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We Compared the Best SD Card Readers So You Don’t Have To

Time is money, as they say – and as photographers, we spend a lot of time waiting for photo files to transfer. Have you ever asked yourself what you can do to speed up the file transfer process? Turns out, there is an easy solution for this: a faster SD card reader! The best SD card readers can drastically reduce the most boring part of post-production time.

Here is our list of the best SD card readers on the market today, saving your patience from having to wait for those slow loading bars to fill! 

1. Anker 2-in-1 SD Card Reader 

A great budget option

The Anker 2-in-1 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader is a great all around reader for an excellent price.

Affordable price
Data transfer at 5GB per second
Plug and use device
Multiple card slots that work simultaneously
The multiple card slots are for SD and microSD only

What’s not to love about this perfect marriage of functionality and affordability? The Anker 2-in-1 SD Card Reader may not look like much, but it’s fully capable of handling all of your image transfer needs. This reader can transfer data at 5 GB per second. A nifty piece of kit, Anker’s 2-in-1 card reader will help pull all of your images to your computer quickly and efficiently – especially if you’re a photographer who shoots on pretty large memory cards! 

Anker 2-in-1 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader for SDXC, SDHC, SD, MMC, RS-MMC, Micro SDXC,...
Anker 2-in-1 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader

This truly is a plug-and-play device, able to be attached directly into your USB port with no additional hassle required. Despite being smaller than the average USB flash drive, the Anker 2-in-1 SD Card Reader sports an ultra-durable plastic build. You don’t need to fret too much if this little guy hits the ground (by accident, of course!). 

An added bonus is its multiple card slots, with the ability to read and write on multiple cards simultaneously. If you’re a full-time working photographer, this is a massive plus as you don’t need to keep switching cards back and forth! The downside is that these two card slots don’t support the same type of memory cards, so you would need to be using both an SD card and a microSD card in order to read and write them simultaneously. 

2. Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 Reader

Most Versatile
More slots than you knew cards existed

The Lexar Multi-Card 25-In-1 USB 3.0 Reader sports adaptability and functionality with pretty much every memory card ever created.

Compatible with a slew of card types
All card slots can work simultaneously
Ability to transfer data between cards
Slower transfer speed, at only 500 mb per second

Although the price tag can be jarring in comparison to the first reader on our list (at nearly triple the price), the Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 Reader is a great choice for photographers that aren’t sure exactly what they want from their card reader. This reader is incredibly versatile and adaptable, capable of supporting just about anything you can throw at it.

If the detailed title itself isn’t a dead giveaway, the Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 Reader supports all of the memory cards available on the market- so photographers who have multiple types of cameras will be thrilled. Whether you’re transferring data from your drone’s microSD to the Canon 5D’s Compact Flash card, you have one tool for all of it. This device even works with some lesser-known memory card formats, great for those with unusual gear. 

Lexar Multi-Card 25-In-1 USB 3.0 Reader - LRW025URBNA
Lexar Multi-Card 25-In-1 Reader

In addition to this, all of the slots work at the same time, so you are able to transfer data off of more than one device simultaneously. This reader can even transfer data between cards so its super convenient.

The design itself is also worth mentioning, with a fun little pop-up that prevents dust and dirt from entering the sensitive components of the card slots. 

This reader is slower, only working at speeds of up to 500 MB/second- so RAW format photographers may need to learn a bit more patience if they opt for this reader. However, what the Lexar Multi-Card 25-in-1 Reader lacks in speed it certainly makes up for in functionality. 

3. UGREEN SD Card Reader

Our Pick
Biggest bang for your buck all around

Costing less than most models, the UGREEN sports pro features and fast speeds in an affordable body

Great price
Supports CF, SDXC/SDHC, and microSD cards and is compatible with all computer systems
Transfer speeds of 5GB/second and can read multiple cards simultaneously
Not always reliable when plugging in

What makes the UGREEN SD Card Reader one of the best SD card readers out there? In short, it’s the total package. As if its broad compatibility and impressive performance weren’t enough, its price tag makes it an even more tempting offer. Coming in at under $20, you’d only need to skip the drive-thru coffee for two days to buy this great device. 

Quickly becoming a photographer’s best friend, the UGREEN SD Card Reader sports slots that support CF, SDXC/SDHC, and microSD cards. The UGREEN SD Card Reader also shows its versatility in the operating systems it is compatible with, allowing easy use with Mac, Linux, Windows, and Chrome operating systems. If that isn’t enough to blow you away, this card reader supports cards that boast up to 512 GB of data, while other readers tend to cap out at around 100 GB. 

UGREEN SD Card Reader USB 3.0 Card Hub Adapter 5Gbps Read 4 Cards Simultaneously CF...
UGREEN SD Card Reader

To compete with other readers on the market, the UGREEN SD Card Reader works at impressive transfer speeds of up to 5 GB/second and can read multiple cards simultaneously. The downside is that some consumers have reported a mixed bag of computer readability in the sense that computers sometimes don’t sense the UGREEN SD Card Reader in their ports. Nothing a bit of wiggling can’t fix, however! 

