In today’s world, it’s rare to see a modern laptop house an SD card reader, even more so considering the ongoing quest for portability. It’s interesting; SD card readers used to be a thing of the past. Now, they’re suddenly returning to fashion and are a necessary tool in a creatives arsenal. But, there’s no shortage of card readers online. And with so many budget-friendly and portable options, it may be challenging to separate options while shopping.
In this post, we’ve summarized the top ten best options in today’s market. And we’ve also created a guide so you’ll be properly equipped to assess various options on your own.
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- 10 – SanDisk Extreme PRO
- 9 – Unitek 3-Slot USB 3.0 C Card Reader
- 8 – SanDisk ImageMate Pro Multi-Card Reader
- 7 – Kingston Nucleum USB Type C Hub
- 6 – Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader
- 5 – Kingston MobileLite G4
- 4 – UGREEN SD Card Reader
- 3 – Transcend RDF5
- 2 – Anker 2-in-1
- 1 – ProGrade Digital Dual-Slot Reader
- What to look for in a card reader?
- Connection Type
- Card Formats
- UHS-I vs. UHS-II
- Read & Write Speed
- Extra Ports
10 – SanDisk Extreme PRO
SanDisk’s Extreme Pro provides a simple design focused on functionality. Released in 2018, it provides a single SD card slot, which supports UHS-II cards and is backward compatible with UHS-I and non-UHS SD cards. It supports both Windows and macOS computers. And it connects to them via a reversible USB Type-C connection, with a flexible design that avoids blocking nearby ports. SanDisk also provides a two-year limited warranty with every purchase. Overall, the Extreme Pro is simple, sure. But it’s effective with a streamline connection and flexible design. And it delivers plug-and-play functionality to get your right to the action.
9 – Unitek 3-Slot USB 3.0 C Card Reader
Unitek’s 3-Slot reader offers USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity at an affordable price point. Released in 2017, it provides three slots that support CF, SD, and MicroSD cards. And it works with Windows, Mac, and offers OTG support to various Android smartphones and tablets. The device itself connects using a single USB 3.0 Type-C cable, which delivers data transfer feeds of 5 GB/s. And it uses a sleek and modern design with a neat hassle-free connection along with a two-year warranty. Overall, Unitek’s USB-C reader is an excellent choice if you have USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports. And it brings multi-card storage with fast transfers into a sleek package and affordable price.
8 – SanDisk ImageMate Pro Multi-Card Reader
SanDisk’s ImageMate Pro is a great all-rounder. Released in 2018, it provides three slots that support CompactFlash, SD, and MicroSD cards. It uses a USB 3.0 Type-A connection for easy compatibility with standard USB devices. However, that compatibility comes with impressive transfer speeds of over 300 MB/s for SD cards or 160 MB/s for CF cards. The hub is also backward compatible with UHS-I or non-UHS cards and even older USB 2.0 devices. And SanDisk configures it to work with both Windows and Mac computers and offers a two-year warranty with purchase. Overall, the ImageMate Pro is a sturdy multi-card reader aimed to speed up workflow. And it’s a straightforward option that’s good if you want broad compatibility and reliability.
7 – Kingston Nucleum USB Type C Hub
Kingston’s Nucleum Hub is a premium hub that aims to provide added value and versatility, rather than superior speeds. Released in 2017, it has seven total ports, one for SD and another for MicroSD cards. Plus, two conventional USB A ports, a full-sized HDMI port, and two USB C ports. The HDMI output also supports 4K resolution, meaning you can connect the device to a large monitor and maintain excellent resolution. And all of this is a sleek aluminum casing that’s both durable and lightweight. Kingston’s designed this hub for both Mac and Windows devices to make them more functional, and they include a two-year warranty. This hub connects using a USB Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen1) cable, which supports data transfer speeds of 5 GB/s. And it’s also backward compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0. Overall, the Nucleum is the ideal travel companion that splits a single USB-C port into 7 valuable connections. And with this single hub, you can seamlessly connect up to seven devices at once. Thus, it’s perfect for boosting productivity and streamlining your workflow across multiple devices. And given its range of features, ultra-light but rugged design, and transfer speeds, it’s a steal for such a low price.
6 – Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader
Lexar’s Dual-Slot Reader is a versatile option aimed at photographers. Released in 2015, it provides dual card slots that accept both CF and standard SD cards, including UHS-I or UHS-II cards. And it connects to a Mac or Windows computer using a USB 3.0 cable, which delivers a data rate of 500 Mb/s. Like rivals, it can write simultaneously to cards. However, it can transfer data between cards, too, an interesting addition. Plus, Lexar also provides a longer than average five-year warranty and an intelligent pop-up design to ensure the cards are protected safely when not in use. Overall, Lexar’s Dual-Slot reader is an excellent choice for those wanting on-the-go protection and fast speeds. It may not be quite as sleek as rivals but offers safety instead.
5 – Kingston MobileLite G4
Kingston’s G4 is a simple multi-function reader in a highly portable form factor. Released in 2014, it features a single card slot that supports SD and MicroSD cards, both UHS-I or UHS-II formats. And it connects to Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome devices using a USB 3.0 port with speeds up to 5 GB/s. And it’s also backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports for added flexibility and comes with a two-year warranty. Yet, it comes in barely the size of a large paperclip, which means Kingston’s G4 is the ideal choice for traveling. If your workflow doesn’t require XQD, CFast, or Compact Flash, it’s a worthy option given its speed and portability.
