There was a time, not so long ago, when memory cards existed in a bewildering array of flavours and formats: CompactFlash, Memory Stick (by Sony), xD-Picture, MultiMedia Card and SmartMedia vied for the control of the market, but one format survived and thrived thanks to smartphones and tablets.
MicroSD and its bigger brother, SD (Secure Digital) are the undisputable winners of the memory card wars that helped accessory manufacturers make a tidy profit selling card readers and converters to thousands.
And because microSD cards use the same fundamental component as memory sticks and internal memory of smartphones, prices have fallen tremendously over the last few years thanks to economies of scale.
How to choose your microSD memory card
- It's not worth looking for memory cards with capacities smaller than 4GB simply because the price premium you pay for twice or four times the storage is tiny.
- Make sure you include the delivery price when doing the numbers as quite often you end up paying more for the postage than the drive itself, particularly for low-cost models.
- If you plan to opt for large capacity cards (32GB or more), make sure that your device is SDXC compatible.
- If you plan to move files to and from portable devices (tablets or smartphones), consider a microUSB card reader such as the Leef Access.
- Avoid buying your memory cards from vendors with few feedbacks on auction websites as these drives might turn out to be fake. All the vendors listed below are tried and trusted ones.
- For 128GB and above, SD cards are generally cheaper as users usually settle for 64GB as this matches the maximum supported capacity of most portable devices. In general, microSD cards with an adaptor cost less than the equivalent SD card.
- Note that all the capacities are likely to be much less than stated when they are formatted.
- SD cards are usually divided into classes which gives a rough idea of the minimum performance to be expected. A Class 4 card is guaranteed to deliver at least 4MBps while a Class 10 should surpass 10MBps.
- Similarly, many vendors report their speeds in terms of "x" rating which is a multiple of 150KBps (the read speed of a standard CDROM drive). A 100x card can be expected to deliver more than 14MBps.
- If you plan to buy microSD cards simply to store data, don't. Memory sticks, being cheaper and more robust, are a better choice.
8GB Kingston WH2-SDC4/8GBSP for £2.79. This is a class 4 card that doesn't come with a card adaptor and has a lifetime warranty.
16GB Kingston WH2-SDC4/16GBSP for £4.29. Like the card above, it is a class 4 one, without a card adaptor and with a lifetime warranty. Should you want a faster card, this Kingston SDC10/16GB64GB delivers Class 10-performance for £4.99 with a free card adaptor thrown in.
32GB Transcend Premium TS32GUSDHC10 for £8.99. This is a Class-10 card with a card adaptor and comes with a recovery software called RecoveRx. The manufacturer quotes read/write speeds of 17MBps and 20MBps respectively, on par with UHS-1 cards.
64GB Lexar LSDMI64GABEUC10 for £13.49 using the voucher code VB10; if you don't recognise the brand, you're probably not alone. Just be aware that Lexar is owned by Micron, one of the most recognised names in storage Like the above, this is a Class-10 card without a card adaptor. Note that this capacity is the sweet spot, procuring the cheapest per GB price at 21p.
128GB Kingston SDCX10/128GB for £56.05. Beyond 128GB, prices creep up significantly without any significant performance gain; this is still a Class 10 device which translates into a 10MBps transfer rate for writes. It comes with a lifetime warranty and a card adaptor.
There are no commercially available 256GB micro SDXC. Sandisk's 200GB card, the SDSDQUAN-200G-G4A is expected to cost around £200 when it goes on sale in June 2015. This card has a 10-year warranty, comes with a SD adaptor and is water proof, shock proof, temperature proof, x-ray proof and magnet proof.