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The best memory card readers in 2021

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by David Em

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Memory card readers typically offer a faster read and write speed, are universal and small. Learn what the best memory card readers are.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Memory card in a reader attached to a laptop on a table.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

A memory card reader is a device that offers a fast and convenient method of transferring data from a Secure Digital (SD), CompactFlash (CF), or MultiMediaCard (MMC). Typically, it’s used to transfer data to a computer, tablet, or backup device.

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When you’re looking for a memory card reader, the most important thing is to verify that it works with the card you most commonly use.

For photographers, SD cards are the most common. So, a memory card reader that’s compatible is essential.

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Aside from compatibility size, and portability is important. Most of the memory card readers are small and easy to carry around.

The following are the overall best memory card readers on the market right now.

1. ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B and SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader

ProGrade memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros

  • Supports SD and CFexpress.
  • It’s fast, as it features USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s).
  • Durable build quality and manages heat well.
  • Magnet on the bottom.

Cons

  • Pricey for a memory card reader.
  • Doesn’t support XQD.

Dimensions: 2.79 inches wide x 2.79 inches high x 0.71 inches deep.

ProGrade’s dual-slot memory card reader is a high-end option. While it’s pricier than other memory card readers, it’s the best overall one you can buy.

It’s well-built, works quickly, has LED indicators, and reads SD and CFexpress Type B cards. The reader from ProGrade has a USB Type-C and Type-A connector cable that you can use.

ProGrade offers an excellent product, and it features a handy magnet on the bottom, which is a cool add-on.

2. Kingston Digital USB 3.0 Super Speed Multi-Card Reader

Kingston memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of B&H.

Pros:

  • Supports SD, CF, microSD cards and Sony’s Memory Stick Duo.
  • USB 3.0.
  • Portable and versatile.
  • Sleek brushed nickel body.

Cons:

  • Only offers USB Type-A connection.
  • Not as fast as ProGrade.

Dimensions: 3.7 inches wide x 2.1 inches high x 0.6 inches deep.

Kingston’s reader is versatile, as it offers four slots. Whether you’re using an SD card, CF card, microSD card, or Memory Stick Duo, the Kingston reader will be compatible.

Aside from versatility, it’s pretty fast. It features USB 3.0 performance with up to 5 Gb/s data transfer speed. It also features a built-in LED indicator.

The reader connects via a three-foot-long USB Type-A connector. It’s a bit long and outdated, but it works well.

Overall, the Kingston device offers a ton of flexibility and value. It reads most of the major memory card types and costs around $20.

3. SmartQ C368 USB 3.0 Multi-Card Reader

SmartQ memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros:

  • Supports SD, CF, microSD cards and Sony’s Memory Stick Duo.
  • Four slots.
  • USB 3.0.
  • Less than $20.

Cons:

  • Only offers USB Type-A connection.
  • Reads and writes one card at a time.
  • Wire is built-in and unremovable.

Dimensions: 2.78 inches long x 1.67 inches wide x 0.6 inches deep.

The SmartQ C368 is an affordable, versatile, and fast memory card reader. It’s also the best-selling reader on Amazon, with a 4.5-star rating and more than 11,000 reviews.

The C368 offers USB 3.0 with up to 5 Gb/s data transfer speed. While it’s pretty fast, it can only read and write one card at a time.

For most people, it’s sufficient and an ideal budget-friendly pick.

4. Sony MRW-G2 CFexpress Type A/SD Memory Card Reader

Sony memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros:

  • Supports SD and CFexpress.
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 with up to 10 Gb/s data transfer speed.
  • Includes USB Type-C and Type-A cables.
  • Slim and sleek.

Cons:

  • Pricey.

Dimensions: ‎2.17 inches wide x 3.74 inches high x 0.47 inches deep.

The MRW-G2 from Sony is one of the most expensive memory card readers, but its performance is top-tier.

It’s designed for CFexpress Type A and SD cards and offers fast file transfers up to 10 Gb/s. You can also connect the device via USB Type-C or Type-A connector cables.

Sony’s memory card reader isn’t cheap, but if you’re a professional photographer or videographer, it’s an excellent and capable choice.

5. Anker 2-in-1 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader

Anker memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros:

  • Supports SD and microSD.
  • Small and portable.
  • Costs less than $20.

Cons:

  • No CFexpress compatibility.
  • Not as fast as other readers.

Dimensions: 1.3 inches wide x 2.56 inches high x 0.47 inches deep.

Anker’s 2-in-1 USB 3.0 SD Card Reader is small and powerful for its size. It’s less than $20, which makes it an excellent budget option.

