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How to pick the right MicroSD card for the Nintendo Switch

By Steven Petite

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Nintendo Switch review

Nintendo took an old-school approach to the Nintendo Switch by using cartridge-based games. The benefit of cartridges is that you won’t need to install them directly on the system. When you pick up your console and a game — namely, Breath of the Wild — you can just pop the cartridge in and play without having to install any data.

If you choose to download Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, the file size will devour a whopping 13.4GB. Even if you plan to buy physical copies of most AAA games, if you account for system updates, game patches, eShop games, and Virtual Console classics, the console’s 32GB of storage space will evaporate rather quickly.

Thankfully, the Switch has a MicroSD card reader that allows you to expand onboard storage. Here’s what you should consider when picking out a MicroSD card for your Switch, along with a few recommendations.

MicroSDXC vs. MicroSDHC

The Switch supports MicroSDHC cards as well as MicroSDXD cards. What’s the difference? Storage limits.

SDHC stands for Secure Digital High Capacity, but these cards top out at 32GB. SDXC stands for Secure Digital eXtended Capacity, and these cards store anywhere between 64GB and 512GB.

Depending on your gaming habits, 32GB of additional storage via MicroSDHC may be enough for you, but for those who plan to use the eShop and Virtual Console, MicroSDHC probably won’t cut it for very long.

How much storage space do you actually need?

So you’ve decided to pick-up a MicroSDXC card with your Switch, but you’re unsure which size to purchase? It’s hard to predict, but here’s some general guidelines:

If you tend to buy AAA releases physically, and only purchase eShop and Virtual Console titles occasionally, a 64GB card should do the trick.

For those who download eShop and VC titles regularly and the occasional AAA game digitally, it’s probably best to jump up to a 128GB card.

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Dragon Quest Heroes

If you expect to download a good portion of AAA games, you may want to consider at least 200GB. For instance, Dragon Quest Heroes 1 and 2 will eat up 32GB on its own.

As of now, the largest MicroSDXC cards available at retail are 512GB, but as that number jumps, keep in mind the Switch supports up to 2TB MicroSDXC cards.

Speed class

Besides storage, another incredibly important factor for choosing the right MicroSD card is speed. Speed classes are assigned a grade — 2, 4, 6, or 10 — to note a card’s minimum baseline speed. A grade of 2 means a baseline speed of 2MB/s, a 4 means 4MB/s, and so on. For the Switch, however, you will want to only buy cards graded with a class 10 speed. Since the console will read games stored on the card, a class 10 speed card will likely mitigate lag and slowdowns.

Now, just because a card is graded class 10, it doesn’t mean it’s only capable of reading and writing data at 10MB/s. Each MicroSD card also has a rated speed, which notes the maximum transfer rate, usually significantly higher than 10MB/s. Since we cannot predict how MicroSD cards will perform in the Switch — and it’s entirely possible that they will vary game-to-game — your concern should mainly be the class 10 speed.

Also, if you find a MicroSDXC card with a UHS class grade, you’re in the clear. The grades range from UHS-1 (10MB/s) to UHS-3, sometimes with a 1, 2, or 3 printed on the front of the card instead of a 10. Nintendo recommends cards that are UHS-1-compatible and that have a transfer speed between 60 and 95 MB/sec.

Brand name matters

Another vital component of your MicroSD card purchase should be the manufacturer. As with all tech, you can sometimes save money by going with lesser-known brands, but you sacrifice quality in the process. With external storage, whether that be hard drives, flash drives, or SD cards, vigorous testing and warranty considerations are important. The same logic extends to MicroSD cards, as you don’t want a card to fail on you, especially one with a short, if any, warranty period.

how to choose a microsd card for the nintendo switch storageSamsung and SanDisk are the most well-known for a reason. Each card from Samsung and SanDisk goes through rigorous testing, and are often temperature-proof, waterproof, shock-proof, and X-ray-proof. The temperature-proof design may be the biggest positive for Switch owners, as you never know where you will end up bringing your new console-handheld hybrid.

Besides SanDisk and Samsung, another major brand is Lexar, which produces MicroSD cards that receive mostly favorable reviews, and its cards go through similarly thorough testing.

Most importantly, however, all three companies offer lengthy warranties for microSD cards, showing confidence that they are built to last. Samsung offers 5 to 10-year warranties depending on the card, which cover manufacturer defects and failures. SanDisk also has 5 to 10-year warranties on its cards, but some even come with a lifetime warranty. Lexar offers limited lifetime warranties on nearly all of its MicroSD cards.

You may save a few bucks by opting for a different brand, but we suggest sticking with SanDisk, Samsung, and Lexar.

Extended recommendations

As long as you pick up a class 10 card from a quality manufacturer with a capacity that reflects your purchasing habits, it’s hard to go wrong, but here are our recommendations for each capacity.

It used to be hard to find a reasonably priced card above 200GB. However, in recent months, cheap 256GB card options have been popping up all the time. Because of that, you may want to think towards the future. If you can find a 256GB card for under $100, that’s a pretty darn good deal. For instance, SanDisk cards have seen much lower prices as of late. Looking at the table below, as of October 2018, it’s smart to go with SanDisk. Look at those prices!

In February 2018, U.K. manufacturer Integral released a 512GB MicroSDXC card, which is available now through U.K. retailers. We have not tested the card and, thus, cannot vouch for its performance or compatibility with the Switch. As such, we recommend sticking with a 256GB card (or 400GB from SanDisk) for the time being.

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