4. COASD SD Card Reader

Best for Mobile Use
Great for photographers on the go

An SD Card Reader that can plug into mobile devices, this nifty tool is great for the traveling photographer or those that like to use their tablets.

Small and lightweight
Can plug into mobile devices
SD and microSD compatability
No CF compatibility

Don’t let your eyes deceive you – the COASD SD Card Reader is much more than a run-of-the-mill thumb drive. Small enough to fit in a pocket, this card reader weighs in at less than an ounce and is the best on-the-go reader out there. 

Speaking of being mobile, transferring your images is as simple as plugging in with this little card reader. What really strikes our fancy, however, is the fact that the COASD SD Card Reader isn’t just built to attach into a computer USB port; The COASD has a USB and a micro USB plug built-in. That means that it’s compatible with tablets as well as Android smartphones with OTG functionality.

COASD SD Card Reader,Micro SD Card Reader,SD Card Adapter,Memory Card Reader,USB SD...
COASD SD Card Reader

For those that rely heavily on their tablet or mobile devices, this can be a game-changer. Remember, Adobe’s nifty editing software is free on phones and tablets, and now you can edit right on the go from your camera! The slots the COASD SD Card Reader includes are compatible with SDHC/SDXC cards as well as micro SD products, so little is off-limits for the travel photographer. 

5. SanDisk ImageMate PRO

A reputation that proceeds itself

An industry standard name in the imaging world, SanDisk produces products that are reliable and confident.

Recognizable and reputable company
Plug and play, easy to use
MicroSD, SD, and CF card support
Slower writing speeds than comparable models
Bulky

Sleek, simple, and straightforward, the SanDisk ImageMate PRO is a solid candidate as one of the best SD card readers around. SanDisk has always been at the forefront of flash memory technology, and they don’t disappoint with the ImageMate line of products. Including slots for microSD, CF, and SDHC/SDXC cards, this reader covers the primary cards photographers tend to use. The SanDisk ImageMate PRO works with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

SanDisk ImageMate PRO Multiformat Reader/Writer, Multi Color (SDDR-489-A47)
SanDisk ImageMate PRO

Although this reader only transfers up to 500 MB of data per second and is a little bulkier than the pocket-sized card readers, the SanDisk name holds a reputation for being incredibly reliable and easy to use. These shortcomings (relative to comparable products) are quickly compensated for with confidence in reliability. 

6. Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

For the Apple lovers out there

The Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader helps Apple products be able to read SD memory cards

Original Apple MFi certified product
Can be used with iPads and iPhones
Fully integrated with Photos app
Limited to use with Apple devices only
Costly

Apple is pretty notorious for making certain things a nightmare when you want to hook up a non-Apple gadget to your Apple device. Considering Apple has not yet gotten its hands-on professional SD cards, you can see where some of the discrepancies may lie. 

Die-hard Apple users, look no further – this is the choice for you. The Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader is designed to cooperate with your existing Apple devices. In other words, it makes the process of transferring images a no-brainer.

Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader
Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

The Apple Lightning reader accepts standard SDHC/SDXC as well as microSD cards, so once more, your most commonly used cards are readily accepted. 

The Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader works seamlessly with the iPhone and iPads. As soon as you plug in, the images from your SD card will begin to transfer into your Photos app without prompting.

This card reader was designed with convenience in mind, its rather small size making it easy to stow away and travel with. A great choice for photographers working on location that need to deliver results quickly. Plus, it looks pretty stylish too (a pretty important characteristic for Apple products. We can’t deny how stylish they all are!). 

7. Sony MRW-S1 High Speed Card Reader

Speed is the name of the game

The Sony MRW-S1 is as much a workhorse as all of Sony’s imaging products.

Consistent transfer speed no matter how many times you use it
Includes a USB cap
Sports a very durable build
Clunky in size
Large size can block the other USB ports on your computer

If Sony has anything to do with it, you know it’ll be a workhorse. From the mirrorless cameras that have revolutionized the photography industry to SD cards that are fast as lightning – you can definitely expect the Sony MRW-S1 to live up to its name. 

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Faster than the majority of comparables (especially at this price point), the Sony MRW-S1 was specially designed with longevity in mind – with a specialized interface and engineering mumbo jumbo to keep the fast speed going over time. This is worth mentioning because these types of devices do get old and can slow in their transferring or writing speed if they are used too often. The Sony MRW-S1 doesn’t suffer from this affliction. 

Sony MRW-S1 High Speed Uhs-II USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader/Writer for SD Cards
Sony MRW-S1

The actual design of the Sony MRW-S1 is nifty too, with a connection light always showing you when the device is properly plugged in and working. There is also a cap for the actual USB attachment, helping keep it intact and clean. 

The downside is that the size is clunky, and depending on the type of computer you are using, it can unintentionally block your other USB ports when plugged in. 

