Home Buying Guide Memory Card Buying Guide: Understanding the Speed Class and Other Specs

Memory Card Buying Guide: Understanding the Speed Class and Other Specs

Memory cards are everywhere. On your digital cameras, smartphones, tablets, music players. Some devices like DSLR cameraa even won’t operate properly without a memory card. Big question. Have you used the right memory cards for your devices? And how to find out if you have used the right memory cards for your devices?

To find those questions, read on. Next time if someone ask you about the same thing (your girl friend, may be) you don’t have to be embarrassing.

In general, there are three things you need to know if you want to buy a memory card for your device: physical size, speed class and capacity. You can find all those information on the body of your memory cards, but I am not too sure you understand all of the codes available on your memory card body. So let’s dig them out.

Physical size

The very first thing you need to know before buying a new memory card is the size of the memory card itself. There are three sizes of memory card available: standard SD cards (or simply SD cards), miniSD cards, and microSD cards. The crucial thing you need to know before choosing the memory card size is by understanding the available slots on your devices since SD cards will only fit into matching slots.

For instance, most smartphone models offer a microSD slot to allow you extend the storage capacity. So, you need to buy a microSD card in this case instead of SD card or even miniSD. Or, if you want to buy a memory card for your DSLR camera, you will need to choose the standard SD card since most DSLR camera typically use standard SD card as the storage medium. Below is list of size of each memory card.

  • standard SD cards: 32x24x2.1 mm
  • miniSD cards: 21.5x20x1.4 mm
  • microSD cards: 15x11x1 mm

Between these three sizes, miniSD is the least common. miniSD cards were originally designed for mobile phones, but now with most mobile phone models provide microSD slot, miniSD cards aren’t too common.

Speed class

The speed of memory cards are divided into four classes: 2, 4, 6 and 10. The higher the class, the faster the data transfer. There is an association (SD Association) that governs the classification. Well, it doesn’t actually define the exact speeds associated with these classes, but it provides guidelines for SD manufacturers. In addition to four classes above, there are also two Ultra High Speed (UHS) speed classes–1 and 3, but they are typically more expensive. Your devices should also support UHS for an UHS memory card to work. You can see the information about the class speed of a memory card on the body of the memory card itself.

If you don’t see the speed class symbol on your memory card body, you have a class 0 SD card. This card was designed and produced before the speed class rating system was introduced. They may be slower than even a class 2 card.

How to choose an SD card with the right speed class for your devices?

If you have a DSLR camera and always shoot in RAW then a class 10 memory card would be ideal. You will need the fastest memory card for such case so your camera can save the photos as quickly as possible. A class 10 memory card is also ideal for full HD video recording. Class 4 and 6 are ideal for HD video recording, while class 2 is ideal for standard definition video recording.

What about smartphone and tablet? a class 4 or 6 memory card will be okay. By the way, following are the symbols associated with the speed classes.

  • Class 2
  • Class 4
  • Class 6
  • Class 10
  • UHS class 1
  • UHS class 3

Storage capacity

Memory card is one of the types of storage medium. So, it must have a storage capacity. The more spacious the storage capacity of a memory card, the more expensive its price. Same as speed, capacity of memory card is also classified in different groups. Based on the capacity, there are three types of memory cards: SD Standard Capacity (SDSC), SD High Capacity (SDHC) and SD Extended Capacity SDXC. Each type has different range capacity. Here is the list.

  • SDSC: 1 MB to 2 GB
  • SDHC: 2 GB to 32 GB
  • SDXC: 32 GB to 2 TB

Again, you can also check which type of memory card you have by checking the memory card body.

If you want to choose an SDHC or SDXC card, be sure that your device also supports them. Today, most smartphone models already support at least SDHC. Your device manufacturer may give no specific information if your device support SDHC or SDXC. Instead, they will commonly say something like “supports up to 128 GB microSD” or something similar. This means, your device already support SDXC memory card.

Final words

Before buying a new SD card for your device, just never forget to check what it supports to ensure you get the full benefits of the SD card specs.

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