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Best Steam Deck Micro SD Cards For Gaming

Written by: Glenn
Best Steam Deck SD Memory Card for Gaming

Valve’s Steam Deck is coming in three versions for now; the 64 GB model that will cost $399, the 256 GB for $529 and the 512 GB version set at $649. Although in our most recent Steam Deck Overview we mentioned that the 256 GB is your best possible choice when it comes to gaming in general, there are situations in which you would find yourself with a lack of storage, and that’s where this guide on the best Steam Deck Micro SD card is coming in handy.

Before we dig into the topic I wanted to say that this guide will cover only UHS-I speed cards, since that’s the official speed limit of the SD card port in the Steam Deck. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you get a faster card, it will still work at the same speeds as UHS-I.

In case you’re confused by the naming scheme, we explained almost everything regarding the standards and speeds under our SD Card Types article, so be sure to check that out in case you want to know the details of each number.


How Did We Choose the Best Steam Deck Micro SD Card?

When you’re a hardware tester you sometimes find yourself doing the same task over and over again, just with different gadgets in front of you. Last year I covered the guide on the best Nintendo Switch SD card, an article that is still relevant even today, and for this guide I used almost the same methodology, just a different laptop to test everything.

We have an internal SD Card Reader of my Gigabyte Aorus 17G, we have tools like  paired with these benchmark tools: CrystalDiskMark, Atto, AS SSD and AJA.

So, we repeated the same test over again, just with a few new brands and with the Steam Deck in mind. With that said, a port is a port, the technology behind is what matters.

The Best Micro SD Card Compatible with the Steam Deck

Fastest Micro SD Memory Card For Steam DeckLexar PLAY 1TB microSDXC. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The Largest UHS-I Micro SD Card For the Steam Deck

Largest UHS-I Micro SD Card for Steam DeckSanDisk 1TB Extreme microSDXC. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The Fastest Micro SD Memory Card For the Steam Deck

Best Micro SD Card for Steam DeckPNY PRO Elite 1TB. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The Best Looking SD Card for the Steam Deck

Apex Legends. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

 


How Fast Will the Games Load off of an SD Card When Compared to Internal Storage?

The fastest UHS-I cards can go is 100MB/s in read speeds and 90MB/s in write speeds, although this can’t be compared with the performance of SSD’s, it surely can compete with some HDD’s on the market. You will sacrifice loading times for a bit, but the games will run without any issues.

Lawrance Yang, one of Valve’s engineers, stated that most of the gameplay from the IGN video [1] that came out a year ago was created by loading games off of an Micro SD card. Although they didn’t mention the specific model used in the demonstration video, it’s easy to guess that they used the best SD Card for Steam Deck available at that point, which should be one of the three we mentioned above.

Best SD Memory Card for Valve Steam Deck

Valve’s engineer confirmed that games are capable of working directly off an SD Card

Are Steam Deck SD Memory Cards Hot-swappable?

Yes, they are. The Steam OS that comes preinstalled on the device features hot-swappable SD cards, meaning that you can have game dedicated Steam Deck SD cards and then just switch them when you want to play that specific game. Some games like Call of Duty can go up to 100 GB, so with this approach you could have one 128 GB Card just for one game if you want, and then just hot-swapp it when you want to play it.

How Reliable Are SD Cards, What Is Their Lifespan?

SD cards don’t have a definite lifespan, most of them do advertise that they have a theoretical lifetime of 30 years, but that one depends on several factors, and is not a reliable number, especially for heavy usage like gaming. The SD Association [2] states that the lifespan of a card can outlast the lifespan of multiple compatible devices, from cameras and drones up to your Steam Deck, which means that you should be looking at around 10 year of moderate to heavy usage.

Obviously, you shouldn’t store game save data on the SD Card itself. Best way to manage those is the cloud, everything else can get lost.

Can I use UHS-II SD Cards?

Your Steam Deck is limited to the UHS-I standard, so even if you would get an UHS-II microSDXC card, the device would “downgrade” the card and still deliver only UHS-I performance. So, in other words, you would pay more for the UHS-II card, but still have the UHS-I performance. Bummer, right?

Can I use an SDHC?

If you just want to test out the port or not store games on it, then yes, why not. It will work, but the performance will be bad and you’re stuck with a maximum of 32 GB of storage. Remember the long loading times we had on the third generation of consoles, like the PS3 and Xbox 360? Same technology here my friend – same deal, same issues.

Can I use Class 10 SD cards?

Yes, you can, but same as above, you’re risking your loading times. Ideally scroll back up and pick one of our recommendations on the best SD card for the Steam Deck, everything else is just roulette.