Nintendo is taking an old-school approach with the Nintendo Switch by using cartridge-based games. The benefit of cartridges is that you won’t need to install them directly on the system. When you pick up your console and a game — namely, Breath of the Wild — you can just pop the cartridge in and play without having to install any data. If you choose to download Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, the file size will devour a whopping 13.4GB. Even if you plan to buy physical copies of most AAA games, if you account for system updates, game patches, eShop games, and Virtual Console classics (when VC comes to Switch), the console’s 32GB of storage space will evaporate rather quickly.
Thankfully, the Switch has a MicroSD card reader that allows you expand on-board storage. Here’s what you should consider when picking out a MicroSD card for your Switch, along with a few recommendations.
MicroSDXC vs. MicroSDHC
The Switch supports MicroSDHC cards by default, but a launch update will add MicroSDXC compatibility as well. What’s the difference? Storage limits.
SDHC stands for Secure Digital High Capacity, but these cards top out at 32GB. SDXC stands for Secure Digital eXtended Capacity, and these cards store anywhere between 64GB and 256GB at this time.
Depending on your gaming habits, 32GB of additional storage via MicroSDHC may be enough for you, but for those who plan to use the eShop and Virtual Console, MicroSDHC probably won’t cut it for very long.
How much storage space will you actually need, though?
So you’ve decided to pick-up a MicroSDXC card with your Switch, but you’re unsure which size to purchase? It’s hard to predict, but here’s some general guidelines:
If you tend to buy AAA releases physically, and only purchase eShop and Virtual Console titles occasionally, a 64GB card should do the trick.
For those who download eShop and VC titles regularly and the occasional AAA game digitally, it’s probably best to jump up to a 128GB card.
If you expect to download a good portion of AAA games, you may want to consider at least 200GB. For instance, Dragon Quest Heroes 1 and 2 will eat up 32GB on its own.
As of now, the largest MicroSDXC cards available at retail are 256GB, but as that number jumps, keep in mind the Switch supports up to 2TB MicroSDXC cards.
Besides storage, another incredibly important factor for choosing the right MicroSD card is speed. Speed classes are assigned a grade — 2, 4, 6, or 10 — to note a card’s minimum baseline speed. A grade of 2 means a baseline speed of 2MB/s, a 4 means 4MB/s, and so on. For the Switch, however, you will want to only buy cards graded with a class 10 speed. Since the console will read games stored on the card, a class 10 speed card will likely mitigate lag and slowdowns.
Now, just because a card is graded class 10, it doesn’t mean it’s only capable of reading and writing data at 10MB/s. Each MicroSD card also has a rated speed, which notes the maximum transfer rate, usually significantly higher than 10MB/s. Since we cannot predict how MicroSD cards will perform in the Switch — and it’s entirely possible that they will vary game-to-game — your concern should mainly be the class 10 speed.
Also, if you find a MicroSDXC card with a UHS class grade, you’re in the clear. The grades range from UHS-1 (10MB/s) to UHS-3, sometimes with a 1, 2, or 3 printed on the front of the card instead of a 10. Theoretically, a UHS-3 card would be your best option, as it has a baseline speed of 30MB/s. However, very few devices support anything beyond UHS-1, and it’s unclear if the Switch will even support UHS classes. When a device doesn’t support a UHS class grade, the card automatically reverts to a class 10 speed.