What should look for in Memory Cards before buying?

We all, at some point in our lives, have purchased memory cards to expand the storage on our mobile devices, cameras, MP3 players and a bunch of other electronic gadgets. Though some smartphone manufacturers today don’t provide a memory card slot, they are still important if the memory capacity on our smartphones isn’t impressive, and we need to rely on external memory to store our media files like music, videos, etc. Memory cards are also important if we use a camera, which, in most cases doesn’t have its own memory to store the captured photos and videos. So memory cards aren’t going away anytime soon.

The first thing we all decide at the time of purchasing a memory card is its size. Some of us need a 64GB card, while others need a 256GB card. It all depends upon where exactly it will be used by the user. But the problem comes elsewhere. We often find cards of the same capacity available at varying prices, with huge differences, and we end up purchasing those cards that aren’t compatible with the device we purchased it for. The cards available at different prices has a reason, and today I will be discussing that in this article. After reading this, you will no longer be in a dilemma at the time of purchasing memory cards, and you can purchase your next memory card like a pro.

So without further delay let’s get started with the memory card purchasing guide.

Memory card Buying Guide

Understanding the Memory card capacities

Understanding the Memory card capacities

Though a memory card basically means small cards that can be connected to our smartphones, cameras and other portable devices, there are 4 different standards the memory cards are manufactured, and they are the SD, SDHC, SDXC, and the SDUC Cards.

With the SD standard, it is possible to manufacture cards up to 2 GB of size. The SD standard is kind of obsolete nowadays as cards of 2 GB or lesser sizes aren’t available at all nowadays, and it isn’t possible to manufacture cards higher than 2 GB of size with this standard.

The next is the SDHC standard, which basically means Secure Digital High Capacity, where it is possible to manufacture cards up to a size of 32 GB. These cards are still abundantly available nowadays.

The SDXC or SD eXtended capacity standard can be used to manufacture cards up to a maximum of 2 TB in size, and most cards people purchase today, are manufactured using this standard. Be it a 128GB SD card or a 256GB card, they are all manufactured using the SDXC manufacturing standards.

The SDUC or SD Ultra Capacity standards, which is a kind of future technology announced by the SD association in 2018, can be used to manufacture cards up to a maximum of 128 TB of size, which isn’t yet available in the market today. Though not available, the cards manufactured using the SDUC standards should be available in the market by the next decade, if technology hauls itself at the same speed it is doing today.

At this point in time, it isn’t necessary to develop a manufacturing standard to manufacture cards more than 128 TB of size. But chances are, we will get such a standard once it becomes the need of the generation.

But, the following standards aren’t backward compatible, which is worth remembering. What that means is, an SD card will be compatible with SD, SDHC, SDXC, and SDUC devices. An SDHC card will be compatible with SDHC, SDXC, SDUC devices, but not with the SD standard. It this way, any future SDUC card will only be compatible with SDUC standard and will not be backwards compatible with any of the older standards.

Understanding the Memory card class

Now to one of the most important points you should pay attention to, which might decide the fate of your SD Card when you will be using it with your gadget. Understanding the Class of your SD Card is important if you want to get the most out of your card.

Basically, there are 4 SD Card classes, which defines the minimum writing speeds on the SD Cards namely Class 2, 4, 6 and 10 on SD and SDHC cards and U1 and U3 for SDXC Cards. These numbers are written in small circles on the cards and within a small bucket like an icon for UHS Speed Class. Let’s now demystify these numbers.

The Class 2 SD and SDHC cards support a writing speed of 2 Megabytes per second or more on SD and SDHC cards, while the Class 4, Class 6 and Class 10 support a minimum speed of 4 MBPS, 6 MBPS and 10 MBPS respectively. While writing to an SD card, these are the minimum speeds that you will get.

The UHS 1 aka. U1 cards for the SDXC Cards, on the other hand, support a minimum writing speed of 10 MBPS on SDXC cards, and 30 MBPS on U3 class cards.

