Best Memory Card Readers

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
411 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best memory card readers

Last Updated June 2019

A memory card reader is a tool that can help you quickly and easily transfer data to or from your computer to your memory card. There are several varieties of memory cards available, and as a result, memory card readers vary in their compatibility.

Your memory card reader should be compatible with your memory cards, which may include SD cards, flash drives, and CF cards, as well as numerous other formats. Many readers have a single slot, but others may have multiple slots — a convenient feature if you happen to have compatible cards. Most memory card readers connect to your computer via USB, but the type of USB can vary, resulting in different speeds from one reader to the next. Depending on whether you are working with video files or text documents, speed may or may not be a concern for you.

Since most laptops do not have memory card slots, a memory card reader that connects via USB can be a crucial tool to own. To learn more about the different types of readers available and their features, continue reading.

There are dozens of types of memory cards, but many memory card readers are compatible with dozens of different card formats.

Before you purchase a memory card reader

There are two ways you should go about choosing a memory card reader.

If you already have memory cards and are looking for a compatible reader, look for one with sufficient slots that is also compatible with your computer.

If you do not have memory cards, you should consider the different types of cards available to determine the best one for your needs. Memory cards vary greatly in their storage capacity and transfer speeds. A photographer and a video editor would need two different types of cards, as would someone looking for a card for everyday use.

Key considerations

The most important aspect of a memory card reader is its available memory card slots. There are numerous memory cards available, and each slot can only connect to one type of card. Since most memory card formats are owned by specific companies, there is no “standard” format. You should also choose a memory card reader based on its speed and connection type.

Memory card compatibility

The manufacturer of any memory card reader should state the compatibility of the card. Often, the name of the reader indicates its compatibility.

While most memory card readers have only one slot, some have multiple slots for handling a variety of memory cards. And, in some cases, a single slot may be compatible with several formats.

Common memory card formats include:

  • USB (flash drives)

  • CompactFlash (CF) cards

  • Secure Digital (SD) cards

  • MicroSD cards

  • MultiMedia Cards (MMC)

  • Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC)
     

Each format varies in its compatibility with laptops, computers, tablets, smartphones, and DSLR cameras.

Connection type and transfer speed

The type of port a memory card reader can plug into determines not only its compatibility but also its speed, as different ports have different maximum speeds. While different memory cards have varying speeds, the speed of the reader and the port it connects to can limit the read and write speed of a memory card.
 

USB 2.0 is probably what comes to mind for most people when they think of USB: the classic rectangular port that brought with it the popularity of flash drives and other USB accessories. With a speed of 480 Mbps, this is the slowest option among memory card readers.
 

USB 3.0 and 3.1 are backward-compatible with USB 2.0 ports and have respective maximum speeds of 5 Gbps and 10 Gbps.
 

USB-C is a different shape from Type-A USB, but its speed is typically the same as USB 3.1, since USB-C ports are usually also USB 3.1 ports. However, USB-C has the advantage of bi-directional power support.

DID YOU KNOW?

Data transfer speeds vary depending on the type of file you are transferring.

Memory card reader features

Once you know what type of memory card you need for your memory cards and computer, you should consider additional aspects of your memory card reader, like form factor and cables.

Reading multiple cards simultaneously
While not all memory card readers with multiple slots can read cards simultaneously, some can, giving you the ability to transfer data more quickly. If you have several devices that use different memory card formats, a memory card reader capable of reading two to four cards at once can be a significant time saver.

Cord length
Some memory card readers have long cords that give you more freedom when placing the reader, while others have no cord at all and plug directly into your computer. There are no cables to wrap up with a cordless model, but if you have a small surface (or no surface) to work with, these designs can be awkward. The right length is a matter of preference, as both corded and cordless designs have their advantages and situational benefits.

Form factor
The overall size of a memory card reader is largely dependent on the number of slots it offers. Some are as small as standard flash drives, plugging directly into a USB port with memory card slots on the sides. Others are far larger, offering eight or more memory card slots on a rectangle about the size of your hand.

If a compact and portable design is a must for you, consider a smaller model with only one or two ports. But if you have several memory cards and don’t want to have multiple memory card readers, a larger model that is compatible with all of your cards may be your best option. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Just like SSD drives, memory cards use solid state storage for rapid reading and writing of data.

Memory card reader prices

Low-end memory card readers for $5 to $10 typically accommodate one card format and often plug directly into USB 2.0 ports.
 

Mid-range memory card readers for $10 to $15 have anywhere from two to six ports for a variety of card formats. These may be compatible with USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, or USB-C. Some models in this range plug directly into a port, while others have a short cable. Many models in this range can read two cards at once.
 

For $15 to $25, you will find USB-C and USB 3.1 memory card readers with several different ports. If you are looking for a high-speed reader, you may want to look at readers on the more expensive end.

EXPERT TIP

A memory card reader is a great way to quickly transfer data from the microSD card in your smartphone.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • In a perfect world, the speed of any memory card reader would match its connection type, but you should check both the manufacturer’s specifications and customer reviews to get an accurate idea of the speed of a memory card reader.

  • Some memory card readers have an indicator light that lets you know when a transfer is occuring. To protect your data, never disconnect a card or the memory card reader while this light is blinking.

  • If the cable of your memory card reader cannot be disconnected from the reader itself, take care when handling the cable, as it could render your reader useless if it were to become damaged.

Other products we considered

If you are looking for a memory card reader that fits several devices, the BEITESI SD Card Reader has three connection types: USB-C, USB 3.0, and micro USB. With SD and TF card compatibility, this basic reader is a good option if you need to transfer data to or from your cell phone.
 

For a memory card reader with extreme versatility, the Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 Memory Card Reader can read 25 formats and transfer data at up to 500 Gbps. Customers love the size and speed of this reader. A few customers have experienced corrupted files on their CF cards, but the Lexar has had great success with other formats.

Storing data on a memory card — called “writing” — takes longer than reading data from a memory card.

FAQ

Q. With memory card readers that can read two cards simultaneously, can you transfer data directly from one card to another?
A.
In most cases, you cannot. However, you can save the files to your computer to transfer them from one card to another.
 

Q. Will data transfer speeds be affected when reading or writing multiple cards at once?
A.
It is possible to experience a decrease in speed when accessing multiple cards at once, but the end result should be faster than reading or writing to each card individually.
 

Q. Is there any reason to use the SD card slot in a memory card reader when a computer has a built-in slot?
A.
Your computer may have a slower SD card slot than your memory card reader, especially if the reader connects via USB 3.1 or USB-C. A memory card reader could upgrade your data transfer speed.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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