The State of SD Cards in 2023

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SD cards affordably provide additional storage space on multiple devices, from handheld video game consoles to drones. This mature storage technology has been around for a while, and manufacturers are constantly coming up with new and better storage solutions.

Types of SD cards

Before we go deeper, we need to get acquainted with the types of SD cards currently available in the market. The “SD” in SD Card stands for Secure Digital. There are three types of SD cards, the standard full-size SD card, the mini SD card, and the micro SD card.

The mini SD card was phased out by the micro SD card and was rarely seen in 2022. Most devices use either the full-size or the micro SD card.

SD cards and speed

SD cards are further classified according to their speed. Luckily, the SD Association’s official memory classification has unique labels that make it easy to identify the cards.

  • SD – SD capacity ranges from 128MB to 2GB. Its format is FAT16.
  • SD HC – The SD High Capacity cards have storage space from 4 GB to 32 GB. the default format is FAT32. This type is based on the SDA 2.0 specification.
  • SD XC Extended SD capacity ranges from 64GB to 2TB. The 2 TB here is the theoretical maximum and has yet to be available on the market. The default format on these cards is exFAT.

As technology advanced, Ultra High-Speed ​​Phase I (UHS-I) was introduced on both SD-HC and SD-XC cards. It increased the theoretical maximum transfer speeds on the cards with two bus architecture options. The UHS-50 had 50MB/s while the UHS-104 had 104MB/s data transfer speed. Similarly, SD Spec 4.0 added Ultra High-Speed ​​Phase II (UHS-II) to SD HC and SD XC cards. The specification has options for 156 MB/s and 312 MB/s.

SD card speed class and rating

The Speed ​​Class rating is the minimum data transfer speed that an SD card can support. The speed rating is crucial if you want to record videos with cameras, smartphones, action cams or drones. The resolution of the video determines how much data needs to be written to the SD card, slower cards cannot record 4K or 60fps video. Here is a table with all speed class SD buses.

SD card class Minimum speed offered
2 2MB/s
4 4MB/s
6 6MB/s
8th 8MB/s
10 10MB/s
UHS card class Minimum speed offered
1 10MB/s
3 30MB/s

SD card manufacturer

In 2023, there are many SD card manufacturers, all offering compelling options. Performance is almost the same in the same class of SD cards, regardless of manufacturer. However, reliability can be a deciding factor when choosing an SD card for your device. Here are the top SD card manufacturers in 2023:

  • Samsung
  • kingston
  • sandisk
  • Lexar
  • PNY
  • Transcend
  • Sony
  • integral

Some manufacturers are favorites for DSLR memory expansions, while others are great for Nintendo Switch. Overall, the classes are the same. Some manufacturers offer “tougher” versions for outdoor adventures. These versions are great for action cameras like GoPros.

The future of SD cards

Where is the journey going with storage technology and how expensive will the journey be?

The Secret of 2TB SD Cards

We’ve already seen 1TB SD cards available for purchase from several manufacturers. However, the 2TB cards are nowhere to be seen, with the current Micron SD card being the only one that surpasses 1TB… Why is that?

Price – The price for 1TB cards is ridiculously high, you can sure get one for around $50, but it will be slow and outdated. A modern, fast 1TB SD card costs around $200-$400. The price of 2 TB would be even higher.

Support financially – The 1TB cards are for a niche market. Only 0.3% of consumers worldwide want a 1TB SD card. Since not many people ask for it, manufacturers are not interested in making it.

reliability – SD cards, while reliable to a certain extent, are not permanent storage solutions. They are prone to damage and, due to their small size, can be easily relocated. Samsung, for example, would rather you buy its external portable SSDs than invest in higher-capacity SD cards.

dwindling market

While SD cards are essential for professional cameras, drones, and action cameras, most modern smartphones are dropping support.

Apple’s iPhone or iPad never initially supported SD cards, not even the Pro versions, and Samsung recently dropped support from its flagship smartphone as well. Some mid-range to budget smartphones still allow the use of SD cards, mainly due to their low internal storage.

The internal memory of smartphones is also faster and more reliable than SD cards. Smartphones are also pushing video recording capabilities, with some offering 8K video recording. While most MicroSD cards are fast, they aren’t fast enough to store high-resolution, real-time footage.

The portable game

Popular with Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck gamers, SD cards offer an inexpensive way to store games. You can even play installed games directly from the Steam Deck Micro SD.

SanDisk sells Nintendo brand SD cards that work great with the console. Your SanDisk microSDXC card comes with 64 or 128GB of storage and can achieve read speeds of up to 100MB/s. Because the console only needs to read data while gaming, write speeds only matter when installing a game.

supply chain issues

As with any other technology, SD cards, especially those with lower capacity, experienced supply chain issues in 2020-2022. The main reason is the limitations due to the lack of controller ICs. Controller shortages also impacted prices. Fortunately, prices are returning to normal as supply chains are restored after the pandemic.

Where is technology headed?

Manufacturers are aiming for faster SD cards. Better reliability and affordability are their main goals. Until now, none of the mainstream SD card manufacturers have tried to make higher capacity SD cards. Most don’t even offer 1TB of capacity in their lineup.

Sure, we may see a higher-capacity SD card at some point, but we’ll certainly see better read and write speeds and lower prices first.