9 best SD card readers

Digital memory cards fit into readers on our electronic gadgets. We use these memory devices to store photos, movies, games, documents and more. Secure Digital is a proprietary flash memory card format for use in portable devices. Some SD memory card readers can read only a single, specific type of memory device, but the most useful are those that read multiple formats, such as SD cards, micro SD cards, compact flash cards and more.

What is an SD card reader?

Memory card readers are a popular way of copying and transferring digital files from one computer to another because they are so easy to use. You slip the memory chip into the open slot and plug the card reader into a USB port on your computer.

Why an SD card and not a flash drive?

  • Flash drives are external memory devices used for transferring files from one computer to another. Flash drives do not have slots to hold memory cards because the memory is built right into the stick itself. 

  • SD cards are postage-stamp size computer memory centers. SD cards are found in tablets, cameras, digital music players, surveillance cameras, video game consoles and other small electronic devices where space is at a premium.  

Before you buy a card reader

Memory cards

Start with the kinds of memory cards your electronic gear uses. Most need card-specific readers to work properly, so look for a reader that accepts all the varieties of memory cards you’re using. These little chips look a lot alike, but there are four types, and it’s important to know the differences.

  • SD cards: Secure digital memory cards are the original version of SD memory. They hold the least data and are the slowest of all SD card types, but are compatible with all card readers.
  • SDHC cards: Secure digital high-capacity memory cards hold more data and transfer it more quickly. SDHC cards work well with most card readers, but not SD-only.
  • SDXC cards: Secure digital extended capacity memory cards are the fastest — up to 80 megabits per second —  and hold as much as 512 gigabytes of data. 
  • MicroSD cards: First designed to fit in the very small spaces of smartphones, microSD cards are now used in tablets, digital cameras and even drones.

Computer operating system

Most people save files, photos, videos and more to internal SD cards, then transfer them to their computer via an SD card reader. Make sure your reader is compatible with your computer’s operating system.

USB connector types

Most SD card readers connect via a USB cable that plugs into the ports on your computer. No matter the read and write speed of your memory card, transfer speeds are limited by the type of USB connector you choose.

What you need to buy

USB 2.0 card readers

USB 2.0 is the original rectangular port and has a transfer speed of only 480 megabits per second, slowest of all the USB types. If your need for data reading, writing and transfer speeds is modest, an inexpensive USB 2.0 card reader is a good choice.

Micro USB 2.0 SD Card Reader for Android

Micro USB 2.0 SD Card Reader for Android

You can connect your Android phone directly to your laptop with this cleverly designed device that has a USB 2.0 connector on one end and a USB-C connector on the other. That way, you can bridge the gap between the old and the new.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Atolla USB 2.0 SD Card Reader and Splitter

Atolla USB 2.0 SD Card Reader and Splitter

You can expand one USB 2.0 port to three USB 3.0 ports with this reader-splitter. Each port has an individual power switch with an LED indicator. Use any of them to read and transfer files from SD and MicroSD cards.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Cotchear Mini Super Speed Micro SD-SDXC USB 2.0 Card Reader

Cotchear Mini Super Speed Micro SD/SDXC USB 2.0 Card Reader 

This light, compact card reader comes on a key chain so you won’t lose it. It’s anti-magnetic, moisture-proof, resistant to high temperatures and compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

USB 3 card readers

USB 3.0, 3.1 and 3.2 are all backward compatible, so you also can use them with USB 2.0 readers. They have transfer speeds of 5, 10 and 20 gigabytes per second, respectively.

SmartQ C368 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader

SmartQ C368 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader

This plug-and-play reader has four slots to support SD, SDXC, SDHC, MicroSD, CompactFlash and MultiMedia Cards and needs no software. It supports full-speed, high-speed and super-speed transfers of up to 5Gbps.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Lexar Multi-Card 2-in-1 USB 3.1 Reader

Lexar Multi-Card 2-in-1 USB 3.1 Reader

This card reader lets you simultaneously transfer files from SD and MicroSD slots to your computer. It is also backward compatible.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

ProGrade Digital SD UHS-11 Dual Slot Memory Card Reader

ProGrade Digital SD UHS-11 Dual Slot Memory Card Reader

You get ultra-high-speed data transfer from this card reader that is built with professional photographers and videographers in mind. It’s a great choice for people looking for better performance because it uses USB 3.2.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

USB-C card readers

USB-C has the same 10Gbps speed as the USB 3.1 connector but is oval, not rectangular, a design that means you can plug it in without it ever being upside down.

Verbatim USB-C Pocket Reader

Verbatim USB-C Pocket Reader

This sleek device is made for newer electronics with USB-C ports. The plug-and-play system works with Windows and Mac operating systems.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

Apple USB-C to SD Card Reader

Apple USB-C to SD Card Reader

This card reader is cleverly designed so it doesn’t block any of your other tablet or computer ports. It works with ultra-high-speed SD cards.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

Syntech USB-C Memory Card Reader Hub

Syntech USB-C Memory Card Reader Hub

Read and write three cards at once from slots made to hold SD, MicroSD and Compact Flash cards. The premium aluminum alloy casing and the tangle-free coated cable stand up to heavy use.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Which one should I buy?

The best SD card reader for you is compatible with your computer operating system, reads all the different kinds of memory cards your electronic devices use, and has all the speed you need.

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