When it comes to finding and using the best SD cards, I tend to gravitate towards the best of the best. I use SD cards extensively as a photographer and tech lover, which is why I found myself on the quest to find the best ones out there. I want reliability, speed, and something that will let me push my equipment to its limits.
Last Updated: February 27, 2021.
- Updated links
- Prices updated for all SD cards
- New 1TB SD Card added
- New 128 GB SD cards added
- New 512GB SD cards added
- New 256GB SD cards added
All cards listed below are evaluated as if I were to use them personally and to make sure they meet my own stringent requirements.
Disclosure: Links go to Amazon provide which me a small commission at no extra cost to you and help pay for my research.
I use my DSLR mostly for adventure photos, food shots, and high speed sports photography. Having a SD card that can meet my demands and have enough storage for my 1-2 week travels of photo and video taking all day long is crucial. I went on a quest to find the best SD card to max the allowed space with lightning fast speeds.
So which SD card did I end up with? I’m currently using several 256GB SD cards for my travels, as they felt like the best bang for the buck: SanDisk 256GB Extreme PRO SDXC SD Card – SDSDXXY-256G-GN4IN
If you’re interested in Micro SD cards, check out my other research post for the Best Micro SD Card.
Table of Contents
The Problem with Finding the Best SD Cards
UHS, UHS-I, U1, UHS-III, and U3 are all buzzwords and jargon to look for on the packaging. The UHS signifies the speeds up to – up to being the operative phrase. This is important if you’re shooting HD or 4k video. Faster write speeds are needed in order to produce high quality video.
Even if you’re not shooting video, but running apps or games off your SD card, a fast write speed will keep things running smoothly.
A lot of cards are advertised as UHS1 / U1 and support 4k, but this simply is not true. Manufacturers claim 10MB/s write speed is sufficient, but it isn’t! You’re going to start running into overheating problems and video that stops recording before you’re done. I’ve even encountered dropped frames in video I was hoping to be spectacular.
You’ve probably seen UHS-I and Class 10 on just about every SD card you’ve checked out already. The SD association has come out with speed classes relevant towards video, too.
The Difference Between SD, SDHC, and SDXC
SDXC devices are backwards compatible, so they accept SD and SDHC memory cards. SDXC memory cards must only be used with SDXC devices and should never be used in non-compatible devices.
SD Card Speed Classes
SD Card Video Speed Classes
Video classes have been assigned to better support high resolution video recordings. Supported formats for video recordings on SD cards include:
- 4k (V6, V10, V30, V60, V90)
- 8k (V60 and V90)
- 3D (V60 and V90)
- 360 degree (V60 and V90)
The Best SD Card Brands
There are really only 5 brands you should consider when shopping for a SD card. There are faster cards out there, but I like to consider reliability as an important factor. I don’t want a card to become corrupt with a vacation full of video and photos.
Lexar – One of my personal favorites. Nikon also recommends this brand for their cameras.
Samsung – One of my personal favorites, based on speed and price.
SanDisk – Nikon recommends this brand this brand for their cameras.
Sony – This is a brand I’d purchase when on sale, otherwise I’d choose another brand first.
Transcend – Great budget options for the price.
Choosing the Best SD Card
Below are the fastest 512GB, 256GB, and 128GB SD cards. Anything else simply hasn’t made the cut for size, speed, and reliability.
Best 1TB SD Cards
The Lexar 633x 1TB currently has some of the fastest 4k write speeds available for all SD cards. If this is one of the important factors to you – this is the card to get by a longshot. As of October 2019, this is the only reputable 1TB SD card to buy.
Lexar Professional 633X 1TB SDXC UHS-I/U3 Card – Around $280
93.07 MB/s read in sequential mode.
62.57 MB/s write in sequential mode.
13.02 MB/s 4K read.
4.859 MB/s 4K write.
Best 512GB SD Cards
There are currently only three 512GB SD cards out there, and each of them are amazing cards. You can’t go wrong. However, the Sandisk Extreme Pro 512GB is my all time SD card favorite. I’ve used the Extreme Pro line in my DSLRs for many years and have always loved them. For the price, speed, and reliability, these are some of the easiest purchases of my tech life. I happily recommend this card to anyone who has similar demands as my own.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 512 GB SDHC UHS-I Card – SDSDXPA-512G-G46 – Around $240
