JnR Photography
Written By:
Jeff

SanDisk Ultra Vs Extreme: Which One Is Better?

Published On:
July 23, 2022
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We've got a battle on our hands - Sandisk Ultra Vs Extreme.

There are many SD cards on the market today, but one brand stands out from the rest. Sandisk has two different lines of SD cards: SanDisk ultra and SanDisk extreme.

Which one is better? We will compare each card, give pros and cons, and conclude with which one we recommend would be the best for you!

*This article is geared towards standard SD cards - not to be confused with micro-SD cards. The concepts spoke in this article apply to micro SD cards, too - though speeds may vary.*
                                                   

SanDisk Ultra Vs Extreme Comparison Chart

SD Card
Capacity
R/W Speeds
BUS Type
Price
32-256GB
120/- MB/s
UHS-I
SanDisk Ultra Plus (discontinued)
32-128GB
130/- MB/s
UHS-I
Discontinued
16-256GB
150/70 MB/s
UHS-I
32GB-1TB
170/90 MB/s
UHS-I
32-128GB
300/260 MB/s
UHS-II
hello world!
*Per SanDisk themselves - SanDisk Ultra has an 'undefined' write speed (most likely ≤ 50 MB/s)

External Card Reader Recommendations

Note: You're required to have a UHS-II card reader to harness the UHS-II speeds (up to 304 MB/s). This is a physical requirement (more pins on a UHS-II card ).  The theoretical top speed of UHS-I is 104 MB/s.
Card Reader
Connection
Compatibility
Speed
Price
USB Type A
UHS-I & UHS-II
300 MB/s
USB Type C
UHS-I & UHS-II
300 MB/s
USB Type A & C
CF Express B And UHS-I & II
1.25 GB/s
hello world!

Sandisk SD Card Specifications: What do they mean?

If you want to know which SD card is better than another, then the SD and microSD card specifications can be quite confusing. The card above has several different symbols that all mean something different.

If you understand these, you'll be able to more easily compare SanDisk Extreme vs SanDisk Ultra cards.

Below you'll find full explanations of these topics, including the difference between an SDXC card and an SDHC card, along with answers to some other questions.

Card Type: SDXC

All of the cards are SDXC. This only refers to the internal data architecture of the camera, with SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity) cards in the capacity range from 32 GB to 2 TB. Lower capacity cards (below 32 GB) from the same model will be SDHC.

The difference between SDHC and SDCX is their theoretical maximum capacities, which is not something you need to worry about. You are obviously much better off using the actual capacity of the card, rather than its type.

Bus Type: I

This refers to the maximum theoretical read and write speeds for a given memory card, and in this instance is UHS-I (Ultra High Speed). The new UHS-II cards aren't cheap, but they're not prohibitively expensive either. They require cameras that support the additional pins in these cards, though, so if you don't have one of those, you won't be able to use them.

Video Class: V30

The V number on a card refers to the rated continuous writes of the card.

The higher the number, the more continuous writes it is able to do.  That makes sense, right?

The common V-classes on the market currently are:

  • V10
  • V30
  • V90

These numbers are very important when dealing with video recording. If you're shooting a lot of high resolution or video in high fps - you'll want to obtain the highest video class as you can afford.

Speed Class: 10

This is a number within a C. It is usually denoted a class 10, which is a relatively outdated and general measure for speed rating. All of the cards we recommend here are class 10. You're better off using the UHS or video classes for more accurate information.

Durability, Operating Temperature & Storage Temperature

All flash memory cards have similar physical characteristics, and therefore they will be identical or nearly identical for every memory card that you buy. The only possible difference between memory cards with metal casings and those without them is that some memory cards with metal cas­ings may be better protected against physical damage. stepping on it!). None of the cards I've looked at have this feature, and I haven't found it to be useful.

Capacity

This is the number (or size) of photos and videos you can store on the SD card. Always buy the largest capacity you can afford. Keep in mind that having fewer, larger capacity cards puts your photos at greater risk of being lost if one of the cards fails catastrophically.

