Buying Memory Cards Guide

Are you looking for a memory card for your camera or smartphone? If you bought a camera or a smartphone you will probably need a memory card. Typically it would be either an SD card (cameras) or a microSD card (smartphones or tablets).

You can also use a memory card to expand storage on your laptop if it has a memory card slot.

When buying a memory card, first check which card your device needs (SD or microSD). If you need a new card because you haven’t got one or maybe your card is just slow and you need a faster one then keep reading.

Avoid fakes

Even memory cards are nowadays often fakes. Fake memory cards became a real problem. They look identical to original memory cards. Sometimes you may end up buying a fake memory card, say 16GB, and realise that what you got is only 4GB (and a very slow one).

I would recommend buying your memory cards from reputable retailers like Amazon or eBuyer and make sure you buy the card in original packaging. Many Amazon customers reported receiving fake memory cards so be sure you buy directly from Amazon (or other retailer you know and trust).

If you want to check if your memory card is real run a speed test using a free software called CrystalDiskMark.

I ran some tests on some of my memory cards recently (using CrystalDiskMark), which I’ll share with you in just a moment.

What’s important

The most important feature of a memory card is speed. But don’t forget about reliability and price (unless the price is not an issue).

Memory cards (SD, microSD, etc) are used in all sorts of cameras nowadays (and other devices like tablets and mobile phones). Because cameras are really quick nowadays and you can take photos in continuous shooting mode, images are typically stored in buffer memory¬† before they’re saved onto a memory card. The faster your memory card the better because the faster can your camera write files onto your memory card the faster it can clear the memory buffer. This makes memory card’s write speed the most important factor.

What about read speed then? Is this important?

Read speed is important when you’re copying the files from your memory card to your computer. Or when you’re viewing images on your camera’s screen.

Did you notice that when you see the card’s speed advertised it’s always the read speed? That’s because read speeds are always faster and memory card manufacturers can advertise higher speeds to attract potential buyers. But the write speeds are more important, actually the most important.

I did some tests to compare one of my older memory cards to a brand new faster one I bought recently:

SD and microSD memory cards test

And here’s what I got from the older Lexar Multi-Use Class 6 SD card:

and from the new Kingston Class 10 UHS-I SD card:

Kingston’s read speed was almost 4x that of Lexar! However, write speed was actually a bit lower despite Kingston being a Class 10 memory card (more on that in just a moment).

Here’s another test I did, this time taking 2 Class 10 microSD cards:

  • older Kingston Class 10 MicroSD HC
  • new Sandisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I MicroSD HC

Here are the results from the older Kingston Class 10:

The lowest results of all these cards here (keep in mind I bought this card a few years go).

And here are the results from the new Sandisk:

The write speed on this Sandisk is the fastest of all the cards on test here! 21.8 MB/s, that’s impressive! And the read speed of 74.6 MB/s almost as fast as on the new Kingston Class 10 SD card.

Speed Ratings

Here’s what they describe:

  • Class 10 rating – the card will write at at least 10 MB/s (this would be a minimum for shooting FullHD video.
  • UHS-I trating – it’s a bus mode that’s a standard which explains how different generations of memory cards work. All current cameras will support UHS-I or even UHS-II. Don’t buy a UHS-II memory card if your camera doesn’t support as you won’t be able to take advantage of extra speed of the card.

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