microSD memory cards offer the benefit of easily expand storage capacity for mobile devices (and even laptops) easily and relatively cheaply. With more and more demanding applications such as 4K video recording, more and more users pay close attention to the performance of the memory cards they buy. That is where the new Samsung EVO Plus microSDXC offering is interesting: it offers theoretical speeds of 100/90 MB/s (R/W)* which is pretty much the best you can get on a UHS-I card today.
The new Samsung EVO Plus is available in 32,64,128, and 256GB capacities and prices are respectively $29.99, $49.99, $99.99 and “undecided” for the 256GB version. If you compare this to having a phone or tablet with more memory, the savings are considerable.
To be fair, internal storage is much faster than current memory cards (hence the price premium), which is why having a fast memory card can make up for some of the performance gaps. The ultimate goal being to avoid perceived performance differences as much as possible.
Let’s take a quick overview at the technical specs to have a lay of the land. This Samsung EVO Plus microSD card is a Speed Class 10 (“Class 10”), UHS-I Class 3 (U3) card that uses the latest standards to provide high-performance storage. We are testing the 128GB version here, and unfortunately, those specifications are pretty confusing when you do not know what each logo or rating means. Here’s a quick decoder:
Speed Class 10 is currently the highest “Class” rating available. It is a rating put together by the SD Association to provide a guideline about the minimum read/write speed that any Class should reach.
UHS-I Class 3 (read UHS Grade 1, Class 3 ) determines how fast the bus speed is. UHS-I has a range of 12.5 to 104 MBps, and this card is at the high-end of that spectrum, with the Class 3 (U3 logo) being the best available today.
For example, (Speed Class 10 + UHS-I Class 1) guarantees that the card will record 1080p video. (Speed Class 10 + UHS-I Class 3) allows for 4k 60FPS video recording.
*Important note: the theoretical write speed of 90 MBps is only applicable for the 128GB and 256GB versions. Smaller capacities will cap at 60 MBps.
Samsung EVO Plus microSD industrial design
Usually, people do not pay too much attention about how good the packaging or “board” is when buying memory cards. However, with the rise of waterproof phones, wearable cameras (GoPro, Sony 4K ActionCam) and drones, the physical toughness of the memory card can matter very much since the device can land in water and stay exposed to elements until retrieved.
The Samsung EVO Plus microSD is rated to be waterproof, magnet-proof, temperature resistant and impervious to X-Rays. Depending on your specific usage, this kind of toughness is worth paying attention to since you may avoid content loss.
- Operating temperature: -25C to 85C
- Non-operating temperature: -40C to 85C
- IPX7 waterproof rating (rated for water immersion, but not dust protection)
Samsung EVO Plus Performance
How fast is this Samsung EVO Plus card? We have tested it on several devices, including a PC and a Samsung Galaxy S8. The PC tests are more convenient and relevant to push this card’s maximum performance. I have used Crystalmark which is a popular storage benchmark for hard drives and SSD drives. Here are the scores I got:
As you can see, the sequential read and write speeds are extremely close to the theoretical speeds of 100 MBps (read) and 90 MBps (write).
I do not review many microSD cards, but I took an interest in this one because it seemed so fast, and I am glad to see that it really is. The writing speed is where I see a big difference. I dug up a couple of microSD cards that we have in the office, and here is a chart below. This is by no means a complete view of the market, but it gives you some pointers.
Although many cards are designed to reach good “read” speeds, the Samsung cards can write much faster than other cards I have on hand. It does not mean you cannot find good competitors out there, and I would love to measure this card against more of them, but it shows that things like sequential writes can greatly vary from card to card. After doing some research on the Internet, it seems like Sandisk is the main competitor in write speeds.
Why write speeds is critical
Write speed is important because “writes” happen when you are trying to get something done as fast as possible. For example, when copying files, when shooting bursts of photos, when capturing extreme resolution videos, when editing/producing videos. Nearly all these applications would require writes to happen as fast as possible, assuming there isn’t a bottleneck elsewhere.
Read operations are also important (file copy), but in many cases like video playback, the read can be spread out over time, which explains why it is totally OK to store video files on cards that are not the absolute fastest. Slower cards do not always lose functionalities, but they may impair your productivity.
If write performance is low enough, you start losing functionalities such as video-recording at high resolution, or even video playback for high-quality video files. Camera apps can be sluggish when saving photo bursts, and more.
“Sequential” read/write performance typically applies to large files, while “random” read/write performance would apply to small files. Depending on your application, you can look at one or the other. In practical terms, mp3 files tend to be small, large HD photos are intermediate, and videos would be large.
In reality, it is hard to know when sequential read happen and it is never black and white. The good news is that this Samsung EVO Plus card is also excellent at random writes.
Conclusion: a very solid microSD line of products
The Samsung EVO Plus microSD card offers excellent UHS-I performance and a tough industrial design. At this level of performance, Samsung competes with Sandisk and its Extreme Plus line of products, and although Samsung seemed to have a price advantage based on MSRP, I bet that the competition will react quickly, so I would recommend paying attention to the street prices at your favorite retailer.
There are other players in the UHS-I microSD market such as PNY or Lexar, but the last I checked, the performance was lower, especially in Write performance, so I am not sure that it would be a relevant comparison unless the performance/price ratio would justify it.
There are faster UHS-II microSD cards out there, but you should make sure that your device (reader, camera, etc…) is UHS-II compatible before buying one because the price is nearly 2X higher.
Also important: Samsung has a 10-year warranty on this product, which competitor can sometimes match, although not all the time, so pay extra attention if that is something you care about.