While it’s small, it stands out because, unlike some other readers, it can simultaneously read and write on two cards. USB 3.0 features a data transferring speed of up to 5 Gb/s.

The tiny reader is simple, affordable, small, and gets the job done.

6. Unitek SD Card Reader

Unitek memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros:

  • Supports CF, SD, and microSD cards.
  • Reads three cards simultaneously.
  • Less than $20.

Cons:

  • You have to choose the USB Type-C or Type-A version.
  • Unremovable wire.

Dimensions: 2.4 inches wide x 2.3 inches high x 0.6 inches deep.

Unitek’s 3-Slot Memory Card Reader is lightweight, quick, and consistent. Since the built-in wire isn’t removable, it’s not as compact as it could be. Regardless, it’s still pretty small.

The Unitek reader features a data transferring speed of up to 5 Gb/s. It also supports SD, microSD, and CF cards. Plus, it can read all three at the same time.

While other readers offer USB Type-C and Type-A connectors, you have to choose one or the other upfront with Unitek’s reader.

The bottom line is that Unitek offers an outstanding reader that pros and casual users will appreciate.

7. SanDisk ImageMate PRO USB Type-C Multi-Card Reader/Writer

SanDisk memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of B&H.

Pros:

  • Supports SD and microSD cards.
  • Works with CF cards up to UDMA 7.
  • Fast and reliable.
  • Well-built.

Cons:

  • Only has USB-C connector.
  • A bit bulky compared to other readers.

Dimensions: 4.84 inches long x 2.28 inches wide x 0.72 inches high.

SanDisk is one of the top SD and CF card manufacturers. Being a trusted and reliable brand, SanDisk also makes memory card readers of top-notch quality.

The ImageMate PRO USB Type-C Multi-Card Reader/Writer offers transfer speeds of up to 312 MB/s for SD and microSD and up to 160 MB/s for CF cards.

It’s around $30 and provides a lot of value and quality for the price.

8. Transcend RDF9 Card Reader

Transcend memory card reader.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Pros:

  • Supports CF, SD, and microSD cards.
  • USB 3.0 with data transfer speed up to 5 Gb/s.
  • Free RecoveRx software.

Cons:

  • Heats up quickly.

Dimensions: 2.66 inches wide x 1.77 inches high x 0.6 inches deep.

Transcend’s RDF9 is a great no-frills reader. It’s compatible with CF, SD, and microSD cards. For around $20, you get a reliable and well-performing reader from Transcend.

When you purchase it, you also get a free download of Transcend’s RecoveRx software, which does an in-depth search for recoverable data.

If you’re looking for a card reader that’s inexpensive and performs wonderfully, this is it.

9. Satechi Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub & Card Reader

Photo courtesy of Satechi.
Photo courtesy of Satechi.

Pros:

  • Supports SD and microSD.
  • USB 3.0 with data transfer speed up to 5 Gb/s.
  • Has three USB ports.
  • Design complements Apple devices.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support CF cards.
  • Can only read one card at a time.
  • Not as compact as other readers.

Dimensions: 5.25 inches long x 1.8 inches wide x 1.1 inches high.

If you only use SD and microSD cards, the Satechi Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub & Card Reader is an excellent choice. It’s stylish and matches the design of Apple products, which is perfect if you’re an Apple user.

It’s a hub, which also offers USB ports to connect or charge other devices. The Satechi hub and card reader is larger than other card readers. However, it’s still small enough to toss in your bag and travel with.

It offers USB 3.0 performance, but the main drawback is that it can only read and write one card at a time.

10. Apple USB-C to SD Card Reader

Apple SD card reader.
Photo courtesy of Apple.

Pros:

  • Supports SD cards.
  • UHS-II data transfer speeds.
  • Doesn’t block other ports.

Cons:

  • Pricey for not supporting other cards.
  • Only works with devices with USB-C ports.
  • One slot.

Dimensions: 2.6 inches wide x 0.7 inches high x 6.1 inches long.

If you have an iPad Pro or Mac and only use SD cards, you can stay in the Apple ecosystem with its USB-C to SD Card Reader.

Apple designed it to ensure it doesn’t block any other ports. Plus, it transfers your files quickly.

The reader is durable, portable, and works as described.

Conclusion

If you frequently use memory cards, a reader comes in handy. Many memory card readers offer faster processing and are compatible with all types of cards.

It’s even more important with newer devices because there are fewer ports than ever. So, a memory card reader will quickly and conveniently get the job done.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

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