Taking videos (especially 4K) eats up a huge amount of storage, and before you know it you are scraping the bottom of the barrel and deleting stuff to make space.
The best way to avoid this is to invest in an external micro SD card solution.
But it can be a difficult purchase with manufacturers using a lot of confusing terminologies to differentiate their product classes.
So let me help you decide how to read these manufacturer classes and also give you a list of the best microSD cards that are currently available in 2023.
If you want the best microSD card for 4k video, get the SanDisk Extreme Pro. It is our best overall pick because of its great card specifications, solid speeds, and vast storage options at a very competitive price.
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Best MicroSD Cards in 2023 for 4k Recording
So to summarise, we need to look for a microSDXC card that is rated U3 or above to properly write and store 4K video recordings.
Now that I have given a brief idea of the various ratings used on a microSD card, let's sink our teeth into the meat and potatoes and choose the best in the market right now.
For an easier buying decision, I have categorized the best microSD card that I think will suit you based on your requirements.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB- Best Overall MicroSD Card
This is the one microSD card I would recommend to anyone, from casual to even professional users. SanDisk has been the name that is synonymous with microSD cards for a long time.
They have been making memory cards for a long time and provide quality products at affordable prices. The SanDisk Extreme Pro is such an allrounder of a product.
It is a U3/V30 rated microSDXC card that has great rated read/write speeds of 170MBps/90MBps and my test speeds with sequential load were also great at 89MBps/95MBps.
The product is also well priced, at $44 for the 256GB variant, with options up to 400 GB.
Personally, I have multiple of these 256GB boys set up on my camera and smartphones and they work very well for the tasks I put them through on a weekly basis.
Delkin Devices Power UHS-II 64GB- Best Writing And Transfer Speeds
Delkin is a brand that has been making microSD cards for a very long time. They are the go-to brand for most professional videographers.
Their brand mostly targets the higher-end market and their Power series is their most premium offering.
The microSD card is rated in the U3/V90 class, with support for the UHS-II interface with 300MBps read and 250MBps write speeds.
But tested sequential load scores are mind-boggling 260MBps read and 273MBps write speeds, which are the highest microSD speeds offered by a brand.
The only downside is that Delkin maxes out the card at 64GB. The only other variant is a 32GB variant, which in my opinion is too small for a high-speed memory card.
The card is also often sold at a steep price of $100 excluding shipping charges.
But if you want the absolute fastest card currently in the market, there are few other choices other than this speedster.
An honorable mention and worthy contender to this would be the Lexar Professional 1800x 64GB.
PNY Pro Elite 1TB- Best Storage
PNY is a well-received brand that makes some great storage solutions for your devices. This one specifically targets folks that require A LOT of storage.
The PNY Pro Elite maxes out at a whopping 1 TB of storage. For reference, that can store up to 8 full hours of unprocessed 4K video recording!
It is also a U3/V30 class microSDXC card, which ticks all the boxes for the basic requirements of storing 4K video recordings.
But it does have a few downsides: the memory card can cost you quite a lot, sitting at $180 without shipping.
Also, the read and write speeds are nothing to write home about, sitting at a rated 100MBps read and 90MBps write. Tested sequential scores are lower at 68MBps read and 92MBps write.
But for the sheer amount of storage offered at such a tiny form factor, it is definitely worth it if you want to record a lot of 4K footage.
An honorable mention and worthy contender to this would be the SanDisk Extreme 1TB.
Samsung Pro Plus 128GB- Best Value for Money
Samsung has been the most trusted brand by many. The fact that such a huge brand can pump out microSD cards that provide a bang for your buck boggles my mind.
At just $30 on some offer days, you can grab yourself a 128GB U3/V30 card that supports 4K recording. You also get an SD card adapter right in the packaging.
But like other budget offerings, the read/write speeds do take a hit. The memory card is advertised as rated at 160MBps read and 120MBps write speeds.
But apparently, that's only applicable to the 512GB variant. Samsung varies its storage speeds based on its storage size, which is not something a lot of manufacturers do.
As per my testing, the 128GB variant could only manage sequential load speeds of 65MBps read and 75MBps write, which is almost half the advertised speeds.
But for the price, it is a great deal for someone looking into getting a microSD card on a budget.
A comparable product to this would be the Gigastone Gaming plus, which I'll be mentioning in the next segment.
Gigastone Gaming Plus 256GB- Recently Popular
This is a very popular product on Amazon, mostly due to the target demographic they are aiming for: Gamers. But in my humble opinion, that is just a marketing gimmick.
What is definitely not a gimmick is the specs on paper it offers at this price point. You get a 256GB card that is U3/V30 rated for just $35.
The advertised rated read/write scores are 100MBps/50MBps respectively, which is pretty low and my tests show a sequential load read/write speed of 60MBps/52MBps.
But it still supports 4K video and also comes with a free SD card adapter.
Also, most of the customers do seem satisfied, with a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 21k ratings as of writing this article.
But it is a brand that only gained traction recently. Amazon reviews also contain a lot of negative reviews questioning its warranty policies and durability issues.
This is a product that many buyers have appreciated after testing, and something I have no problems recommending for casual users.
There is no second option I would consider for this category as that could potentially be an OEM knockoff product.
Things to Look for in a 4k Micro SD Card
I will attempt to bring clarity to some of the important factors that you need to look into while in the market for an SD card for 4K recording:
These are ratings given on the basis of the write speeds of the memory card. There are three main speed ratings for a microSD card:
- Speed Class
This is the most basic and oldest of the classes.