Sequential Write Speed

The most important thing to look for when buying memory cards is the Sequentially Write Speed.

The maximum sequential write speed for the Sandisk Extreme SD card is 89.1 MB/s. The Sandisk Extreme PRO has a maximum sequential write speed of 98 MB/s. These speeds are from actual real-world testing. Manufacturers typically specify about 90% of these performance figures when the card is installed in their cameras.

Internal memory buffers are built into every digital camera. When you press the shutter button, the photo is initially saved in this buffer, from which it is then sent to the memory card. This internal memory has far better read and write speeds than anything else available and is used to hold a burst of photos taken quickly. If your camera shoots images at 3, 10, or 20 frames per second, this is because of its internal buffer.

Image Source: Mirrorless Comparison

Once photos are stored in the internal buffer, they start being transferred to your memory card. They're then deleted from the buffer once on the SD card.

If you're shooting a lot of sports, nature, or street photography, pay special attention to sequential write speed. For landscape photographers, this is less relevant if you're not shooting a lot of bracketing exposures. If you are, however, you may want to consider using a different camera.

Therefore, the write speed of the memory card determines how many photos you can shoot in a burst before the memory card runs out of space and you need to stop shooting.

The sequential write speed refers to the speed at which writing can be sustained over longer periods of time. This is a figure taken from testing done in an R&D lab, and it isn't clear from my research exactly how long the sequential write speed is tested over, but this is probably a few minutes.

If you want to know what these write speeds really mean in practice, take another look at the next section.

Sequential Read Speed

Read speed isn't as important as write speed for your memory cards. This is simply the rate at which data can be transmitted from one device to another, like your computer. A few years ago the limiting factor in getting pictures off your camera and into your computer quickly was your memory card and USB connection. These days, it's more about the write speeds and less about the USB connection.

Remember that quoted maximum read speeds are usually about twice the real-world performance you'll see.

If you're transferring a lot of photos to your computer, read speed will only matter if your memory card has a capacity of 64GB or greater. Otherwise, you won't notice any significant differences between cards with different capacities.

Unless you're a professional sports photographer or a photojournalist, where time matters, you don't need to worry too much about sequential read speed.

Before We Begin... Bus Speed/Interface

Before we talk about the difference between Sandisk Ultra and Extreme... we must first discuss the different bus interfaces.

You see, there are two versions of a SanDisk Extreme.

You have a UHS-I and UHS-II. UHS stands for 'ultra-high speed'.

As you'd expect, UHS-II is significantly faster than UHS-I.

The speed increase is obviously a positive - while cost and compatibility are the negatives. Not every camera/electronic is compatible with UHS-II cards - so check your make and model to see if it's an option for you.

Sandisk Ultra only comes in UHS-I

Keep this in mind if you're going to decide to purchase.

Sandisk Extreme Has Two Versions

We just got done talking about the bus differences between the cards.

With that in mind, there are two versions of an Extreme card. There's the 'regular' Sandisk Extreme, and there's the Sandisk Extreme Pro.

The main difference between the two is speed (as mentioned before).

SanDisk Extreme Pro memory cards offer UHS-II speeds (up to 300MB/s) and are physically different (will get to that part here in a minute). The UHS-I version of the pro card is 170MB/s (and significantly less expensive).

Hopefully, that alleviates any confusion about the difference between the regular and pro versions.

Now, let's dive into the differences between the Ultra and Extreme cards!

SanDisk Ultra Vs SanDisk Extreme - What's The Difference?

The Sandisk Ultra SD card is a more affordable choice for people who do not require high performance. The Sandisk Extreme SD card, on the other hand, is more expensive and offers outstanding performance for people who are into photography or videography and for those who need high-speed storage space.

Let's dive a bit deeper...

SanDisk Ultra Vs SanDisk Extreme - What's The Difference?

Left Image: UHS-I only has a single row of pins. Right Image: UHS-II has 2 rows of pins (this is why a UHS-II card reader is required).