90.21 MB/s read in sequential mode.
81.06 MB/s write in sequential mode.
1.484 MB/s 4K read.
3.237 MB/s 4K write.
Lexar Professional 633x 512GB SDXC UHS-I Card – LSD512CBNL633 – Around $80
152.70 MB/s read in sequential mode.
86.69 MB/s write in sequential mode.
11.52 MB/s 4K read.
1.80 MB/s 4K write.
PNY Elite Performance 512GB SDXC UHS-I Card – P-SDX512U3H-GE – Around $100
90.44 MB/s read in sequential mode.
54.00 MB/s write in sequential mode.
8.226 MB/s 4K read.
0.773 MB/s 4K write.
Kingston Canvas Go 512GB SDXC Card UHS-I – Around $180
92.0 MB/s read in sequential mode.
85.2 MB/s write in sequential mode.
9.547 MB/s 4K read.
1.305 MB/s 4K write.
Best 256GB SD Cards
218.0 MB/s read in sequential mode.
101.5 MB/s write in sequential mode.
14.96 MB/s 4K read.
1.028 MB/s 4K write.
96.73 MB/s read in sequential mode.
66.92 MB/s write in sequential mode.
5.599 MB/s 4K read.
0.713 MB/s 4K write.
151.550 MB/s read in sequential mode.
78.675 MB/s write in sequential mode.
3.496 MB/s 4K read.
2.414 MB/s 4K write.
177.229 MB/s read in sequential mode.
99.931 MB/s write in sequential mode.
4.557 MB/s 4K read.
2.519 MB/s 4K write.
Sony 256GB Class 10 UHS-1/U3 SDXC – SFG2UX2/TQ – Around $140
92.02 MB/s read in sequential mode.
84.39 MB/s write in sequential mode.
5.231 MB/s 4K read.
0.099 MB/s 4K write.
Best 128GB SD Cards
Lexar Professional 2000X 128GB SDXC Uhs-II Card – Around $160
304.1 MB/s read in sequential mode.
246.1 MB/s write in sequential mode.
13.018 MB/s 4K read.
2.354 MB/s 4K write.
218.0 MB/s read in sequential mode.
101.5 MB/s write in sequential mode.
14.96 MB/s 4K read.
1.030 MB/s 4K write.
Fastest SD Cards based on Write Speed
- Sony SF-G 300MB/s UHS-II 32GB 273.672 MB/s
- Sony SF-G 300MB/s UHS-II 64GB 273.351 MB/s
- Sony SF-G 300MB/s UHS-II 128GB 273.245 MB/s
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II 32GB 272.570 MB/s
- Sony Tough UHS-II 64GB 267.460 MB/s
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II 64GB 267.017 MB/s
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II Rev E 64GB 266.474 MB/s
- Integral UltimaProX2 UHS-II V90 64GB 263.925 MB/s
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II Rev E 32GB 263.362 MB/s
- ProGrade 250MB/s UHS-II V90 64GB 254.324 MB/s
Best SD Cards based on Video Speed Classes
I’m still gathering info on v90 and v60 certified SD cards. Some manufacturers have claimed equivalent speeds, but have not received an official certification. If the card doesn’t have the official Video Speed Class mark stamped on the card, I won’t list it here.
Best MicroSD Cards based on video class.
Best SD v90 Cards
Delkin Devices 128GB Power SDXC UHS-II (U3/V90) DDSDG2000128 – Around $175
Note: Currently they are the only one v90 certified.
Best SD v60 Cards
Best SD v30 Cards
Best SD v10 Cards
Tips on SD Card Care and Maintenance
Deleting Files and Formatting SD Cards
- Format your new SD card as soon as you plug it into the device.
- Always perform future formats in the device, whether phone or camera.
- Format when putting your SD card into new devices.
If you’ve ever had a corrupted SD card, you know how devastating it is to lose all of your data. The absolute best way to ensure your SD cards stay healthy is to only use the device, whether phone or camera, to delete files off the card. NEVER use your computer. The same goes for formatting. Always use your phone or camera to perform the format function. Using your computer to delete or format data off your SD card greatly increases the chances of the card becoming corrupted over time. Just be sure you want to format, as it is not reversible.
Transferring Files off SD Cards from Phone to Computer
I use Dropbox to easily and quickly move files back and forth from my phone to computer. Whether Android or iPhone, this has always seemed to be the easiest method. Dropbox will automatically upload new photos from my phone while on WiFi, then download them to my computer immediately.
Every now and then, or immediately upon returning from a vacation, I’ll hop on my computer and move the photos out of the Dropbox folder and into my Photos folder. Its a couple steps to get used to, but if you’ve tried saving photos off your phone, you know a couple steps is a lot easier than constantly pulling out hair, losing photos, or having to delete photos to make more room on your phone.
Purchase these SD Cards on Amazon
From recipes using locally sourced ingredients and terroir-centric cooking, craft cocktails, to the latest in tech and home DIY projects, Michael yearns to share his learned and found knowledge of the world.
Last update on 2021-04-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API