SD Cards We Recommend for Dash Cameras

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By Andrew Lam on July 11th, 2016
Choosing the right SD card for your dash camera can greatly improve reliability. We recommend the Transcend High Endurance cards because of their longevity and superior MLC construction. The Lexar High Endurance series is a great alternative if Transcend is too expensive or is unavailable where you live. There are many good alternatives but our only warning is to avoid using Sandisk Ultra cards. Users and dash cam manufacturers have both reported problems with the Ultra’s reliability and speed.
Updated May 28, 2017: We no longer recommend the Lexar 633X due to increased reports of failures in dash cameras. We are looking for a new budget recommendation. Jan 17, 2017 : Lexar Endurance is now our alternative to the Transcend High Endurance.
 

Video Guide to SD Cards

 

What Type – SD or microSD?

microSD_SD_Card_Size_Comparison

There are two physical sizes, SD and microSD. We recommend the microSD size even if your camera takes the larger full size SD card. Nearly all microSD cards include a full SD adapter so it’ll work with your current camera. When you change cameras you won’t have to buy a new card as the vast majority of dash cameras use microSD cards.

 

How Much Space?

  Next the amount of space. 32GB is the sweet spot for value. That’s 3-4 hours of 1080P recording which is more than enough for most drivers. Any less and you pay more money per gigabyte and save only a few dollars.
Prices for Transcend’s Premium SD Card
Space Price (USD) Price/GB
8 GB $5.30 0.66
16 GB $6.00 0.38
32 GB $9.90 0.31
64 GB $17.00 0.27
128 GB $44.00 0.34
  If you can afford it, 64GB size improves durability. For example, Transcend states their 32GB Endurance card lasts 6,000 hours of 1080P video recording before expiring. The 64GB card doubles this figure to 12,000 hours. Professional drivers may want to use the larger 128 GB to 256 GB cards to answer any complaints about their driving. These cards are significantly more expensive per gigabyte and aren’t worth it for the average driver.  

What Speed Rating?

  Look for: “Class 10” OR “UHS-I U1” rated microSD card. Slower cards can cause recording problems. See the symbols below for what to look for. Some cards have both ratings and that’s OK. Speed_UHS_Bus_Class_microSD_Large

Speed Class

The speed class symbol represents the minimum writing speed to the SD card in megabytes per second. Class 10 is the highest speed at 10 megabytes/second.

UHS Bus & Class

Faster speed classes.

Faster rated card symbols. U

UHS improves on Class 10 cards by providing a faster interface for compatible devices. Most dash cameras don’t use the UHS interface but UHS cards will still work properly. There are two separate ratings, the Bus & Class. The UHS Bus is the transfer speed and has two tiers: UHS-I (50MB/S) and UHS-II (156 or 312 MB/S). The UHS Speed Class also has two speeds minimum writing speeds: U1 (10 MB/S) and U3 (30 MB/S)

Faster SD Speeds Won’t Improve Performance

Currently 1440P is the largest resolution and only requires 1/3rd of the max transfer rate of Class 10 cards. Only 4K recording at very high bitrates will need an upgrade to U3 or UHS-II and that’s years away.  

Picking the Right Memory Type

Get MLC memory cards for long term reliability.

One of the most important but least known characteristics of SD cards is the NAND type. The NAND type describes how the physical cells that store information were constructed.

microSD Card Decapsulated

Inside a microSD card revealing the two NAND chips. No way to tell if it’s MLC or TLC if it’s not labelled by the manufacturer.


Photo by Andrew Huang on Bunnie:Studios under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

TLC & MLC NAND Overview

Consumers typically see two types – TLC and MLC. TLC is cheaper and less reliable. Manufacturers increased storage density by stuffing more information (3 bits/cell) into a memory cell but sacrifices durability. MLC costs more money and is far more durable because it stores less information per cell (2 bits/cell) so wear and tear is greatly reduced. If you want the science behind NAND cells read it here.

Flash Memory – It Eventually Fails

Writing data to a SD card physically and permanently damages the NAND chip. Overtime this causes the SD card to fail which can write lock the card preventing your dash camera from recording. TLC cards can overwrite itself 500 times before experiencing failures, a MLC card between 1500 to 3000 times.
MLC cards have a 3-6X increase in durability.

Why this Matters

Your dash camera constantly writes to the memory card and adds a lot of wear and tear not found in other uses such as a secondary storage for your cell phone. MLC cards often have better error correction, wear leveling and controller chips which increase performance and lifespan.  

