Picking a memory card doesn’t just come down to how much space you need.
Choose too slow of a card, and it won’t function.
It’s also important to get a quality card to avoid losing important photos and video before you’re able to back it up.
When photographing weddings, I did my research and took no chances with my memory cards.
Speed Class & Performance
The first step to picking a memory card is finding the right speed class.
Every memory card is rated for the speed it can write information, whether it be video, photos, or other data.
Let’s say you want to record 4k video. This uses a lot of data and demands a fast card.
If you buy a card that’s too slow, you’ll get an error message on your device when you try to record.
On the other hand, some devices don’t need a super fast memory card.
For example, most point-and-shoot cameras will see no benefit from a high-end memory card. You’d end up paying more money for a fast card with the same amount of space.
Your best bet is to check the user manual for your device and figure out the minimum recommended speed rating.
Once you have it figured out, you can go with any card that’s rated the same or faster.
Here’s a chart with the minimum class of card you’ll want for different types of video and photo shooting:
Saving important data on your memory card? I highly recommend going with a quality card from a good brand.
When a solid state memory card fails, the entire contents may be lost.
Flash memory prices have become very reasonable. I think it’s worth a few extra bucks for something reliable.
SanDisk has the best track record of any brand for reliable memory cards. Failures are very rare. SanDisk gets my vote if avoiding data loss is important to you.
PNY is still more reliable than a lot of the competition, but the failure rates are higher. If your data isn’t too important or you will always have another copy elsewhere, this may not be an issue for you.
Sometimes you need your card to hold up to abuse to ensure your data is safe.
The ideal memory card will have been tested in harsh environments. These tests assure that data won’t be lost if the card gets dropped, is used in hot or cold weather, or gets wet.
SanDisk and PNY both have a line of SD cards which undergo more strenuous tests.
SanDisk Extreme, SanDisk Extreme Pro, and PNY Elite Performance are all very durable options. Build quality is very similar between the three, so you can’t go wrong with any one of them.
While that sounds great, how well do they do at upholding their warranties?
In my experience, SanDisk is better at honoring their warranties.
PNY overall has been less responsive and more likely to deny claims from what I’ve seen.
Now, keep in mind neither brand will replace cards from wear and tear.
There are also some exclusions in the way cards can be used. For instance, SanDisk doesn’t cover use in dash cams since they continuously write data.
If you need a high capacity memory card, 256GB is the sweet spot for price right now.
The cost is less than 2X that of half-sized 128GB cards. Stepping up higher to 512GB means paying at least 3X as much.
With that said, memory is pretty affordable across the board for how much space you get.
Is one of these two brands cheaper versus the other?
PNY’s Elite Performance SD cards are 10-20% cheaper than SanDisk’s comparable Extreme Pro cards.
With microSD, SanDisk ends up being 20-30% cheaper.
So for the best value in fast memory cards, go with PNY for SD and SanDisk for microSD.
Side by Side Comparisons
These SD cards are some of the fastest available.
They’re perfect for taking 4K video. The speed is also well suited for high-speed burst photos with Canon, Nikon, and other DSL-R’s and mirrorless cameras.
Let’s see which brand is the better choice.
Write speed is generally more important than read speed.
To meet the UHS 3 and V30 speed specs these cards are labeled with, the continuous write speed must be at least 30MB/s.
Both brands list their max read speed: 170MB/s for the Extreme Pro, 95MB/s for the Elite Performance.
PNY doesn’t list their max write speed, while SanDisk quotes 90MB/s.
In real-world testing, the PNY Elite Performance averages around 60MB/s write speed while the SanDisk Extreme PRO averages about 80MB/s.
This makes the SanDisk the better performer of the two.
Durable cards are important for anyone who values their data, whether it be professionals or amateurs.
Both lines of cards compared here are built to a higher standard than a typical SD card.
They’re rated to be shock-proof (able to withstand drops), waterproof, and temperature proof.
Now, you should still care for your cards. Don’t expect them to survive a dunk in a pool or being left in a hot car. However, they’ll hold up to rain and hot/cold weather.
Both cards are well made and seem to be similarly durable.
How about failure rates? SanDisk seems to do slightly better with fewer users reporting failed cards.
These are known as SDXC cards, as they have extended capacity over standard SD.
High capacities up to 512GB are available from both brands.
The higher capacity you go with, the bigger the divide there is in price.
PNY is as much as 35% cheaper for their largest card. For the best value in a high-capacity 256GB or 512GB SD card, the Elite Performance is priced very well.
MicroSD cards are smaller in size than SD cards, and required for many compact devices.
Let’s see which brand is better.
The Elite-X is rated for up to 90MB/s read speed while the Extreme hits up to 160MB/s. Faster read speeds can reduce the time it takes to copy data off the card.
Write speeds are comparable for these two cards, with real-world tests ranging from 60-90MB/s on the Extreme and just slightly lower on the Elite-X.
Both brands make a quality cards. They’re covered by lifetime warranties from defects.
In the case of these particular two cards, SanDisk has a bit lower failure rate. If your data is of critical importance, SanDisk may be the better choice here.
SanDisk has very competitive pricing on their microSD cards. Expect to pay about 10% less on a 256GB card versus PNY.
The SanDisk cards also top out at 1TB (1000GB) while PNY is limited to 256GB.
Overall Winner: SanDisk Extreme microSD
If you won’t be recording 4K video, you can save some money by going with one of these cards.
These are Class 10 / UHS 1 / Video Speed Class 10 microSDXC cards, and are priced 20-30% less than UHS 3 / V30 cards.
MicroSD cards like the Elite and Ultra are great for smartphones and tablets, the Nintendo Switch, and dash cams.
Read on to find if SanDisk or PNY is the way to go.
Read speeds are similar, with the SanDisk Ultra doing a bit better. It’s rated for up to 100MB/s compared to 85MB/s on the PNY Elite.
Write speeds are not quite as close. The Elite manages around 20-25MB/s in real world tests. The Ultra generally is in the 30-40MB/s range.
So, the SanDisk Ultra has the edge here.
The last thing you want is to lose all the data on your card – that’s why failure rates matter.
SanDisk’s Ultra is one of the most reliable cards out there.
The Ultra does have a shorter warranty at 10 years compared to a lifetime warrant for the Elite.
The PNY Elite has more reported failures than some of their other products. For this reason, I’d hesitate to recommend it over the Ultra unless you can stand to lose what’s stored on the card.
These are both reasonably priced cards. SanDisk really stands out, though.
Expect to pay as much as 30% less for the SanDisk Ultra over the PNY Elite. Combined with better reliability and performance, I think the Ultra is the clear choice in this category.
Overall Winner: SanDisk Ultra microSD
PNY does have the edge on price when looking at the high-end Elite Performance SD cards.
Otherwise, SanDisk comes out on top with higher performance and fewer reported failures. Pricing is also better on their microSD cards.