When you look at an Ultra and Extreme memory card from a bit of a distance... you may not notice a difference at all (other than the labels).

Well, you'll find the difference on the back - the contact pins are very different.

Seeing as an Ultra card only supports UHS-I; it only has a single row of pins along the edge of the card (9 pins in total).

The Sandisk Extreme Pros (UHS-II versions), on the other hand, have the same row of pins along the edge( 9 in total)... along with a second row of pins (8 additional pins). The total number of 'pins' or contact points for the UHS-II version of an Extreme Pro is 17.

It's these additional contact/pins that allow for the increase in speed. It's also the reason some devices are compatible with them too.

Capacity Differences

There's a difference in the maximum capacity of each type of card as well!

  • Sandisk Ultra has a maximum capacity of 256GB (according to amazon)
  • Sandisk Extreme's maximum is 256GB
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro's (UHS-I) maximum is 1TB
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro's (UHS-II) maximum is 128GB

As you can see, it's not the speed of the card that determines its capacity. In fact, according to this information, the faster the card, the less the capacity (at least the maximum).

Data Rate Differences

We're going to dive a little deeper into the specifics. Get the exact data when it comes to the speed differences.

Check out my Best SD card for the Sony A7iii if you want more info on the idea that every card has a read and a write speed.

What you see on the front of the memory card is usually the read speed only (SanDisk loves to do this). What you'll want to do is dive a little deeper into each card to figure out what the write speed is and go from there.

As I had stated in the Sony article, there are write speed requirements of the camera. The camera needs to write at a certain speed for video footage (like 4k). If your card does not meet that - you'll have a bunch of fails or corrupt cards.

Check the device you're thinking of throwing these cards into. Make sure that what you're picking up meets (or exceeds) the requirements of the device.

Write Speeds Are Important When Shooting - Read Speed For Transferring

The battle - SanDisk ultra vs extreme has arrived at one of the most important aspects of the stand-off... write speeds compared.

Starting with the Ultra:

  • SanDisk specifies on their top tier Ultra card (120MB/s) - that it read speed/transfers at 120MB/s - but only lists the class as the write speed. With it being class 10 - that only means it has a guaranteed continuous writing speed on 10MB/s. Nothing more.

The SanDisk Extreme Cards Are A Bit Different...

  • The basic Extreme version tops out at 150MB/s read speed/transfer speed. The average write speed is 70MB/s (according to Sandisk themselves).
  • The Extreme Pro (UHS-I) tops out at 170MB/s read speed/transfer speed and has write speeds of 95MB/s. A significant jump over the basic extreme sd card,
  • Finally, the Extreme Pro (UHS-II) tops out at 300MB/s read speed/transfer speeds - and 299 MB/s write. The best of the best (yet, low storage capacity).

The 'V' On Your SanDisk SD Card Is Very Important

Implemented in 2016 - video speed class (the V on your card) became a requirement.

What the means is the card has to meet certain continuous write speeds to have the label on their card.

Here's a few video speed classes that you'll see on the market.

  • V6 - guaranteed 6MB/s continuous writing
  • V10 - guaranteed 10MB/s continuous writing
  • V30 - guaranteed 30MB/s continuous writing
  • V60 - guaranteed 60MB/s continuous writing
  • V90 - guaranteed 90MB/s continuous writing

So, why is this such a big deal?

Well, for HD video to remain smooth and watchable - you need a device that will write at the rate. Most cards write far faster than their video speed class - but this rate is the minimum. It should never drop below that. This ensures smooth recording even if the card is strained; it won't drop below that mark.

V60 and V90 video speed class is made for 4K+ recording... while V10 and V30 are great for HD/1080p recording.

If you've noticed - most high-end UHS-II cards are either V60 or V90. The most expensive will, without a doubt, be V90.

Lower-end cards rarely go above V30.

Why I Do Not Recommend Using A Micro SD Card In DSLR/Mirrorless Cameras

It's pretty simple - the only reason is adapters.

