Will an Expensive SD Card Improve Nintendo Switch’s Performance?


Whether you have a dockable Nintendo Switchthe portable Switch Liteor the improved OLED Switch, you probably need a memory card. The limited internal memory will disappear quickly, even if you mainly play physical releases.

The real question is whether an expensive memory card is worth it for extra performance gains, or whether you’re better off focusing on capacity.

The switch supports UHS-I memory cards

All Nintendo Switch models support UHS-I (Ultra High Speed ​​Phase I) microSD cards. The UHS-I standard has a theoretical maximum read speed of 104 MB/sec, although SanDisk and Lexar proprietary technologies have seen improvements in the 160-170 MB/sec range.

Nintendo specifies minimum read speeds for UHS-I microSD cards between 60 and 95 MB/s. This suggests that even cards with a higher read speed are bound by these limitations. As long as your chosen card can reach the Nintendo-specified 60 to 95 MB/sec, a “faster” alternative shouldn’t offer any benefits in terms of loading time or game performance.


Cards at the lower end of this scale may suffer from slightly longer load times or performance issues, but provided they fall within this range, they meet Nintendo’s specifications.

Nintendo specifically states that “the higher the transfer rate, the better the gameplay experience on Nintendo Switch”, but this only applies to the point where the microSD card read speed matches the console’s maximum read speed.

What memory cards does the switch support?

Nintendo states that the Switch is compatible with microSD cards (up to 2 GB), MicroSDHC cards (between 4 GB and 32 GB), and microSDXC cards (64 GB and more).

It makes no sense to buy a UHS-II or UHS-III microSD card, as these have extra rows of contacts that allow faster read and write speeds. The Switch lacks the corresponding contacts to achieve these speeds.

SanDisk 512GB UHS-I microSDXC

Fortunately, the price of high-capacity UHS-I cards has dropped dramatically in recent years and you can now buy 256GB or 512GB cards from about $35 on the small side to $75 on the larger side. Memory prices are subject to fluctuations, so these prices may fluctuate a bit depending on when you buy.

Buy a brand you trust

One of the most important factors when buying a memory card is buying a quality product from a brand you trust. The old saying “when it seems too good to be true” is worth keeping in mind. Cheap cards that promise the world are often not worth the money you save if they don’t perform in terms of performance.

Look for brands like SanDisk, Kingston, Lexar, Samsung, and PNY. Avoid obvious counterfeit products that try to imitate the branding of the more recognizable brands. You get what you pay for, and it will last a long time.


The same goes for where you buy your memory cards. Counterfeit products abound in many online marketplaces, so choose a store you trust. You can test the speed of your card with free tools like CrystalDiskMark (Windows) or Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test (Mac) to make sure you get the performance you paid for.

Are cartridges or internal memory faster?

According to tests conducted by Digital Foundryphysical cartridges (game cards) have the slowest read times of all, while the console’s internal flash memory provides the fastest loading times.

Games stored on microSD cards were a little faster to load compared to a physical cartridge (usually less than a second if you’re traveling fast in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), but the internal storage remained over that same period of time. still a few seconds behind. game.


This supports the theory that the Switch is limited to about 100MB/sec read speed in terms of removable media, as it’s unlikely that a microSD card could achieve faster read speeds than the internal flash memory.

Ultimately, there isn’t a huge difference between the three media and it shouldn’t affect where or how you decide to save your games.

Transferring games between storage is annoying

It’s a good idea to buy a memory card as soon as you get your Switch console, as Nintendo doesn’t make it particularly easy to transfer games between the internal storage and removable microSD cards. The only way to do this is to archive the software and download it again to the microSD card.

This takes time, bandwidth and patience. We recommend purchasing a microSD card of sufficient size to suit your gaming habits. If you play a lot of games and jump between titles regularly, a larger storage pool will come in handy. For casual gamers, a 128GB or 256GB card will probably be enough for the life of the console.

Apart from better rendering, the revised OLED switch comes with 64GB of internal storage, double that of the original and Switch Lite models. This is still a meager amount of space when you consider how some games go up to 30GB or more in size, so we definitely recommend a memory card.

Nintendo Switch (OLED model)

Nintendo Switch – OLED Model with White Joy-Con

The latest version of the Nintendo Switch has an OLED screen with deeper blacks for a better-looking portable experience, and 64GB of internal storage (up to 32GB on the previous models).

Whether or not to buy physical game cartridges can also affect your decision. Most cartridge releases are big budget games that tend to be bigger than smaller indie eShop titles. If you’re going to download games like Mario Odyssey or the latest Zelda title in the open world, you’ll need a larger microSD card.

It’s worth noting that save data is handled differently than game data on the Switch, making transferring save data between Switch consoles a relatively painless affair. You can also transfer Switch screenshots and videos via USB to quickly free up some space.

Spend on capacity, not speed

With 256 GB and 512 GB UHS-I memory cards now more affordable than ever, you can spend more money on capacity than on speed. If you buy a memory card that you want to reuse at a later date (for example, in a camera or smartphone), a faster memory card may come in handy in the future.

It’s easy to underestimate how much storage you need, so learn how to free up space on your Switch so you can keep playing new games.

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