The best Micro SD cards for Nintendo Switch

The Switch has been a standout success for Nintendo with a series of hit titles like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Octopath Traveler, but the hybrid console does have its drawbacks. Probably the most vexing is that the console only comes with 25.9GB of user-accessible space, making it difficult to keep multiple games installed at once. In fact, some games like LA Noire won’t fit on the internal memory at all!

Thankfully, Nintendo included a Micro SD slot in the Switch, allowing you to bypass these storage limits by simply inserting a widely available Micro SD card. If you’re planning to make this essential upgrade, there are some obvious questions: which Switch memory card should you choose, and how fast will Micro SD storage be compared to running from a physical game cartridge or the Switch’s internal memory?

To answer these questions, we’ll recommend the best Switch Micro SD cards on the market right now, from some absolute units that can hold up to 400GB, as well as cheaper cards that best hit the sweet spot between price and performance. No matter which capacity you’re considering, we have a good recommendation that will meet your needs.

We’ll also share the results of our research into Switch game loading times, so you can know where to install your favourite games, and we’ll explain the best way to move install data from your Switch’s internal memory to the Micro SD card and vice versa. As the data reveals, our Micro SD card choices actually offer slightly faster loading times than actual physical cartridges – something worth remembering if you’re considering a cart or digital download. Without further ado, let’s get into the recommendations!

For UK buyers, we have four recommendations including a 128GB card that offers the best overall value, a 400GB card that offers a ton of storage without the early adopter tax of 512GB cards, plus 200GB and 256GB cards that boast a nice trade-off between capacity and value. We’ve seen price drops on many of these cards recently, but the standout is the 400GB model which has dropped around 20 as of late! It’s also worth noting that many Micro SD cards are often cheaper on Amazon’s US site if you are willing to wait longer for shipping. For example, the 400GB card comes out to around 105, with shipping and import fees included, at the time of writing.

Our US recommendations are slightly different, as there are more brands represented on Amazon.com than on its sister sites. We’ve selected four cards from a few different companies, all of which excellent value for money and come with favourable customer reviews. With the temporary absence of our usual 128GB pick, 256GB cards now offer the best overall value, followed by 128GB and 200GB cards. 400GB cards are still slightly more expensive per gigabyte, but recent price drops have made them a much wiser investments. 512GB cards are also now available, but you’re often paying almost twice as much for only about 100GB of extra space.

The Switch supported Micro SD cards up to 32GB at launch, but a software update pushed this limit all the way to 2TB. Right now we haven’t got anything close to a 2TB card, but massive 400GB cards are starting to become affordable, and even 512GB models are beginning to become available, although we can’t recommend these right now because the cost per gig is off the charts. But the bottom line is that the more space you have, the more games you can install to the card and the less time you have to spend deleting or re-downloading games. Therefore, our recommendation is that you get the largest Micro SD card you can afford, though our recommendations also include best value offerings based on GDP or USD per gigabyte calculations.

Of course, capacity is only half of the equation – what about speed? Well, here the Switch isn’t quite so future-proof. The console only supports UHS-1 cards, which have a maximum possible speed of 104MB/s, compared to the 312MB/s speed limit of the more modern UHS-2 standard. However, our testing revealed only a tiny differential between the slowest and fastest UHS-1 Micro SD cards on the Switch, so our recommendations are tailored towards capacity and value rather than speed.

As well as testing different Micro SD cards, we also examined two other options for playing Switch games: using internal storage and reading directly from the game cartridge. To get an accurate idea of which storage method is the fastest in different situations, we took frame-perfect load time recordings from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We tested both starting up the game and fast-travelling between areas, and the results were surprising – you’d think that Nintendo’s own cartridges would offer the best loading times, but that’s not the case…

In every test, we got the same hierarchy of results: reading from the game cartridge was the slowest method, while the internal storage was the fastest. The two Micro SD cards we tested offered near-identical times, a little faster than the cartridge but slower than internal storage, sometimes by an appreciable margin. For example, in our Temple of Time load test, the internal storage was five seconds faster than the cartridge, and four seconds faster than either Micro SD card. That means if you want to absolutely minimise game load times, then installing your most-played games to the Switch’s internal memory is a wise move.

Now that you have your selected Micro SD card installed, how do you move Switch games to Micro SD? Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to move game install data directly from the Switch’s internal memory to a Micro SD card. Instead, you must follow a set of arcane instructions to archive the software, then download it again.

Start by visiting System Settings, selecting Data Management and then Manage Software. Then select the game you want to transfer, and select Archive Software, then Archive. Now, insert your Micro SD card, go back to the home screen and select the archived game. Select Download, and the game will be downloaded onto your Micro SD card. Your save data won’t be affected (this is stored on the Switch’s internal memory), but you will need to wait for the download to complete, which may be a pain for those with slower internet connections. If you want to move games to your internal storage, follow the same steps but remove the Micro SD card before downloading your game to ensure it is installed onto the Switch’s flash memory.

To sum up, the fastest storage option is the 32GB of space that makes up the Switch’s internal flash memory, so use this for your most-played games using the method outlined above if the absolute fastest loading speeds are your priority. Micro SD cards come next, offering comparable speeds and much larger capacities. When it comes to choosing the best Micro SD card, our advice would be firstly to choose a reputable brand (no-name cards are to be avoided, especially when good makes like Samsung and Sandisk are reasonably priced). Secondly, as long as you’re set with a UHS-1 card, you can afford to largely ignore read and write speeds and instead focus on choosing the largest capacity you can afford, as our testing didn’t reveal a significant real-world advantage for higher-spec cards.

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