Usually represented with a C symbol, there are four ratings within the speed class: Class 2 (C2), Class 4 (C4), Class 6 (C6), and Class 10 (C10)
Min write speeds typically refer to the minimum sustained write performance the memory card can handle for its storage functions.
Although C6 and C10 technically can support 4K video recording, it doesn't support all framerates. I personally wouldn't recommend it for any newer generation cameras.
The Speed Class rated microSD cards are older-gen cards that are typically sold for very cheap. It's best to stay away from them if you have the budget.
- Ultra High Speed (UHS) Speed Class
This is the most commonly used class of microSD cards these days. There are two ratings within the UHS class: UHS Speed Class 1 (U1) and UHS Speed Class 3 (U3)
Although C10 and U1 share the same minimum write speeds, UHS cards can reach transfer speeds up to a theoretical 312MBps thanks to their new UHS bus interface implementation.
But U3 is the minimum recommended class of microSD cards by manufacturers where 4K video can be properly recorded, albeit being limited to a lower bitrate recording.
- Video Speed Class
This is the latest class as of now that enables a wide variety of features, like multiple 4K video streams and 360-degree videos.
There are 5 ratings within the V class: Video Speed Class 6 (V6), Video Speed Class 10 (V10), V30, V60, and V90.
This is the fastest (and most expensive) of the three classes and can support even high bitrate 8K streams.
The classes V30 and above are the most important and widely used among the Video Speed Classes.
The V10 and V6 are primarily implemented for backward compatibility with the previous generation of classes.
You can refer to this chart I made to further understand the ratings and compatibility between the speed classes:
|Minimum Sequential Write Speeds||Speed Class||UHS Speed Class||Video Speed Class||8K Video Support||4K Video Support||FHD(1080p)/HD(720p) Video Support||Standard (480p) Video Support|
These are ratings for the storage capacity of the microSD card. There are 4 main storage ratings:
- Secure Digital (SD) card
This is the oldest standard of microSD cards that aren't used much nowadays. It can support up to 4GB and isn't compatible for use with any 4K compatible device.
- MicroSD High Capacity (microSDHC)
This is a rating specification for cards from 4GB to 32GB that is formatted in the old FAT32 filesystem.
This isn't recommended for 4K video storage as FAT32 can only support up to 2GB of individual file size.
- MicroSD Xtended Capacity (microSDXC)
This class of cards supports a storage capacity of up to 2TB and is formatted in the newer exFAT filesystem.
This is the recommended storage rating for microSD cards for 4K video recording.
- SD Ultra Capacity (microSDUC)
This is a new rating for cards that support up to 128TB of storage capacity.
Most manufacturers have only recently started testing this class, so you won't find them in the market anytime soon.
Buyer's Guide- Choosing a Micro SD Card for 4K Recording
Before blindly purchasing the cheapest microSD card you can get with the minimum required specifications, there are a few things to consider.
Buying From A Cheap Brand Isn't Going To Be Cheap At All In The Long Run
Always buy your sd cards from reliable and trusted brands like SanDisk, Samsung, or a brand that has shown its quality prowess in the industry.
If a company with questionable quality checks can offer a similarly rated or much better product for a lower price, chances are they are not going to last long.
Always Buy Your Products From A Trusted Source
Counterfeit microSD cards are everywhere that claim to be from a well-established company to only be a cheap OEM knockoff.
Check your product packaging before opening it for any weird errors or inconsistencies. Replace the product immediately if there are any questionable aspects.
Always buy from a trusted store, online or offline. Personally, I always purchase my microSD cards from Amazon, and the products I'll be mentioning are from Amazon too.
You Need Quite A Lot Of Storage For 4K Recording
One thing people tend to forget is the sheer space 4K video recordings eat up.
A typical 4K processed video can take around 30MB per second of space. This can vary drastically depending on the encoding formats and bitrates.
A standard 32GB card could hold up to 1 hour of 4K processed footage. I personally recommend at least 64GB, but you can choose what fits your needs and your hardware.
Do note that I am specifically talking about the unprocessed 4K videos. Processed 4K videos can fit at almost half the size of a typical unprocessed 4K video
Check Your Camera Hardware Compatibility
You can get the fastest and the largest microSD card in the market, but if your devices don't support the standards, then they just won't read or work properly.
Make sure to check your camera's memory requirements and support. Some older cameras may not support the newer-gen storage protocols of the microSD cards.
We live in a world where information is transferred so fast that it is volatile. Hot-swappable microSD cards are essential to any device that we use to store information.
I have multiple SanDisk cards lying around that have helped me quickly store countless files. I have lost quite a few too and that speaks a lot about its tiny form factor.
Although MicroSD cards are slowly being outperformed by manufacturers' inbuilt UFS solutions, their sheer versatility doesn't go unnoticed.
I hope my article has brought you to make an informed decision on what microSD card to buy for your 4K video recording needs.
Have a good day!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do You Need A UHS-II interfaced Memory Card for 4K Video Recording?
UHS-II cards have an extra set of pins to realize much faster read and write speeds than UHS-I cards. But it is only important if you are a professional video producer.
For a casual user, those extra speeds shouldn't matter and would mostly go unnoticed.
How many minutes of 4K video can you store in a 32GB MicroSD card?
Assuming it is a low bit rate, highly compressed, and low frame rate file, 32GB can store about 75 minutes of footage before running out of space.
What rating is most important for recording 4K video on a microSD card: Speed or Storage?
Since we already have a minimum protocol set up for the speed requirements to write and read 4K video on a microSD card, speed shouldn't be an issue if you stick to only 4K.
Storage, on the other hand, can run out very fast while recording in 4K.
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