SanDisk Ultra Plus Vs Extreme: Know your memory cards

You’ve bought yourself a brand-new camera, recording device, or Nintendo Switch and now you need a new memory card – why does the process have to be so overwhelming? Not only do you have to navigate the quagmire of terms like ‘minimum write speed’ and ‘SDXC,’ but you’ll also have to wrap your head around the myriad marketing terms out there.

SanDisk in particular use product titles that can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. On the shelves at any given electronics store you’re likely to find both the ‘SanDisk Ultra’ brand and the ‘Sandisk Extreme’ brand plastered across their packaging. The question is, what’s the difference?

In this article, we’ll be comparing Sandisk Ultra Plus to the Sandisk Extreme and Sandisk Extreme Pro editions. We’ll run through the various features that set Sandisk Extreme cards apart and discuss how to know which card is right for you.

SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme

Who’s SanDisk?

Based in California, SanDisk is owned by Western Digital and produces a huge line of SD cards and storage devices. If you’ve done even a tiny amount of photography over the past decade, chances are you’ve encountered one of their secure digital extended capacity cards.

SandDisk is known around the world for producing some of the best memory card products the market has to offer. In their lineup are the Sandisk Extreme Pro, Sandisk Extreme, and Sandisk Ultra Plus brand of memory cards. Overwhelmed? Don’t be – it’s way less complicated than you might think!

Most of it is just marketing lingo – once you get to the bottom of the actual stats like maximum write speed and maximum capacity, things become much clearer.

Understanding Memory Cards – The SD Association

So, how do you cut through the marketing terms and get to grips with what the various SanDisk cards actually offer? Our advice is to rely on the SD Association whenever possible. Since 2000, these guys have been establishing speed class certifications for basically all SD cards on the market.

If you’ve used a memory card in the past 22 years, chances are the SD Association is responsible for its classification. Scratching your head looking at a certain speed class? Wondering what the write speed of your card even means? While the accessibility of their content leaves a lot to be desired, the information is almost always on the SD Association’s site.

Sadisk Ultra VS Sandisk Extreme – Types of SanDisk Memory Card

SanDisk Ultra VS Extreme

So, what does Sandisk Extreme even mean? What’s different with the Sandisk Extreme Pro? In this section, we’ll run through the various types of memory cards that SanDisk offers. We’ll use plain English and try to avoid flowery language!

SanDisk Extreme

The first thing to mention about the line-up of SanDisk Extreme cards is that they’re all SDXC cards. Of all the terms being thrown around in this article, this is one of the most important ones to hold on to.

‘SDXC’ stands for ‘secure digital extreme capacity.’ This type of memory card is capable of holding a high amount of data and usually offers faster speeds than other cards on the market. In the case of a SanDisk Extreme card (not Sandisk Extreme Pro or Plus), you’ll be dealing with the following stats:

  • A sequential write speed between 85 and 90 MB/s (real world performance)
  • A maximum capacity of 256 GB
  • A sequential read speed of between 145 and 153 MB/s (real world tests)
  • The UHS I speed class
  • A video speed class that’s suitable for 4K video

Once you move up to the Sandisk Extreme Pro and Plus cards, the main thing that changes is capacity. Modest improvements to speed also occur.

Sandisk Extreme Plus

So, what about the Sandisk Extreme plus branding? What’s been added to justify this ‘plus’ title? Interestingly enough, the differences here are far less pronounced than you might expect. While SanDisk Extreme Plus cards are advertized as having faster write speeds compared to a default ‘Extreme card,’ plenty of users online report that this difference is hard to spot.

When shopping for SanDisk memory cards online, you’re far more likely to encounter the ‘Sandisk Extreme’ and ‘Extreme Pro’ brands – the ‘Extreme Plus’ name appears to be less popular.

That said, you’ll be dealing with the following stats:

  • A sequential write speed between 85 and 90 MB/s (advertized as higher than the basic ‘Extreme cards’ but real world speeds vary)
  • A maximum capacity of 256 GB (notice any similarities?)
  • A sequential read speed of between 145 and 153 MB/s (real world tests)
  • The UHS I speed class
  • A video speed class that’s suitable for 4K video

If you know you’re shopping for SanDisk Extreme cards specifically, we recommend skipping the ‘Plus’ version and aiming for either the basic or the ‘Pro’ options.

SanDisk Extreme Pro

SanDisk Extreme pro cards are the ‘best’ in this line-up in terms of capacity, write speed, and basically all other factors excluding cost. If you know that you need to move a high volume of data as quickly as possible, this is probably the way to go.

When working with a SanDisk Extreme card, you’ll have the following stats at your disposal:

  • A sequential write speed between 95 and 99 MB/s (real performance)
  • A max capacity of 1 TB (that’s 1000 GB)
  • A sequential read speed of up to 177 MB/s
  • The UHS I speed class
  • A video speed class that’s suitable for 4K video

Predictably, the ‘Pro’ brand is the fastest and highest capacity card available in the SanDisk Extreme line-up.

