I donít know about you but I can never get enough storage. When it comes to my phones, In the past Iíd go out and buy the biggest card I could find and immediately, Iíd regret it because I wish it was bigger and faster. I canít tell you what size card you need but maybe I can help you figure out whether you should spend extra and buy a faster card.
To compare, Sandisk sent me two 64GB MicroSDXC cards; One is a Sandisk Ultra card while the other is an Extreme Pro. In Sandisk-speak, Ultra is the next step up from plain Sandisk cards. On the other hand, Extreme Plus represents the fastest MicroSD you can buy from them.
Both are UHS-1 cards which means youíll get better performance from them if you use a UHS reader vs a regular MicroSD reader. If you have an existing MicroSD reader which can read cards 4GB and bigger, they should be able to read these cards - however, you wonít get the speeds you would from a UHS capable reader.
One thing Iíve noticed about 64GB MicroSDXC cards is that different phones handle them differently, in theyíre picky as to what file system was used to format them. The Note 3 running Android 4.3 formats it as an exFAT drive - thatís actually the file system SDXC cards are supposed use. My Huawei Mate running Android 4.1 throws NTFS on it (Iím not joking). The Alcatel Idol X puts FAT32 on it (yes, FAT32 can be used on drives bigger than 32GB).
Just how compatible are they? I tossed the cards in my Samsung Galaxy (no Bloody S, Note, etc) running Android 1.6 Donut and it was able to use and format them just fine.
Generally speaking, my experience is that most Android phones support these 64GB cards whether they say they do or not. Just remember, if the phone doesnít support NTFS or exFAT, you wonít be able to put files which are larger than 4GB. This can limit what you can do with them. After all, some of us want huge memory cards to store huge files on them.
Back to the cards. When it comes to copying files to them using your computer, how quickly this happens depends on 2 things; Are you using a USB 3.0 reader which is plugged into a USB 3.0 port? Are you using a UHS reader?
If youíre using a regular card reader with no UHS support, both cards will work but their speeds will be effected. I used a USB 3.0 reader from Verbatim.
My real world experience is that USB 2.0 ports max out at around 35MB/s, so since neither card can approach that in a non-UHS reader, it makes no difference whether you connect the reader it to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port.
Sandisk also sent me a UHS reader; the ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 reader. It uses magnets to attach to a stand or you can put it flat on your desk like other readers. It goes for around $28 USD on Amazon. When use this with the cards, things change completely:
Yes, the Extreme plus can read write files at around 55MB/s and read at 90MB/s. Pretty incredible for something so small. The Ultra has pretty impressive 38MB/s reads but the writes only improve about 20% to 12MB/s.
So, if youíre going to buy a fancy MicroSD card, make sure you back it up with a fancy UHS reader too, otherwise youíre not getting the full benefit.
UHS is great, but if you have a phone, chances are youíre more interested in what benefit a faster card brings to it.
When it came to testing out the speeds of the cards I also threw in a 32GB Lexar Class 10 which I picked up around 2 years ago and a 8GB Sandisk Class 4 from years ago - it might even pre-date my Nokia N95 from many many years ago. I included them because theyíre representative of what you might be upgrading from if youíre getting one of these 64GB monsters.
To test, I connected each phone to my Windows 7 laptop which has a fast SSD and a USB 3.0 port using a USB cable or in the case of the Note 3, a USB 3.0 one. I transferred a 3GB file to and from each and timed how long each one took.
The Extreme Plus seems to love the Alcatel Idol X and it in turn does really well with all the cards. Maybe MediaTek SoC's have really fast SD card related circuitry in them.
Compared to the less expensive Ultra card, the Extreme Plusí advantage is that it has faster write speeds. This is important if youíre just connecting your phone to your computer and transferring files that way. When we take the older cards into consideration, the Lexar doesnít do very well but the Class 4 Sandisk is a bit of a suprise; Itís write speeds are even faster than the Ultra card! So, in some cases you may upgrade to a card with higher capacity but there's the possibility it has slower performance.
So a fast MicroSD makes a difference, in some cases it can be 50% faster but even then, most phones have very slow USB ports. So even when a card is faster, itís not particularly fast compared to a UHS reader.
Right now, the Ultra card sells for around $50 on Amazon.com, while the Extreme Plus which is pretty new sells for around $110. Thatís quite a big price difference. So if youíre going to use them primarily in phones then the less expensive Ultra is the easy choice though the slower write speeds can be trying.
Still, if you are going to be using the Extreme Plus in a phone, itís imperative that you pick up a UHS reader too which is connected to a USB 3.0 port to get the most from it. Youíll be able to load videos on it way faster than you could otherwise.
64GB Sandisk Extreme Plus MicroSDXC card Pros:
- Very fast when used with a UHS reader
- Fast even when used in a phone
- Write speeds are best in class
- Benefit is diminished if youíre using your phone as a reader
Sandisk Extreme USB 3.0 Flash Drive:
Of course, none of this matters if your phone doesnít have a memory card slot. If thatís the case, you can always get a Sandisk Dual USB drive to carry your extra media. The problem is that while convenient, the Dual USB Drive isnít exactly a performance oriented offering. If youíre willing to sacrifice the driveís diminutive form factor, you can get something like Sandiskís Extreme USB 3.0 flash drive and use it with a USB OTG cable.
I tested the USB 3.0 flash drive and found that it can write large video files at a mind blowing 130MB/s+ when itís connected to a USB 3.0 port which is backed by a SSD. That means a standard 3GB high definition file will only take around 23 seconds to copy. To put this in perspective, the slower Dual USB Drive only writes at around 9MB/s so itís more than 14 times slower - a 3GB video would take around 5:30 to copy!
That means loading a movie onto the flash drive right before you step out is suddenly a possibility.
Still, one thing to keep in mind is that your phone will be a bottleneck when it comes to loading the files onto your phone through its MicroUSB connector. USB OTG appears to be limited to USB 2.0 speeds and even then, very few phones come close to saturating a USB 2.0 connection anyways.
So, while the USB 3.0 flash drive writes at a speedy 130MB/s on a phone, it will be severely bottlenecked by your phoneís USB port. What that means is, while it only take 23 seconds to load a 3GB file onto the drive, it will take around 5 or 6 mins to get it from the flash drive to your phone.
It sounds bad, but if youíre sitting stationary on a train or at work this is perfectly acceptable.
Sandisk ExtremeUSB 3.0 Flash Drive Pros:
- Relatively large