SD and microSD cards

A Guide to SD and microSD Card Types

Memory cards act as electronic storage for your devices storing digital media such as photos and videos. If you have a camera, camcorder, drone or mobile device, chances are you use a memory card.

The SD and microSD variants are most commonly used in smartphones and digital cameras. They fit into everything from your DSLR to your Nintendo Switch but not all cards are created equal — different devices require a different type of memory card.

Which SD Standard and Capacity Do You Need?

Kingston SD and microSD cards

The first thing to consider when choosing a memory card is figuring out what type of card your device requires which can usually be found in the instruction manual or on the manufacturer’s website. It’ll usually indicate what SD standard the device requires. Both SD and microSD cards share the same standards: SD, SDHC, SDXC, and SDUC and microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC, and microSDUC.

The two standards that are more popular today for both SD and microSD cards are SDHC and SDXC. The main difference among the SD standards is storage capacity. If you shoot 4K video, you’ll most likely need an SDXC card since it has a maximum capacity of 2TB which is plenty for optimal video recording performance. Additionally, SDXC cards use the exFAT file system to support the large files that can be produced when recording video at high bitrates with cameras like Sony’s a7S III. In comparison, files are limited to 4GB in size with the FAT32 file system used by other card types.

For the average user, a 32GB or 64GB card is more than enough. A mid-sized card should be able to capture hundreds, or even thousands of photos and video clips.

Types of SD Cards

SD memory cards have four SD standards that feature four capacities. The four SD standards are:

Type

Capacity

SD 2GB and under
SDHC

More than 2GB, up to 32GB

SDXC

More than 32GB, up to 2TB

SDUC

More than 2TB, up to 128TB

The SD standards are a timeline of the evolution of SD cards with newer cards allowing higher capacities and speeds. SDUC was announced in June 2018 and it’ll be a while before the SDUC cards are available and widely adopted in the industry. Hardware devices that host the memory cards are backward-compatible meaning you can use older standard memory cards in devices that support newer standards like SDXC.

For example, an SDXC-compatible device can use SDXC, SDHC, and SD standard cards. An SDHC-compatible device can use SDHC and SD standard cards but will not be able to use SDXC standard cards. SD-compatible devices are only compatible with SD standard cards. To put it more simply, hardware devices that support newer standards are backward-compatible with older standard cards, but newer standard cards can’t be used in hardware devices that only support older standards.

Types of microSD Cards

MicroSD cards share the same four SD standards as SD cards. The four SD standards for microSD cards are:

Type Capacity
microSD 2GB and under
microSDHC

More than 2GB, up to 32GB

microSDXC

More than 32GB, up to 2TB

microSDUC

More than 2TB, up to 128TB

MicroSD cards are the smaller-sized version of SD cards and the biggest difference between the two is the form factor. They’re also more versatile since they’re often available with an SD adaptor that allows you to use microSD cards in hardware devices that only support SD cards. MicroSD cards are more commonly used to expand the storage system of smartphones, drones, gaming devices and cameras.

Hardware devices are also backward-compatible with microSD cards just like full-sized SD cards. The same rules apply for microSD cards as they do for SD cards. A microSDXC-compatible device will work with microSDXC, microSDHC, and microSD cards. A microSDHC-compatible device will work with microSDHC and microSD cards. A microSD-compatible device will only work with a microSD card. Again, hardware devices that support newer standards are backward-compatible with older standard microSD cards, but newer standard microSD cards can’t be used in hardware devices that only support older standards.

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