SanDisk Ultra SD Card

So, what’s different with the SanDisk Ultra line of SD cards? In short, SanDisk Ultra cards are a touch slower than their ‘Extreme’ counterparts but can also be picked up for significantly less money. If you’re fine with transfer speeds that are reasonable rather than rapid, this can be a great way to save a few dollars when shopping.

SanDisk Ultra SD cards are all SDXC cards so it’s not as though you’ll be dealing with tiny capacities or anything. When working with a standard SanDisk Ultra card, you’ll have the following stats at your disposal:

  • A sequential write speed of up to 52 MB/s (actual write speed)
  • A max capacity of 256 GB (Same as most Extreme cards)
  • A sequential read speed of up to 100 MB/s
  • The UHS I speed class
  • A video speed class that’s suitable for 1080p video

If you’re a professional videographer who knows they need to work with 4K footage SanDisk Ultra cards probably aren’t the right way to go.

SanDisk Ultra Plus

As you may have guessed, SanDisk Ultra Plus cards are a bump up here in terms of speed. Keep in mind, however, that the differences here really aren’t that noticeable in most cases. There’s a modest increase in sequential write speeds compared to the standard SanDisk Ultra cards but capacity and read speeds remain pretty much the same in real world tests.

If you buy a SanDisk Ultra Plus card, you’ll get the following stats:

  • A sequential write speed of up to 62 MB/s (real performance)
  • A max capacity of 256 GB (Same as most Extreme cards)
  • A sequential read speed of up to 100 MB/s
  • The UHS I speed class
  • A video speed class that’s suitable for 1080p video

If the price is similar to a standard SanDisk Ultra card, then a SanDisk Ultra Plus card is worth picking up. Otherwise, the modest increase in write speed might not be worth the extra money.

SanDisk Ultra VS Extreme – Which One Should I Use?

We hope you’ve found our deep-dive into these SanDisk memory card models helpful. In this section, we’ll touch on who might like to use which kind of card.

Professional Photographers and Videographers

If you know you need to use 4K video or RAW files, it’s definitely worth opting for the SanDisk Extreme Pro in our opinion. Both the speeds and capacities on offer with this kind of memory card will be able to handle your workload more effectively.

SanDisk Ultra cards use a video speed class that’s only suitable for 1080p and below. What’s more, the speed difference here will definitely be noticeable when transferring a large number of files on a shoot.

Those on a Budget

If your needs and more casual and you’re on a budget, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a SanDisk Ultra card. The capacities and speeds on offer certainly aren’t as high as with SanDisk Extreme options, but they should be more than enough for a huge range of requirements.

It all comes down to how you’re actually using the data on your memory card. Just saving a few photos for use later on? A SanDisk Ultra card will be surplus to requirements. Using something like a Nintendo Switch? You’ll definitely want to opt for something faster like a SanDisk Extreme.

Your switch will need to transfer data from storage to its active memory every time you try to access games or files. A slower transfer speed here can be super noticeable.

What If I have Absolutely No Idea?

If the SD card comparison on this page has left you scratching your head, our advice is to consult your manufacturer’s guidance. Many manufacturers of point and shoot cameras recommend compatible SD cards and microSD cards that work well with their equipment.

If in doubt, it can be worthwhile to go straight to the source. Otherwise, we think it’s hard to go wrong with a SanDisk Extreme Pro card. The maximum speed and capacity you’ll be able to achieve is hard to deny.

Understanding SD Cards – Terms Explained

SanDisk Ultra VS Extreme

As mentioned above, a lot of this stuff boils down to marketing lingo. An ‘extreme model’ card might not actually be any better than a generic option from a different manufacturer. Our advice is to get to grips with the universal terms that apply to all types of regular and micro SD card.

This way, you’ll be able to cut through the BS and compare products accurately. In this section, we’ll run through some of the most common terms you’re likely to encounter when shopping for both generic and SanDisk cards. From transfer speed to video speed class, we’ve got you covered.

Sequential Write Speed

When a system writes something sequentially, it takes data from one ‘block’ and moves it to an adjacent block in sequence. Within the context of SD memory cards, however, the main thing to worry about is this term – ‘sequential write speed.’

The faster your sequential write speed, the less time data transfers are likely to take. If you know you’re going to be transferring a lot of data with your card, a faster write speed is one factor to look out for.

Maximum Write Speed

This one is pretty straightforward. The maximum write speed of a card determines the upper limit for data transfer speeds. Keep in mind that the speed of your card isn’t the only factor at play here. The advertized maximum transfer speed for a memory card may not match up with its real performance.

Your devices, cables, and operating system can all affect how quickly data is transferred from one place to another.

Micro SD Card

As the name suggests, micro SD cards use a smaller form factor that houses the same essential SD technology as their larger counterparts. While it may sound obvious, it’s worth double-checking which type of card you’ll need for your device before pulling the trigger on a new purchase.

Some devices can handle both but in most cases, you’ll need to choose one or the other. A microSD card can easily be ‘fixed’ using an adapter but it’s not possible to make a standard SD card any smaller!

What Does SD Stand For?