SD card speed
image source-sdcard.org

These are all minimum writing speeds, which is expected while writing to these cards. But the speeds are subject to vary if you are writing to the cards from a different device using a particular interface like USB, Wi-Fi or Ethernet. To achieve the rated speeds, all the connected devices should support the minimum speeds mentioned here.

So which one should you purchase! It obviously depends upon where you want to use it.

The Class 2 memory cards are not abundantly used nowadays, and thus, I am keeping it away from the discussion. Though you can get it for some old MP3 players or so, you will hardly get a satisfactory performance if you use it on any modern devices.

If you want to record SD videos, or want to access media files from an SD card plugged to your mobile or any other portable device, an SD Card with Class 4 rating should be perfect for you.

A Class 6 SD Card should be the one you should go for if you want to record full HD videos, and I will recommend at least Class 10 SD card for recording 4K videos to not regret later if you face issues with frame drops. Though a Class 10 SD card might not give you the optimum performance while recording 4K videos.

But, if you are among those few people, who record videos in 8K, a U1 or U3 class card will be a good choice for you, if not the best. Even for capturing RAW images, a U3 class card is recommended for you.

Application Class Performance

In most memory cards or SD Cards, you will often come across the numbers A1 and A2 written on them. This comes to play when you want to use your card for random read and write operations like playing games, work with intensive apps, etc. Most users format the SD card as internal storage, and the Application Class Performance defines how well you can run games and apps from the memory card.

The A1 class cards support a minimum random read speed of 1500 IOPS and a minimum random write speed of 500 IOPS.

While on the other hand, the A2 class cards support a minimum random read speed of 4000 IOPS and 2000 IOPS minimum random write speeds.

Here IOPS is the acronym of Input/Output Operations per Second. However, both types of cards support a minimum sequential write speed of 10 Megabytes per second. To get better Application Class Performance, you will have to use either an SDHC or SDXC cards. With a better Application Class Performance, the memory cards are capable of better command queuing and caching with even more efficient management of the flash memory.


Video Class Speeds

Some memory cards might come with a number followed by V, and they V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90, which signify the Video Class Speeds while writing to the memory cards. A V6 card will support a minimum write speed of 6 MBPS, and it will be 10, 30, 60 and 90 MBPS respectively for V10, V30, V60, and V90 standard cards.

Now you can make out, which card you should go for, for your individual video recording needs. A V90 card is must, if you want to record 8K videos with no frame drops at all, and a V60 card will give you outstanding performance for recording 4K videos. While a V30 card should be enough to capture videos at Full HD.

The memory cards with higher Video Class Speeds are optimized for sequential writing at very high speeds that will eventually give you great performance while recording videos, compared to that of other memory cards.

Speed multipliers

Lastly, there are speed multipliers, which you can find written on memory cards, like 50x, 100x, etc. These are basically marketing indications to show you, how much the card has improved compared to that old old optical drives, which had a read speed of 150 Kbps.

Sometimes you might even find the read and write speeds written on the cards or on the packaging to give you a clear idea of what you are going to get, just in case you don’t know the significance of the other small notations written on the cards.

Which one to get?

Hope you have already taken your decision on which memory card you should go for. If you have already taken your decision about which memory card you are going to purchase, make sure you will get the satisfactory performance with the memory card by checking whether your gadget is going to support the memory card at its full glory. Also, make sure that you are going for an appropriate memory card to not regret later if you are getting sub-standard performance by connecting the memory card to your gadget.

All the things that I have mentioned here related to the memory cards are standards notations, but the actual performance of the memory cards after you purchase them is a subject to vary. Depending upon, which device you are using it, and whether the device supports the rated speeds, the actual real-world performance is a subject to vary. It will also depend upon other factors when you are transferring files between the memory card and your computer, or any other device.

Hope the information was helpful for you, and now you should no longer face any issues while purchasing memory cards. Do you still have any questions? Feel free to comment the same down below.