With the SD cards of today, you’re not only able to fit a bunch of them in your pocket but also store gigabytes upon gigabytes of data. However, transferring that data may be a little annoying due to speed bottlenecks or not even having a reader built into your machine. Thankfully, there are a plethora of external SD card readers on the market that can relieve these strains, both giving you speedy transfers as well as the functionality to fit different SD card variants.
Products at a Glance
As previously mentioned, there is a multitude of SD card readers available so narrowing down the best SD card reader was a bit of a challenge. Luckily, we’ve been able to separate the best from the rest, providing you with five selections that are all fantastic in their own ways.
To form this buying guide we looked at three criteria; functionality – in terms of how compatible the SD card reader is for multiple card formats, portability – how easy the SD card reader is to carry around, and transfer speeds – how quickly you can move files from one device to another. These aspects will pretty much make or break how good an SD card reader is, and while securing a device that has top tier performance in all categories is the ideal, it’s quite unlikely, so making the right compromises are key. To help you with this we’ve given some awards out – best budget, best speeds, and best functionality, to hopefully make your choice a little easier.
Best SD Card Reader in 2021
Featured in many of our buying guides, Anker is back again with a budget SD card reader that more than justifies its place on our top five list. As with most Anker products, this SD card reader is a budget choice but one that certainly isn’t budget in its features. It sports functionality for both traditional and micro SD cards, so you don’t have to worry about owning any adapters or carrying them with you to get access to your memory card files. Another nifty feature is the ability to read two SD cards at once so you’re able to have one in both slots and see what’s on both at the same time, handy for finding your files and folders if you’ve got a case full of memory cards. The speeds are similarly great, with up to 5.0Gb/s due to its USB 3.0 architecture, making for quick file transfers between devices.
This budget SD card reader’s design is also brilliant, coming in at 0.47 x 1.30 x 2.56 inches thus making it extremely lightweight and portable so you can carry it round in your backpack or even have it on your person. Additionally, it just slots right into a USB port with no additional wires or power required, making it a simple, plug and play device. However, there is one slight design flaw and that is in terms of how wide it is. Due to this width, on laptops that have USB ports close together, it may overlap, rendering one of the ports unusable when this is plugged in. A slight annoyance but not a dealbreaker in our eyes.
All in all, this budget SD card reader from Anker is a really top choice for most, it has the functionality for both standard and micro SD cards as well as being portable and supporting some great speeds. For the price, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better SD card reader on the market. The only grievance is that slight design flaw but we can certainly look past that with all the other aspects being so strong.
Four memory card slots
Connects via a wire
If you’re an individual that has a plethora of devices all using a slight variation of a memory card, you’re probably going to want an SD card reader that supports them all. Luckily, this one from UGREEN has a bunch of slots to suit most, if not all of the commonly used cards out there. It sports four individual ports for SD cards, micro SD cards, TF cards, and even CF cards, making this one of the most functional SD card readers available. Like the Anker SD card reader we mentioned earlier, it’s built with USB 3.0 architecture thus allowing data transfer speeds of up to 5.0Gb/s, above and beyond USB 2.0’s capabilities.
Looking at the design, we can see that it is compact with dimensions of 55mm(L) X 68mm(W) X 15mm(H) therefore allowing you to carry it around without any worries. However, what it does come with is a pesky cable, slightly frustrating as most compact SD card readers have the USB plug built into the body of the device. On the other hand though, a cable could be handy if you want the SD card reader on your desk rather than plugged directly into your machine for ease of access, especially if you’re interchanging your cards.
You might think that these plusses come at a cost but you’d be wrong. The UGREEN SD card reader comes in only slightly more expensive than our aforementioned budget pick and therefore makes it attractive to a wide variety of consumers.
Overall, the UGREEN SD card reader is a low-cost option that has a bunch of functionality for all your memory cards, potentially perfect for those in creative industries like photography who often use a variety of different cards that go into their equipment. It’s compact too and while that wire might be an annoyance for some
Connects via a wire
If you’re looking for an SD card reader that has the speeds to keep up with your impatience, this Kingston SD card reader is the one to go for. Like the rest of the selections on show, it has USB 3.0 architecture, allowing for up to 5.0Gb/s transfer speeds but where it differs is the minimal loss of speeds in relation to how fast your SD card can go. With other options out there, when your SD card says that it supports up to 90mb/s read/write speeds, you might only get half of that on poor quality SD card readers. However, with this Kingston variant, you’ll lose little to no speeds meaning the internals are of high quality.
This SD card reader isn’t only fast, it’s functional too, providing the same number of ports are the UGREEN pick allowing you to slot in your different memory cards. Looking at the design and form factor, it’s clear to see that it’s relatively compact with dimensions of 3.67 x 2.07 x 0.63 inches but again, like the UGREEN it utilizes a USB cable for its connectivity. This means pros and cons. You’ll have to carry around that USB cable which makes it less portable and needing more space to actually put it near your laptop but it does enable you to have ease of access at a desktop PC so it completely depends on what kind of device you’re looking for.
