storage, Technology

Best USB-C memory card readers

The lack of an SD card slot on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro is an inconvenience for photographers...

· 4 min read >

The lack of an SD card slot on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro is an inconvenience for photographers of all stripes who shoot with cameras other than the iPhone. The answer—as with everything else that needs to connect to the USB-C–only MacBook Pro—is an external USB-C SD card reader.

But which one? As you would expect, third parties have rushed to create adapters for everything, including memory card readers. And to no one’s surprise, the quality, specifications, and prices are all over the map.

We tested five adapters that stood out among the field based on online reviews, word of mouth, and design. All of the adapters read and write to SD cards, and we tested one model that also accepts larger CompactFlash (CF) cards still used by some high-end cameras. Choosing which reader is best for you depends a lot on what you need and how much you’re willing to spend. For most people, that could turn out to be one of the least expensive of the bunch.

Before you view the picks, you may want to consult our SD Card explainer to understand the stew of acronyms and jargon the industry uses to describe memory card storage and speed.

Best card reader for speed

The SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-II USB-C Reader is pricey ($49 on Amazon, and unlike the other adapters we tested, it has just a single SD card slot—no microSD, CF, or USB-A ports to extend its versatility.

But it’s fast.

On one hand, the speed is due to its UHS-II compatibility, transferring up to a theoretical 312 MBps from UHS-II memory cards that include a second row of contacts from which to read data. In our real-world tests, we recorded an average throughput of 195.45 MBps for photos and 267.67 MBps for video; the latter’s increase is due to the reduced amount of overhead needed to copy 9 files versus 684 files.

That said, even when copying from more common UHS-I cards, which top out at a theoretical speed of 104 MBps, the SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-II USB-C Reader bested the other adapters we tested. It copied our suite of photos at a rate of 86.68 MBps and video at 101 MBps.