.5MB/s. But, for at this price which is roughly half the RRP, that’s great performance.
Though squarely aimed at drones, action cameras and gimbles, you could theoretically also use one of these in your phone or tablet and it would perform reasonably well. 4KB read speed was 8.5MB/s and 3.75MB/s for writing.
3. SanDisk Extreme Plus
The Extreme Plus is a step down from the Extreme PRO range of microSD cards, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It claims up to 95MB/s read speeds and 90MB/s write. It’s rated both A1 and V30.
We were impressed when we saw it return over 87MB/s and 85MB/s for reading and writing in CrystalDiskMark. In fact, it went even faster in short queue depth test, with 92MB/s for reads and almost 88MB/s for writes.
That makes it a superb choice for recording video in 4K drones and action cameras, or burst photography in a DSLR. It’s also a fine performer for phones and tablets thanks to strong 4KB performance of 9.3MB/s when reading and 4MB/s when writing these tiny files.
It’s a fantastic microSD card that’s only held back by its high price per GB. Unless you need these high speeds, you’ll find better value elsewhere.
It’s now around £15 on Amazon.
4. Samsung Evo Plus
Samsung is one of the biggest brands, so you’re likely to sway towards buying a Samsung-branded microSD card, especially if you have a Samsung phone. The Evo Plus is now the entry-level range, with the Pro Plus and Pro Endurance being more expensive.
We tested the 128GB card, but it’s also available in 32GB/64GB/256GB capacities.
The packaging boasts of “Write Speed up to 90 MB/s” and we saw a sequential write speed 84.3 MB/s so it’s not far off the claim. Read speeds weren’t quite up to the 100 MB/s claim but at 88.3 MB/s, you won’t be disappointed given the price of the Evo Plus.
For phone and tablet use, you’re more interested in 4KB performance, and here the Evo shines: it scored 10.5 MB/s when reading and 4.7 MB/s when writing.
This makes it one of the best choices overall, especially if you’re sticking it in a phone that’s capable of recording 4K video.
You can buy microSD cards that work out cheaper per gigabyte, but the Samsung Evo Plus offers the sweet spot where you get great performance at a great price.
Pick it up from Amazon or from Novatech.
5. PNY Pro Elite microSDXC
PNY’s Pro Elite microSD card is a top all-rounder with a claimed 100MB/s read speed and 90MB/s write speed.
It’s available in 32, 64, 128, 256, 512GB and 1TB capacities, but specs vary slightly across those capacities. The 512GB card, for example, is rated A2 for app performance, while the others are A1.
However, as we found in CrystalDiskMark, even the 128GB card we tested outperformed at least one other A2-rated card for 4KB performance (the SanDisk Extreme PRO), managing 12.4MB/s for reading and 5.3MB/s for writing.
That’s fantastic at just £0.21 / $0.23 per GB.
We saw fairly decent results for large files with 88.7MB/s read speeds and 81.7MB/s write speeds. The latter is more than enough for recording 4K in consumer cameras.
So, whether you need a microSD card for your phone, an action camera or dash cam, the PNY Pro Elite is a great choice.
Available on Amazon.
Many modern phones have a microSD slot that allows you to add up to 2TB of storage. However, that’s academic since the largest cards until now have been limited to 256GB in capacity.
Integral was the first company to break through that barrier and offer 512GB of storage (£58.99), though now similar options are available from other brands in this chart. That’s still a mere quarter of the 2TB limit, but it’s still a considerable amount of storage.
Integral’s card isn’t just for phone or tablet users, though. It’s ideal if you have a Nintendo Switch and want to install a whole library of games.
Similarly, if you want a huge card for recording HD video on an action camera or drone, it’ll handle that task with ease as well. It’s particularly good for a home security camera that records continuously to microSD.
What it can’t do is handle 4K recording: it’s rated as V10, the lowest of the new video recording standards. In our tests, we found it managed a sustained write speed of 19.3MB/s. That’s plenty for Full HD 1920×1080 resolution though.
