Whether you have a dockable Nintendo switchthe portable Switch Liteor the improved one OLED switch, you will probably need a memory card. The limited internal storage will quickly disappear even if you mainly play physical releases.
The real question is whether it’s worth getting an expensive memory card for additional performance gains, or if you should focus on capacity instead.
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/s, although proprietary technologies from SanDisk and Lexar have seen improvements in the 160 to 170 MB/s range.
Nintendo specified Minimum read speeds for UHS-I microSD cards between 60 and 95 MB/s. This suggests that cards with a higher read speed are also bound by these limitations. As long as your chosen card can hit the 60-95MB/s advertised by Nintendo, there shouldn’t be any benefit in load time or game performance from a “faster” alternative.
Cards at the lower end of this scale may suffer from slightly slower load times or performance issues, but if they fall within this range, they meet Nintendo’s specification.
Nintendo specifically states that “the higher the transfer speed, the better the gaming experience on Nintendo Switch”, but this is only true up to the point where the microSD card’s read speed matches the console’s maximum read speed.
What memory cards does the switch support?
Nintendo says the Switch is compatible with microSD cards (up to 2GB), microSDHC cards (between 4GB and 32GB), and microSDXC cards (64GB and up).
There is no benefit to purchasing a UHS-II or UHS-III microSD card, as they have additional rows of contacts that allow for faster read and write speeds. To achieve these speeds, the switch lacks the appropriate contacts.
SanDisk 512GB Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I Memory Card with Adapter – 100MB/s C10 U1 Full HD A1 Micro SD Card – SDSQUAR-512G-GN6MA
With maximum read speeds of 100MB/s, this SanDisk Ultra microSDXC memory card meets the Nintendo specification for ideal Switch read speeds.
Thankfully, the price of high-capacity UHS-I cards has come down dramatically in recent years, and you can now get 256GB or 512GB cards from around $35 for the small end to $75 for the larger buy end. Memory prices are subject to fluctuations, so these prices may vary slightly depending on your purchase.
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 adage “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 deliver in terms of performance.
Look for brands like SanDisk, Kingston, Lexar, Samsung, and PNY. Avoid obvious fakes that try to imitate the branding of the more well-known brands. You get what you pay for and it will last a long time.
PNY 256GB PRO Elite Class 10 U3 V30 microSDXC Flash Memory Card – 100MB/s Class 10 U3 V30 A2 4K UHD Full HD UHS-I Micro SD
This 256GB PNY memory card delivers performance that’s within Nintendo specifications while costing less than a full-price game.
The same applies in relation to Where You buy your memory cards. Fakes abound on many online marketplaces, so go with a retailer you trust. You can test your card’s speed with free tools like Crystal Disk Mark (Windows) or Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (Mac) to ensure you get what 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 offers the fastest load times.
Games stored on microSD cards could be loaded slightly faster (typically less than a second when driving fast) compared to a physical cartridge. The Legend of Zelda: breath of the wild), but still lagged behind internal memory by up to several seconds in the same game.
This supports the theory that the Switch is limited to around 100MB/s read speeds when it comes to removable media, as it’s unlikely that a microSD card can achieve faster read speeds than the internal flash storage.
Ultimately, there isn’t much of a difference between the three mediums and it shouldn’t affect where or how you choose to save your games.
Transferring games between saves is a hassle
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 internal storage and removable microSD cards. The only option 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 large enough to fit your gaming habits. If you play a lot of games and switch between titles regularly, larger storage space is an advantage. For casual gamers, a 128GB or 256GB card will likely be enough for the life of the console.
Aside from a better display, the revised OLED switch comes with 64GB of internal storage, double that of the Original and Switch Lite models. This is still a paltry amount of storage considering that some games scale to 30GB or more in size, so we definitely recommend a memory card.
Nintendo Switch – OLED model with white Joy-Con
The latest version of the Nintendo Switch features an OLED screen with deeper blacks for a better-looking portable experience and 64GB of internal storage (up to 32GB on previous models).
Whether or not you buy physical game cartridges can also influence your decision. Most cartridge releases are big budget games that tend to be larger than smaller indie eShop titles. If you download games like Mario Odyssey or the latest open world zelda titles require a larger microSD card.
It’s worth noting that save data is treated differently on the Switch than game data, 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 storage space.
Spend on capacity, not speed
With 256GB and 512GB UHS-I memory cards now more affordable than ever, it’s better to invest your money in capacity than speed. If you’re buying a memory card that you intend to reuse at a later date (e.g. in a camera or smartphone), a faster memory card may benefit you across the board.
It’s easy to underestimate how much storage space you need, so learn how to free up storage space on your Switch so you can keep playing new games.
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