8. Unitek USB SD Card Reader

The future-proof option

Sporting a USB-C compatible design, the Unitek USB SD Card Reader is looking to ensure this is the card reader you use for a long time

USB-C compability
Reads SD, CF, and microSD cards
Very fast transfer speeds
Reliability issues on occasion, over time

With every passing year, new upgrades are being done to our good friend the USB, consistently updating its connections on new devices. Where laptops, desktops, and other such electronics sported USB-A, they’ve now begun changing to USB-C technology. The next reader on our list, the Unitek USB SD Card Reader, is looking to future-proof their device for when all electronics host USB-C by, well, having USB-C as its primary connection.

Unitek USB C SD Card Reader, Aluminum 3-Slot USB 3.0 Type-C Flash Memory Card Reader...
Unitek USB SD Card Reader

Reading (and writing to) SD, CF, and microSD – this really is the only device you need to get those photographs onto your computer. With the ability to transfer a whopping 30 GB of data in less than eight minutes, you’ll save yourself precious time with this gadget! It is a plug-and-play reader, there’s no need to install drivers or any fancy software to get your photographs to the computer at record speed. 

9. Transcend USB Card Reader

Least expensive on the list

This super well priced reader looks inconspicuous but actually has a very useful tool in it- the ability to recover deleted files.

Very well priced
RecoveRx software
Slower writing speeds than comparable models

In terms of design, this is probably the simplest and most forgettable design. Looking like any old USB stick, the Transcend USB Card Reader has an added bonus that the other cards don’t actually have: a built-in RecoveRx software that helps you save files that may have gotten deleted on accident. 

This is a very common problem amongst photographers, especially those working in the industry for a long time. Human mistakes happen and sometimes you delete files that haven’t yet been backed up – and once this is realized, the panic quickly sets in. As life would have it, it’s likely a wedding or a birthday that can’t be redone! Fear not, for the Transcend USB Card Reader is here to save the day. This recovery software can be used to track down and recover deleted files from your memory card.

Transcend TS-RDF5K USB 3.1 SDHC/SDXC/microSDHC/SDXC Card Reader, Black
Transcend USB Card Reader

As for the card reader itself, it sports the average set of features that the rest on our list have as well. It can run hot when used for too long, so that is something to be aware of. 

10. ProGrade Digital SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader

Best for Professionals
The ultimate workhorse reader

Complete with a slew of professional features, this is the drool-worthy option for full time photographers.

Very fast writing speeds
Incredibly durable build
Meant for travel and rougher use
Dual SD card slots that work simultaneously
SD cards only, no CF or microSD

The most expensive on our list, but also one that has top customer satisfaction, the ProGrade Digital SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader is a mouthful to say but a joy to use. A professional photographer’s dream, this card reader can read two SD cards simultaneously and deliver files to your computer quickly! It can transfer 1.25 GB per second from both cards at the same time, so you will spend very little time waiting.

SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader by ProGrade Digital | USB 3.2 Gen 2 for...
ProGrade Digital SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader

Totally drop and temperature proof, ProGrade designed this guy for life on the road (or whatever horrible conditions you throw at it). The company is so confident in its use that it offers a two-year warranty should anything happen (or should they not deliver on their promise). Definitely the fastest you can find with these awesome features. 

Learn to Talk the Talk: SD Card Jargon

Now, on the above list, you may have noticed a series of terms that may be somewhat unfamiliar if you’ve not shopped for an SD card or an SD card reader before. We’ve pulled together a small glossary to help differentiate between some of the most common memory card formats.

SD card – The “SD” stands for “Secure Digital”. A memory card format specifically designed for use in portable devices. Most digital cameras, regardless of brand or quality, store photographs on SD cards.
CF card
– Stands for “Compact Flash”. Another memory card format commonly used in high-end cameras for photo storage. While not all cameras are CF-compatible, many prefer them because of their high memory capacity and overall durability.
XQD card
– A memory card format targeted toward high definition, high-resolution cameras and camcorders. The format boasts quick read/write speeds and massive storage capacities.
SDHC card – Stands for “Secure Digital High Capacity”. An SD card designed to hold between 4GB and 32 GB of data.
SDXC card – Stands for “Secure Digital Extended Capacity”. An SD card designed to hold more than 32 GB of data.
microSD card – A miniature version of the standard SD card. Often used in smaller devices such as mobile phones. 

What SD Card Reader is Right For You? 

We’ve covered a wide range of readers and included something for every budget. In fact, deciding on what your budget will be is a pretty good place to start when you’re shopping for the best SD card reader. As you’ve noticed, the prices can vary from a few bucks to close to a hundred! Once you know what kind of money you’re willing to drop, consider the speed you want, what kind of cards you need to read and make the best choice!

The UGREEN SD Card Reader would be our pick as a general best choice, costing a fraction of the professional ones while offering incredibly fast transfer speeds and a slew of great features. The professional photographer would certainly favor the ProGrade Digital SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader, with fast writing speeds and a durable travel-oriented build. The Lexar Multi-Card 25-In-1 Reader is a great versatile use for the photographer with many devices, while the COASD SD Card Reader is awesome for mobile use. 


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