Read speeds are much quicker at 83.6MB/s – a whisker short of the 85MB/s claim.
For use in phones and tablets, you should be more concerned about a card’s 4KB file performance. Here the Integral puts on an impressive show with 7.3MB/s for reading and 1.7MB/s for writing.
When you calculate the cost per GB, it’s not as cheap as you might hope for (though the smaller capacity cards are much better value), but if you need this much storage, it’s currently your only option.
Pick up 64GB of storage for £9.95 on Amazon.
7. SanDisk Ultra
If you don’t fancy going for SanDisk’s top tier cards, its Ultra range also offers solid performance for much lower prices per GB – along with the option of stepping up to a capacious 256GB (£78/US$40.12).
In our CrystalDiskMark testing it managed sequential read speeds of 89MB/s – just a little shy of the 95MB/s SanDisk claims – though write speeds were a more modest 27MB/s. That’s fine for recording full HD video, but falls a little short of what you’d require for quality 4K video recording.
If you want to use the card in a phone or tablet (or a Nintendo Switch, for that matter) you’ll probably be more concerned with the 4KB speeds, and this is where the SanDisk Ultra is more impressive, managing to read at 9.4MB/s and write at 2.4MB/s. That’s not the very best out there, but it’s better than most and very solid performance for a card this price.
Pick up an extra 16GBs for just £5.39 on Amazon.
8. Toshiba M203 microSD
At face value, the Toshiba M203 is one of the best microSD cards around with everything going for it. The card is water-resistant, shock-proof and comes in five different capacities: 16-256GB at low prices.
Even at 256GB, the M203 is just 16p per GB. So if you’re looking for value for money then you’ve found it. Some of the other capacities are even cheaper per GB.
The M203 is also Class 10/UHS 1 so offers speeds of up to 100MB/s designed for both cameras and phones. In our tests we found the M203 the fastest card at a whopping 99.6MB/s, few MB/s clear of rivals in sequential read.
So what’s not to like? Well the card doesn’t have great sequential write speeds, just 17.7MB/s, but this is why it’s cheaper.
This means it’s only fast enough for Full HD (1080p) video recording so if you need 4K then look to the Toshiba Exceria M302 which is only £10 more comparing the 256GB models.
Although it’s made for phones, the 4KB performance isn’t as good as rivals with a read speed of 8.6MB/s. That’s not too shabby but 0.7MB/s write speed is slow, almost the slowest of the lot.
Pick up the 16GB option from Amazon for under £4/US$7.
MicroSD card buying guide
The first choice is capacity. You’ll want to check how large a card your device will accept. Some dash cams will take up to 32GB only, because that’s the limit of the SDHC standard – but most phones will support up to 256GB, thanks to the SDXC standard, with some supporting up to a massive 2TB.
The SD Express standard was announced in June 2018, that’s currently only for full-size SD cards.
Do I need a specific card for a camera or a phone?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: some cards are so good, they’re capable of recording 4K video in your GoPro but will also give great performance in your phone.
It can be confusing to choose a card as there are so many standards and logos. Some markings refer to speed, others to capacity. Here’s how to figure them out.
The newest standards are ‘V’ and ‘A’, and you’ll see a number after each which represents a minimum standard of performance.
Best microSD for video recording
Basically, if you’re buying a microSD card to record video, you’ll want to look for one with a V10 logo or better. The number after the V is the guaranteed write speed in megabytes per second (MB/s), although it may be higher than this.
To record 4K video, you should aim for at least V30. The SD Association has recommendations for speeds you need for recording at different video resolutions:
If there’s no ‘V’ number, check the packaging or specifications to find out the write speed. Watch out because the biggest number is usually the read speed, not write.
Best microSD for phones and tablets
On the other hand, you might be buying a card to expand your phone or tablet’s storage. Here you need good performance for reading and writing small files.
That’s why the other new rating system is ‘App performance’, denoted by an A, followed by a number.
It works in a similar way to the video class, and you’ll see an A1 or A2 logo on a card. A2 is very new, but A1 cards should be fast enough for running apps and games.
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