Summarizing this electric Kingston SD card reader, yes, it’s fast, but its functionality also sets itself apart from the rest allowing a number of other memory cards to be used as well as the standard SD card variant. It is a little bulkier than our UGREEN and Anker options as well as having that USB cable attachment, but it’s still small enough to be portable so if that’s your concern, there’s no need to pass on this device.
Legacy memory card slot
Great build quality
Slightly awkward design
Connects via a wire
Lexar, usually known for their printing devices, also produces a number of memory card related devices that are stellar both in build quality and functionality. The Lexar Professional SD card reader details two slots for a standard SD card and CF memory cards, a little different than the rest of our selections, especially as it doesn’t include that micro SD functionality. However, with most, if not all micro SD cards you get an SD card adapter so less of a worry than you’d expect. You can also read both cards simultaneously which is a useful feature, especially if you use a number of devices requiring both SD cards and CF cards. Again, it uses USB 3.0 architecture so data transfer speeds aren’t an issue and because you’re getting the Lexar brand, you know you’re getting a product made from quality materials.
The biggest departure from the rest of the SD card readers we’ve shown up to now is the design. The Lexar variant sports a popup-like design for hiding those slots away when not in use, potentially helping them avoid the dust that will surely accumulate over time. This and the design as a whole makes it slightly more cumbersome than a lot of SD card readers but not hugely affecting its portability. On the other hand, it does use a USB cable for connecting it to your machine, again, with pros and cons depending on your setup and how much you’re using it on the go.
Summing this Lexar SD card reader up, it has the potential to be a top device and will certainly do a great job of transferring your data between devices. It has that SD card slot and CF functionality which others may not but at the cost of micro SD capabilities. This means you’ll have to remember that standard SD card adapter which could be an annoyance for some. It also utilizes that USB cable connectivity which has its downsides, especially when traveling but not too much of an issue in a desktop setup.
Only for micro SD cards
This SanDisk SD card reader is probably one of the smallest SD card readers you can pick up at the moment, being of a similar size to a penny. Small doesn’t mean lackluster too, boasting great build quality and transfer speeds.
Looking at the features, due to the size means you’re only going to be fitting a micro SD card into this thing which is a downside for some individuals who are still using legacy memory cards but with the devices of today almost exclusively using micro SD cards as their expandable storage, it’s a little less likely you’re going to run into the need for a number of different slot formats. It also uses USB 3.0 tech, making it fast both in terms of read and transfer speeds.
Of course, the main plus to this SD card reader is the form factor and is perfect for those who are constantly on the go and need to either expand the storage capacity of their laptop or are wanting to transfer data from their portable devices. This doesn’t mean to say it won’t work in home-based setups though and will be great for individuals who want their SD card reader plugged straight into their PC and not having it stick far out the machine.
Overall, this tiny SD card reader, while not having a number of ports for different memory cards is still a top selection and the portability is really what makes it shine. You’re still receiving USB 3.0 architecture, making for speedy transfers, as well as the build quality we’ve come to expect from SanDisk. We’d recommend this SD card reader for users who are more on the go, but for those who are at home and are strictly using micro SD cards as their memory card of choice, it is still a great device.
Things To Consider
With SD cards in general, you’re always looking for great read/write speeds as this equals better overall performance. Similarly, you’re going to want an SD card reader that matches these speeds in an effort to keep data transfers quick and efficient. Thankfully, with USB 3.0 tech, these speeds have improved dramatically over their USB 2.0 counterparts sporting up to 5.0Gb/s. Most SD card readers are using this tech but not all are of the best quality so while they state they are utilizing it, you’re not necessarily getting what is advertised thus creating bottlenecks.
While you may think of SD cards in their traditional format, there are also a number of variations that the bog-standard SD card readers may not take. Usually, you’re looking for the option to slot in the standard SD card as well as the micro SD variant due to being the most commonly used. However, you may also want functionality for TF cards and CF cards so having a device that does it all could be the way to go.
Many of you out there are probably going to use an SD card reader on the go as well as on your desktop PC and that’s why you’re going to want one that has a small form factor for dropping it into your pocket or laptop bag. Usually, SD card readers are on the small side anyway but if you want one that can support multiple SD card formats, they can become a little cumbersome.
So, which of these SD card readers should you go for? We think that the best all-rounder both in terms of functionality, portability, and price is the Anker SD card reader. It supports both standard SD cards as well as the micro SD variant, perfect for most, coupled with being extremely small and slotting straight into that USB port without having to worry about any wires. However, a close second is our best functional pick – the UGREEN SD card reader. It has those additional two slots for TF and CF cards while being similarly low cost. The only drawback is that wire that it comes with rather than being nice and pocket-sized, but for if you’re looking for those additional slots, this is the way to go.