When used, you now have an extra piece of plastic in your camera that, believe it or not, is prone to break or get stuck in your camera.

Not only that - you're now relying on the micro sd card to make the connection to the adapter and the adapter to connect to the camera.

All these are areas of failure.  It's as simple as that.

Some have no issues - others have dealt with the many issues this can cause.  

Do yourself a favor and stick with standard/native sized cards in your DSLR/mirrorless camera - and leave micro SD cards where they belong (some point and shoots, drones, etc.)

All SanDisk Cards Come With These Benefits

I thought it only fitted to include the benefits of SanDisk cards in an article devoted to Sandisk!

So, every card they offer is:

  • Waterproof
  • Temperature proof (nothing is temp proof - but SanDisk themselves states this)
  • Shockproof
  • X-ray proof
  • Magnet proof
  • Recovery software available

The Best Card For You!

The answer to this statement all depends on you and your needs.

First, what kind of device are you using (DSLR, mirrorless, action cameras, drone, etc.).

Figure out what rate your device records at and go from there.

A few tips:

  • If you're shooting 4k - don't purchase a card with a video class lower than V30.
  • High-speed photography (10+ stills per second) - needs good read and write speeds, too (or you'll be waiting a while for the buffer to clear). I recommend not to dip below 30 on that as well.
  • The Pros and Cons of each are pretty obvious: you give speed for the cost (in any way you look at it). You can also say that a less expensive card will be less reliable (but this is something I have never worried about when it comes to Sandisk. They're very reliable).

That About Does It!

So who won the battle of Sandisk Ultra Vs Extreme? It's simple - the winner is what works best for your needs!

Luckily, you understand the difference between sd ultra and sd extreme (and pro) - and can make a much better decision on which card will be your next purchase.

Be sure to check out our other related articles, Best SD Card For Sony A7 iii, and other semi-related articles here

FAQ

What's the difference between SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro?

The major difference is the bus interface and speed. The regular Sandisk Extreme sd cards are UHS-I (ultra high-speed version 1) with theoretical peak speeds of 104 MB/s. Top-tier Sandisk Extreme Pro cards are UHS-II speeds. These cards have theoretical write speeds of 312 MB/s. Keep in mind; there are UHS-I versions of SanDisk Extreme Pros - you can tell the difference by the read speeds on the front of the card. UHS-I will be labeled 170 MB/s, and UHS-II cards will be labeled 300 MB/s (or close to it). There is, of course, the UHS label itself too.

Which SanDisk is the best?

** For SD Cards**
The best UHS-I Sandisk card is the SanDisk Extreme Pro (170 MB/s - V30)
The best UHS-II SanDisk card is the SanDisk Extreme Pro (300MB/s - V90)

Is SanDisk Ultra good for 4K?

The short answer is no. The reason is the write speeds. The sequential write speed of the Sandisk Ultra is roughly 50 MB/s. Its video speed class is also too low (V10). V30 is the recommended minimum speed class. While this may be fine for some 4k action cams - this wouldn't be a good option for 4k video with a high bit rate.

For instance - a Sony A7iii shoots 4k at 100MB/s. This card would only meet half the required speed - and as time goes on, bit-rates and quality are only going to increase... leaving the SanDisk UItra's obsolete (in terms of high-end video). For ~30% more, we suggest Sandisk Extreme Pro's (UHS-I) as the minimum card for 4k recording.

Which is better SanDisk Ultra or Evo?

As far as speed goes - they're equal at 100 MB/s Read, and 90 MB/s write.

As far as price goes, the SanDisk is ~20% more expensive.

For reliability - consensus states that SanDisk is more reliable (as an average, not individually)

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About The Author

Jeff

2022 marks our fourth year in business and my 8th year in photography. I have learned so much about not only photography, running a business, and everything web-related... I've learned so much about myself. Truly determining my passions and constantly learning and improving has gotten me to where I am today.
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