It might be tempting to buy a no-name microSD card this Black Friday, but here’s why you shouldn’t

Key Takeaways

  • No-name microSD cards are often fakes or counterfeits, posing a risk to buyers. Stick to trusted brands to reduce this risk.
  • Buying from reputable sellers is important to avoid counterfeit microSD cards. Be cautious of sellers using tricks to appear as the top option.
  • Even if no-name microSD cards are genuine, they are often of low quality. They may have slower transfer speeds and lack warranties compared to name-brand cards.

Let’s get right the crux of the situation: you’re on Amazon, eBay, or your chosen e-retailer, and you just saw a microSD card with vast storage for an insanely low Black Friday price. Chances are, if the price looks too good to be true, it is – especially if it’s a no-name microSD card – and you shouldn’t be fooled into buying one (even if it costs next to nothing). Here’s why.

The biggest issue upfront is fake microSD cards

To start with, the microSD and regular SD card markets are rife with fakes. It’s a cheap product to rip off, and while it’s easy enough to test a fake, many people don’t know how to do it. You can find literally thousands of stories across Reddit, various forums, and social media from folks who have taken that risk and paid for it.

The fakes are almost all the same. The seller promises something like a 512 GB microSD card. However, it’s actually a 32 GB card formatted to look like a 512 GB card. You eventually find out when you go to transfer that 33rd GB, and the card starts throwing storage errors and refuses to work anymore. You can use an app like h2testw to see how much space your fake actually has if you ever find yourself with one.

Now, don’t get us wrong. Not every no-name SD card brand is selling fakes. In fact, most of them probably aren’t. However, you severely reduce the risk of getting a fake if you stick to a trusted brand.

Watch out for counterfeit microSD cards

Sometimes, even if you go with a legitimate brand, you still wind up with a fake. These are counterfeits. A counterfeit happens when a shady seller stamps another brand’s name on the SD card to make it look like a legitimate product. Unaware shoppers buy it, get it, and then you can read the fake microSD section above to see how it usually turns out, assume the thing you bought works at all.

This spins into the second part of our lesson about shopping on the Internet today. Not only should you stick to name-brand microSD cards, but also make sure you’re buying from a tried and true seller. Most digital retailers let you choose sellers, and sellers can temporarily use some nasty tricks to become the top option on sites like Amazon.

How to spot a counterfeit

Take, for instance, this absurd graphics card deal that took place on Amazon Prime Day. The seller’s name was “congxinadianzishangwuyouxiangongsi” (not a typo, believe it or not), and they became the top seller by listing at a lower price than the other sellers.

So, when you buy microSD cards from name brands, ensure the product is sold and shipped from trusted sellers to avoid counterfeits. Fortunately, the vast majority of the time, online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy choose a reputable seller by default and have liberal return policies if you get a dud. The only time this is a consistent problem is on sites like eBay.

Even if no-name microSD cards aren’t fakes or counterfeits, they’re still low-quality

So let’s say you’ve wandered beyond the fakes and counterfeits and got yourself a microSD card that has the advertised amount of storage and actually works. Congratulations, it’s quite a stroke of luck to get that far without running into a fake along the way. However, now you’re beset by several more potential issues.

For starters, it’s almost certain that you won’t get the transfer speeds rated on the packaging. The SD Association has a helpful primer on how speed classes work. For name brands, these are rules that they must follow to make a competent and reliable product. After all, you can’t shoot high-bitrate 4K video on a mirrorless camera with a junk storage card. Unfortunately, no-name brands consider speed ranks a suggestion at best and one that they don’t adhere to very often.

In addition, no-name brands often come with no warranty, or if they do have a warranty, it’s very difficult to contact the company to replace the card if it breaks down. It’s fairly widely known that off-brand microSD cards break down more often than name-brand cards in general. However, getting a warranty replacement usually isn’t a big deal if you buy a brand-name card and it goes bad. Sandisk has warranties of up to five years for its microSD cards. Samsung will do 10 years on some microSD cards. Legitimate brands stand behind their work.

Are all off-brand microSD cards bad, then?

Statistically, no. Some off-brands likely make a decently reliable card for the price. This article is in no way a hit piece against no-name microSD card brands that are actually trying to become name brands. The reality of the matter is that it’s so hard to find a good one, and there is such a high risk of a fake, counterfeit, or low-quality product that it’s simply not worth the time and energy it would take to sift through an endless supply of actual garbage to find the diamond in the rough.

It makes much more sense to pay the few extra dollars it would take to get something from a brand that adheres to speed ratings, gives you as much storage as advertised, and has a real warranty every time you buy one. The consistency alone is worth it.

What are some good microSD cards to buy instead?

Below, we have two outstanding microSD cards to check out. They should both be fast enough to do anything outside of edge cases, like recording an 8K RAW video. If these two don’t suit your fancy, we have a whole list of great microSD cards for you to look at.

Samsung Pro Ultimate microSD card

Samsung / Pocket-lint

Samsung Pro Ultimate 512GB microSDXC Card

$55 $65 Save $10

The Samsung Pro Ultimate microSD card is a great choice, with options ranging from 128 GB to 512 GB, with the cheapest going for about $20. This is fast enough for 4K video, compatible with everything that accepts a microSD card, and it has a 10-year warranty against failure.

SanDisk Extreme microSDXC

SanDisk / Pocket-lint

SanDisk Extreme 256GB microSDXC Card

The SanDisk Extreme is one of the most reliable and popular microSD cards on the market. It can go as low as 32 GB and as high as 1 TB, making it a great choice for essentially anything. It’s fast enough to do what you need and compatible enough to stick where you want. Plus, SanDisk cards also come with long warranties.

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