Best memory card reader

Computer Accessories & Peripherals

A memory card reader nearly always connects to a computer using a USB cable.

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WHICH MEMORY CARD READER IS BEST?

Memory cards are extremely handy pieces of hardware. Being able to store thousands of photographs on a storage medium the size of a postage stamp is pretty amazing. (Yes, postage stamps still exist.)

But you need a memory card reader to be able to pull data off of those memory cards and store it on a computer. Fortunately, these readers are inexpensive and work very well.

To learn more about how to choose the right one for your needs, keep reading our buying guide. The best memory card reader for most users will be our top choice, the Kingston Digital Multi-Card Reader, which offers reliability and impressive speed.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A MEMORY CARD READER

When shopping for a memory card reader, pay attention to the card slots it has. It needs to be compatible with the types of memory cards you frequently use. Here are some of the most popular memory card formats and their common use cases:

SD

Short for Secure Digital, an SD card slot is commonly found in DSLR cameras. SD cards are available in SD, SDHC, and SDXC designs. All of those designs will fit inside the SD memory card slot on the reader.

microSD

The microSD format uses the same technology as an SD card, only in a smaller size, so it needs its own slot. It’s popular with smartphones and tablets.

miniSD

A miniSD memory card has similar technology and uses as the microSD. It also requires its own slot because of its unique size.

CF

Short for CompactFlash, the CF card has higher capacity and transfer speed than an SD card. It’s sometimes found in advanced DSLR cameras.

MMC

Short for MultiMedia Cards, the MMC format is not as popular as it once was. But you may still have a few older mobile devices that use MMC cards.
 

With the microSD and miniSD cards, you can slide them into adapters that match the size of an SD memory card. You then would only need the SD card slot size in your memory card reader.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY MEMORY CARD READER

Pay attention to a few specific features when seeking the best memory card reader for your needs.

Transfer speed 

Because the memory card reader plugs into a USB port on the computer, the speed of the port you use plays a key role in transfer speeds from the reader. Memory card readers can be compatible with USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, or USB-C.

Simultaneous use 

The majority of memory card readers will have multiple shots. But not all of them can transfer data from more than one card simultaneously. Finding a simultaneous transfer feature can save quite a bit of time for those with heavy duty transfer needs.

Length of cord 

If you have a longer cord with your memory card reader, you will be free to place the reader in a wider range of places in the room. This gives you more freedom to use the hardware.

Portability 

Memory card readers are available in a few different sizes. Smaller readers are easy to carry in a pocket or purse, but they may only have one or two memory card slots.

HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON A MEMORY CARD READER

For the most basic needs, you will be able to find memory card readers for $5-$10. If you want multiple slots, uncommon formats (such as for CF cards), or maximum speeds, expect to pay $10-$25.

MEMORY CARD READERS FAQ

Can I also write data to the memory card using the reader hardware?

A. Yes. However, as a general rule, writing speeds will be slower than the reading speeds.

How do I know if the memory card reader is working?

A. Some reader hardware will have small indicator lights that flash during a data transfer. If using the reader with a computer, you may see a pop-up window that shows the data transfer status.

WHAT MEMORY CARD READERS ARE BEST TO BUY?

Top memory card reader

Kingston’s Digital Multi-Card Reader

Kingston’s Digital Multi-Card Reader

Our take: When you need to work with large files, such as photographs, this high-end memory card reader performs admirably.

What we like: Ihis includes a CF slot, which is most commonly used with powerful DSLR cameras. Works with the USB 3.0 standard for good speed.

What you should consider: Sometimes, the memory cards seem to require excessive force to insert them into the slots.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top memory card reader for the money

Transcend’s USB 3.0 Card Reader

Transcend’s USB 3.0 Card Reader

Our take: This is an easy-to-use reader that is smaller than most units, so you can carry it anywhere.

What we like: Versus similarly bargain priced models, this reader provides a greater level of reliability.

What you should consider: It tends to run hot when using it for several minutes continuously.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Worth checking out

UGREEN’s SD Card Reader

UGREEN’s SD Card Reader

Our take: This has the speed and versatility that photographers and videographers need to move big files efficiently.

What we like: It ships with a long cord, so you can place the reader wherever you want while working.

What you should consider: Occasionally, the reader will lose its connection with the computer’s software when it sits idle for several minutes.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

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Kyle Schurman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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