Have you ever wondered what the ‘SD’ in ‘SD card’ actually stands for? The answer is ‘secure digital. ‘ This type of memory card technology uses flash storage to save your files. This kind of design is non volatile and relatively difficult to corrupt or damage – hence the term ‘secure.’

What Does SDHC Stand For?

‘SDHC’ stands for ‘secure digital high capacity.’ First introduced by the SD Association in 2006, SDHC cards offer increased capacities VS their standard counterparts. In this kind of memory card, you’ll be able to store a maximum of 32GB worth of files.

The transfer speed and read speed of this kind of card are a touch faster too. If you want to take things a bit further, you’ll want to upgrade to an SDXC card. Both the SanDisk Ultra and SanDisk extreme card types are SDXC cards.

What Does SDXC Stand For?

SDXC stands for secure digital extreme capacity. This is where SanDisk gets their ‘extreme card’ branding from. If you know you need a ton of space and faster speeds, this is the kind of card to go for.

The SDXC classification was first introduced in 2010 and ushered in a new era of high capacities and convenient speeds. While this kind of card used to be a prohibitively expensive premium option, prices have become much more affordable in recent years.

If you can afford it, our advice is to opt for SDXC cards like the SanDisk Extreme and SanDisk Ultra wherever possible.

Sandisk Ultra and Sandisk Extreme – Understanding Speed Classes

When shopping for an Extreme MicroSD or similar, it can help to understand the differences between the various speed classes out there. In this section, we touch on the basics to help you shop savvy.

The Older Class 10 – A Warning

As a quick warning, if you see a card sporting a ‘class 10’ sticker, it’s probably not going to be up to the task these days. This class of card tends to be significantly slower with smaller capacities than more modern options on the market.

All of the SanDisk SD cards discussed on this page are UHS I or higher.

Click here to learn more about SD card classes.

UHS Speed Class

The ultra high speed class of cards is a more recent technology that allows for faster transfer speeds and, usually, larger capacities.

UHS I Cards

A UHS I card should be more than enough for most use cases. You should expect a maximum speed of 104 MB/s. Keep in mind that your real world speeds can be effected by the other devices and cables that you’re using.

UHS II Card Speed

A UHS II card represents a step up in terms of both read and write speed. Users can enjoy up to 314 MB/s of theoretical speed.

Video Speed Class Rating

Working with video? It’s definitely a good idea to look out for a card that’s up to the task. Look out for the iconic ‘V’ symbol when shopping. This starts at the slower ‘V6’ and moves all the way up to ‘V90’.

Sandisk Extreme or Sandisk Ultra? How to Buy a Memory Card

Whether you’re considering a SanDisk Ultra SD card or something else entirely, it can pay dividends to reflect on what you actually need when shopping. In this section, we’ll through some of the things to look out for.

Capacity

The main driver of price when it comes to storage devices is capacity. The price per GB has improved significantly over the past several years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to waste your money.

Let’s say you’re in a shop that’s selling a SanDisk Extreme card for $70 and a SanDisk Ultra SD card for $20. If you know that all you need is a few GB for your extra photos, you’d be wasting your money on the pricier card!

It all comes down to the type of work you’re doing and the equipment you need to do it. Reflect on what you’re looking for to find the best deal for you.

Write Speed

Transfer speeds are another big one that can impact how much you pay for your card. One helpful thing to look our for here is the speed class of the card. These days, this is likely to be either ‘UHS speed class I’ or UHS speed class ii.

If you’re in doubt – or see a speed class that you don’t recognize – your best bet will be to Google the specific class or check the SD Association’s website directly.

Cost

While both SanDisk Extreme and SanDisk Ultra cards can perform very well under the right circumstances, you can end up paying a fair bit for branding alone if you’re not careful.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around the different factors that can make a card worth buying, it’s sometimes worth shopping around and seeing if a different brand has what you need for cheaper.

A little goes a long way in this regard!

Compatibility

As if things weren’t complicated enough – you’ll also have to watch out for compatibility issues in some cases. This is especially relevant if you’re using a device that was made before 2008. These older cameras and storage devices rely on a different type of architecture and bus speed to make transfers happen.

Pre 2008 devices tend to use a class 10 spec or lower. Post-2008 devices will use UHS I or higher.

If in doubt, check with the advice given by your manufacturer. As with other cases described above, the SD Association website can be a real Godsend here too.

More: UHS 1 VS Class 10: Understanding Micro SD Card Terms

The Type of Content You’re Creating

The type of equipment you need can vary wildly depending on the kind of work you’re doing. Video creators in particular will want to look out for a speed class that will work with their footage. Professional photographers who work with RAW files will also want to make sure that the capacity and speed of their cards are up to scratch.

For video content, the ‘v’ speed class is the one to look out for. This starts at the low-end V6 and moves all the way up to the premium V90.

SanDisk Extreme VS SanDisk Ultra – Conclusion

We hope you’ve found the SanDisk Extreme VS SanDisk Ultra comparison on this page helpful! Remember that in a world of marketing lingo, it can pay to familiarize yourself with the terms that actually matter.

For more advice and tips, be sure to check out the rest of our site!

Shabbir
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