Our SD Card Recommendations

  We focus on MLC cards as it’s only a few dollars extra for significantly increased reliability and peace of mind.
Transcend64GB

Transcend High Endurance

Our Pick Our top recommendation is Transcend’s High Endurance line. For 32GB cards they quote 6,000 hours of 1080P recording or 2,197 write cycles before experiencing problems. It’s an excellent balance between price and durability. Transcend also uses these cards for their own DrivePro dash cameras. Transcend’s cards are also used by Novatek’s engineers when testing their image processors. Novatek processors are found in many popular cameras such as the G1W, A118C, Viofo A119 and the Street Guardian SG9665GC. I feel this adds greater assurances around compatibility and performance if you use a Transcend card over other brands.
See the Price on Amazon
Lexar_633X_microSD

Lexar 633x

No Longer Recommended
We have concerns about Lexar’s 633X after seeing increased reports of failures when used with dash cameras. Due to the current memory shortage, prices have risen except for the 633X. There is some speculation that this can only be done by reducing the quality. As of May 28, 2017 we’re looking for a good value recommendation with warranty.
lexar_high_endurance_64gb

Lexar High Endurance

Alternative to Transcend  
Lexar’s newly released high endurance cards are now our alternative to the Transcend Endurance. While they are not confirmed MLC their 12,000 Hour @ 26mbps lifespan rating means they have the lifespan of a MLC card. Lexar has better distribution than Transcend and is often much cheaper depending on which country you are in.
See It On Amazon
Sandisk_Endurance_64GB Sandisk High Endurance Sandisk has their own dash cam specific memory cards. The difference is that it has 20% less stated durability compared to transcend. As well they don’t mention any error correction code (helps to fix transfer errors) which is found on the Transcend Endurance.
See the Price on Amazon
 

Works Well with 1440P Cameras

  Even with the highest bitrate dash camera, the 25mbps 1440P OPIA 2 all our recommended cameras have more than enough bandwidth. 25mbps (megaBITS) is 3.125 MB/s (megaBYTES) which is well under the 10MB/s the cards are rated for.  

Don’t Buy Sandisk Ultra Cards

Sandisk_Ultra32GB_DoNotBuy The Ultra series is a popular purchase because of their price and availability. They are not a good choice because of their high failure rates when used in dash cameras. As well SanDisk will not warranty any cards used in a dash camera unless you use their High Endurance lineup.

Suspected Problem

TLC cards like the Ultra can have worse controllers, error correction and wear leveling which reduces reliability in heavy use. It’s suspected that the Ultra’s controller chip has an especially hard time handling the constant rewriting of dash cameras. The Ultra may also be overly aggressive in permanently write-locking the card when it detects bad sectors. This is a protective mechanism found in many cards to ensure your data is saved when there are errors. The Ultra may be over-zealous and lock the card early.

Manufacturers Agree – Avoid the Ultra

Vicovation has a post advising users to avoid the Ultra series in their newest camera. After extensive testing they noted it’s significantly slower than other similarly rated brands. The owner of Street Guardian has said that Sandisk cards are not compatible with dash cameras except for the recent Endurance line. Papago does not recommend Sandisk or Samsung cards because they cause disruption in their dash cameras  

Cards We Don’t Recommend

  Transcend Ultimate U1 & U3 While the Transcend Ultimate is both affordable and uses MLC-NAND you no longer get a warranty when used with dash cameras. See their limited lifetime warrarnty which explicitly denies coverage when used with “in-car recording devices”.
Possible Problems with ADATA Premiere adata_avoid From a trusted source who wishes to remain anonymous, ADATA’s budget premier series has significantly dropped in quality. One reason may be from moving their Taiwan factory to China. Their premier pro series is still a good choice if it’s available where you live  

Companies Which Void SD Card Warranties for Dash Cam Use

   

Samsung – All Cards

Read the conversation with Samsung

Read the conversation with Samsung

Their cards are great but their policies prohibit use in a dash camera. For their MLC Samsung Pro/Pro+ it has this note beside their 10-year warranty. “Warranty is limited for any type of surveillance system.” Reaching out to Samsung Service I received this response:
“Samsung SD Cards and Micro SD Cards are not intended to be used for continuous recording purposes for example, in surveillance systems such as a car-black box. The reason for this is because the card may fail with constant and obsessive reading and writing. They are not designed to be constantly and continuously written to.”
Second email to clarify if there is a warranty:
“It would be a case by case basis. If the card would fail within its warranty period we would have to review the case.”
 

Sandisk – Ultra & Ultra Plus

Read the full email conversation with Sandisk

Read the full email conversation with Sandisk

In their warranty it states:
This warranty does not cover use of the Product in connection with the following uses or devices (as determined by SanDisk): (ii) video monitoring, security, and surveillance devices
The response from technical support was different:
Thank you for your continues (sic) response. The warranty will be valid, if you use high endurance memory card in your dash camera or card recording devices. However, if you use SanDisk Ultra or Ultra Plus memory cards, then the warranty of the memory cad (sic) will be voided.
 

