Choosing the Correct SD Card Speed

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SD cards are everywhere in our digital lives. These storage devices are used with digital cameras, mobile phones, GPS systems, portable media players, laptop computers and almost any other portable electronic gadget you can think of. Choosing a SD card to purchase is normally a straightforward errand; pick the card with the biggest storage capacity that fits your budget.

Few people give any consideration to the speed rating of the card they are purchasing. Depending on what the SD card will be used for, selecting the correct speed rating can have a dramatic impact on the quality of the files your device is able to save to the card. The speed rating determines how fast information can be written to and read from the SD card.

SD cards come in six speed classes:

The first four classes are easy to understand. The number refers to how many MB per second can be written or read form the SD card, so a Class 2 card works at 2 MB per second while a Class 10 card works at 10 MB per second.

The last two classes are only available on SDHC and SDXC cards. The UHS designation stands for “Ultra High Speed.” UHS – I cards have a minimum speed of 50 MB per second and UHS – II cards work at 312 MB per second.

The easiest way to understand the importance of the speed rating is to consider video files. These are the types of files where a user will be able to easily see the impact of faster and slower speeds on a SD card. Class 2 cards can handle any kind of video file. Watching a movie on a Class 2 SD card that was encoded in High Definition (HD) may be a little frustrating. Sometime the video will not be smooth but, have multi colored blocks or the audio may pause for a few seconds because the data cannot be transferred to the device as fast as it needs to for smooth playback.

Class 4 and Class 6 cards are rated for HD video and will not have these problems. They may, however, create these same problems if used in a camcorder that can record video in HD. Class 10 SD cards are best for recording HD video without encountering similar problems. Most manufacturers of HD recording equipment will still recommend using UHS – I or UHS – II SD cards because of their higher speeds for maintaining the overall quality of both visual and audio components of a recording.