As with a lot of tech purchasing decisions, when it comes to buying a memory card you can’t just click on the first result that appears on your online retailer of choice and that’s that—today’s memory cards, with their small sizes and huge capacities, have features and specs all of their own. Here’s are Tips for How to Pick the Right Memory Card for your Device.
The memory card explained
You’re probably most familiar with memory cards from slotting one into your digital camera or your smartphone. They use solid-state, flash memory similar to the internal storage inside your phone or laptop, with speedy read and write times, and the ability to pack a lot of storage into a small space.
As time has gone on, memory cards have been packing more and more storage into cards that have gotten smaller and smaller: The (relatively) chunky cards of the mid-1990s had capacities as small as 2MB, reflecting one of their original goals—to replace the 1.44MB floppy disk.
As the 2000s wore on, the SD (Secure Digital) card format established as a joint venture between Toshiba, SanDisk and Panasonic started to dominate the market, followed by the microSD, SDXC and microSDXC cards we have today—with capacities maxing out at 512GB, if you can afford the asking prices.
Other memory card formats are still around for various uses, but the SD and microSD variants are most commonly used in phones and cameras, so we’ll focus on them here. They’ll fit into everything from your drone to your Nintendo Switch.
Start shopping for a card, and you’ll notice a host of different numbers and letters on the face of the card and in its tech specs. There’s actually quite a bit of redundancy going on here (as in some specs are just repeating themselves), but it’s worth digging in to find out what each of them are referring to.