Get a Backup Card

We recommend you purchase a smaller 8-16GB card in case you get into an accident. You’ll be able to swap your cards out and keep recording without worrying that you’ll overwrite important footage. As well you’ll be protected in case your current card has any problems.  

How to Avoid Counterfeit SD Cards

  Counterfeit SD cards are incredibly common if you don’t buy from reputable retailers. HappyBison.com released an extensive guide which shows the counterfeiters’ sophistication and ability to trick you in purchasing a fake SD card. For your own protection avoid all Chinese based storefronts like Aliexpress. I would also avoid eBay. If you buy from Amazon check to make sure it’s sold by Amazon and not by a third party or “fulfilled by Amazon”. A cheaper company can become the default seller and sell you counterfeit items.
Our Guide to Buying SD Cards on Amazon

Our guide to buying genuine cards on Amazon

 

Ethical Disclaimer

  We used affiliate links above which at no cost to you give us a percentage of your purchase. This helps keep the lights on and allows us to purchase new cameras and making unbiased reviews. If we recommend crappy items and you return them, we get nothing.

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85 Comments on "SD Cards We Recommend for Dash Cameras"

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Kosta
Guest

One question please. Can I record in external usb storage? if yes which dash camera is preferable?

zhang
Guest

hi!Andrew!May I know how about the performance for Toshiba, Kingston and Samsung memory card? what different between SDXC & SDHC? thks for help~~

Mike Lee
Guest

your site says it is like $9.90 for a 32gb Transcend High Endurance, but Amazon sells it for $30. What gives?

Mike Lee
Guest

Also what about the 32gb PNY Prime performance card? Thanks.

smily
Guest

AppToko is the easiest of all the app installers to download. This app store is available for both platform Android and iOS. Check the steps to download apptoko for ios.
https://www.apptoko.online/apptoko-for-ios/

Gigel
Guest
DO NOT BUY TRANSCEND HIGH ENDURANCE!!! (if you have VIOFO A119 camera) I just bought one (64gb) and it’s not working. The camera can’t format/write it under no circumstances. I tried everything (i think): – firmware versions from 2.0 to 2.06 – format tools (EaseUS Partition Master, guiformat2 from Viofo, diskpart, SDFormatterv4, FAT32Formatter, the camera itself) – format variations (with full write, format size adjusment, multiple block sizes, different capacities including 32gb) – different power sources (external USB battery, provided USB car adapter, high quality Aukey USB car adapter) – different USB cables (including VIOFO provided cable) – updated the firmware on my all-in-one Kingston reader – different, dedicated microSD reader – checked and confirmed it’s NOT fake (the card I mean) – tested the card on my computer and it’s working fine – VIOFO TICKET (utterly useless) – VIOFO community forum (useful folks) I can’t return the card (I… Read more »
Nilex
Guest

Hi Andrew,

Im suprised, Working with a Sandisk Ultra yet for 8 months, funny fact that my high endurance card just litterly burns, high temp when in dashcam or sd card reader, also its beeing broke ( shows 31mb ). Im pretty disoriented and not sure if I have to believe this guide 🙁
Lexars and Transcend high endurancfe ones aren’t really sold at our markets 🙁

Phil
Guest

Hi, Thanks for your time doing the video especially useful for someone like me who is not the worlds best techy !
I have just bought a Garmin 50LMT and would like to get a 64gb SD card for the camera for an upcoming road trip. In Vancouver there are various retailers who sell all the brands you mention, what would be your recommendation for me as Garmin doesnt seem to recommend any specific makes or models. Thanks.

Bes
Guest

Hey! I just noticed the speeds for the Samsung NEW EVO PLUS 32Gb card I was going to buy. The speeds are 95 and 20Mbps for read and write, respectively. I suppose the 20Mbps is no good for writing 1080p videos from a dashcam. Is it so? It says it is a Class 10 card, but 20Mbps… Is it supposed to be like that? I cant buy your top pick, since it costs like 84 bucks in a country where I am currently residing. And paying 84 bucks for something that doesnt cost 84 bucks is no sugar 😀

Edward Abbott
Guest
Edward Abbott
I think i lost my last post and go with this post. Anyway I have read and viewed many of you videos and blogs. Many thanks for doing this, but remember to explain in terms that most of us can understand. Sometime ago right after I got a Garmin Dash Cam 34 with the supplied 4GB Micro card. Blew out a tire near a truck stop thankfully and the tire was not repairable.But could get the right tire in about 4 hours, so I said ok go for it. I was not expecting such good service for a non trucker and the price I paid for that new tire was less than I paid for the one that failed. Anyway having restaurant in there I figured this would be a good time to information as to what they were using. Boy did I get an earful on dash cams and… Read more »
Temir
Guest

What about Kingston cards?

Andrei
Guest

Kingston’s Industrial range should do it.

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