4 – UGREEN SD Card Reader
UGREEN’s SD Card Reader offers broad compatibility, impressive performance with a tempting price tag. Released in 2016, it provides four slots that support CF, MicroSD, SD, and MS cards. And it works with Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS right out of the box without drivers. The reader uses a USB 3.0 connection, which provides impressive transfer speeds of 5 GB/s, even while simultaneously reading multiple cards. The hub is also backward compatible with USB 2.0, 1.1 and 1.0. Overall, the UGREEN SD Hub is an excellent choice for creatives who work with various card types. And it’s ideal for those wanting a simple and affordable universal card reader.
3 – Transcend RDF5
Transcends RDF5 is an ultra-small card reader with simplicity in mind. Released in 2017, it provides dual slots; one supports SD and the other MicroSD. And it connects using a standard USB Type-A (USB 3.1 Gen 1) port directly to Windows or Mac computers with speeds of 5 GB/s. And it’s also compatible with USB 2.0 devices and supports OTG to Android devices via an adapter. Transcend also offers their free RecoveRX data recovery software to restore lost data using in-depth file searches. And they double that with a two-year limited warranty. Overall, the RDF5 is an attractive option for those who value simplicity and portability. And it provides easy plug-and-play functionality in a package discreet enough to slip into a pocket unnoticed.
2 – Anker 2-in-1
Anker’s 2-in-1 card reader aims to be the perfect compact solution for on-the-go creators. Released in 2013, it offers dual SD card slots, one for standard SD cards, and the other MicroSD. It uses a built-in USB 3.0 connector, attaching to both Mac or Windows computers for neat wire-free connections. But despite its size, that connection maintains transfer speeds of 5 GB/s. And it’s also backward compatible with older USB 2.0 devices and smartphones via adapters, adding even more versatility and transfer options. Yet, at only 16g, it’s also smaller than the average flash drive. Overall, Anker’s 2-in-1 offers extensive compatibility and makes data migration while traveling easy. And with a hassle-free 18-month warranty, it’s the ideal choice for those wanting maximum portability. It’s currently one of the most popular options around, and as a do-it-all device, it makes sense. If your workflow doesn’t require XQD, CFast, CF, or UHS-II cards, this is the perfect pocket-sized reader with fast data speeds to prove it.
1 – ProGrade Digital Dual-Slot Reader
ProGrade Digital is a new manufacturer on the scene. But one that comes to the market focusing on high-quality products and performance. And their Dual-Slot Card Reader stands tall as one of the few options that offers USB 3.2 Gen2 compatibility, which doubles the data transfer speeds of traditional USB 3.1 readers. Released in 2018, it has dual card slots that support CFast 2.0 and SDXC cards, which you can use simultaneously without compromising speed. And it connects to Mac or Windows devices using either USB Type C or USB Type-A cables with data transfer rates of 10 GB/s. It also features the industry’s first magnetic base, allowing the reader to attach to any metal surface. And the unit is backward compatible with USB 3.0 devices and UHS-I cards. Overall, while not cheap, ProGrade’s reader is the top of the line option that money can buy. But backed with a two-year warranty, it offers excellent value for money. And its perfect choice for those wanting a heavy-duty reader with the highest speeds around.
What to look for in a card reader?
Let’s cover a few essentials to consider when looking at a card reader. In total, you’ll want to look at five factors before picking one up.
How will the reader connect to your computer? What kinds of ports does your computer have? Every reader has a connection point or interface that it uses to connect to the device it supports. Sometimes these are cables, sometimes it’s a built-in connector. If you have a computer, tablet, or phone that uses USB-C, get a USB-C reader, as they’ll provide a seamless connection and faster speeds. Otherwise, get a reader that offers USB 3.0, as these tend to be backward compatible with all other USB formats. And they provide the next level of speed. Don’t waste energy on USB 2.0 readers. They’re outdated and much slower than other options.
Card readers come in a variety of different supporting formats. So, what kinds of cards do you use? Does your camera use a full-sized Secure Digital card (SD, SDXC or SDHC)? Or does it use MicroSD? Or maybe Compact Flash (CF) or XQD? Only get a reader that supports the formats you use. There’s no need to get an option with unnecessary slots.
UHS-I vs. UHS-II
What format of SD cards do you use? UHS-II is the second generation of SD cards released in 2013, which offers faster read/write speeds than the first generation. Most camera’s on the market use only UHS-I SD or MicroSD cards. But cameras with long buffer’s and fast continuous shooting speeds usually support these second-generation cards. Knowing which cards your camera uses, will help separate options, as some readers don’t support UHS-II cards. Alternatively, if they do, they only transfer at UHS-I speeds, defeating the whole purpose of buying them altogether.
Read & Write Speed
This refers to how fast data transfers between your computer or device and the card. The higher the read/write speeds, the quicker data transfers. Some of the standards here are 500 Megabytes (MB)/second or 5 Gigabytes (GB)/second, but these vary based on the connection type.
Do you need only a single port? Or do you want multiple ports for more than one card? This will also be a factor in your decision-making process. If you have multiple devices, consider getting a reader or hub that supports all devices.