SD Card Guide
Switchroot OS's run by default on SD cards. Make sure yours is good enough to have the best experience!
DISCLAIMER: Switchroot is neither affiliated nor associated with any SD card manufacturer, and our reviews are our opinions based on benchmarks, average binning, and other data we have collected.
- UHS-I refers to the SD specification with the standard one row of pins. UHS-II and -III achieve faster speeds with more contacts, but the Switch's microSD reader is limited to UHS-I, as most readers in such devices are.
ddr200is essentially the SD version of the eMMC HS400 standard, created by SanDisk, to essentially allow close to double the SDR104 throughput over the UHS-I bus. However, their reference implementation required a DLL mechanism that is not supported on the Switch's reader. Every other vendor that supports the standard aligns transfers on clock edge instead of whenever based on the DLL mechanism, allowing
ddr200to work on these cards as a version of SDR104 (normally the fastest speed spec for this reader) that samples on rising and falling edge. See the comment in this commit from CTCaer for details.
Snapshot from "SanDisk QuickFlow" tech brief, credit https://documents.westerndigital.com/content/dam/doc-library/en_us/assets/public/western-digital/collateral/tech-brief/tech-brief-sandisk-quickflow-technology.pdf
- The A rating, or Application Performance Class, is defined by the SD Association as a standard for minimum general IO performance. This is intended to differentiate cards that are better for storage operations. The A2 rating necessitates a minimum random read speed of 4000 IOPS, a minimum random write speed of 2000 IOPS, and a minimum sustained sequential write speed of 10 MB/s. All cards used for running Switchroot operating systems should be A2 (or higher if that happens).
- The C, U, and V ratings, or Speed Class, UHS Speed Class, and Video Speed Class, are defined by the SD Association as a standard for minimum sequential write speed. This is intended to differentiate cards that are better for applications like filming video, where the relevant storage operations are generally sequential. This is not relevant for us because the bottleneck in running operating systems off of an SD card is generally random IO performance rather than sequential, so if you have a C10 U3 V30 (above V30 requires UHS-II or -III) card that is only A1, you will likely have a poor experience
- Fastest we've seen
- Long life span
- Good price-to-performance
- Up to 512GB
Samsung makes the best UHS-I microSD cards money can buy. The Pro Plus line (dark blue, 2022-2023) and Pro Ultimate (nearly black, 2023) are the fastest we've ever seen. These cards are compatible the the
ddr200specification as implemented in
hekateand the L4T kernel. This goes beyond the 104 MB/s max of standard SDR104 and allows for the best performance possible on Switchroot operating systems. The lower tier Evo and older Pro models still work very well, but some firmware bugs have been reported and they are not as fast. NOTE: errata have been observed with current Pro Ultimate cards, with some reports indicating sustained transfers may cause slowdowns. They're not bad cards by any means, and should last extremely long (plus have very long warranty), but we're not yet convinced they're worth the extra money over the Pro Plus line.
- Very fast
- Extremely good price-to-performance
- Relatively cheap
- Up to 1TB
Silicon Power is a Taishin brand with an awful website and sketchy listings...but if you get one direct from a verified retailer, you are in luck. Not quite as fast or reliable as the Samsung cards, Silicon Power ranks in as a budget option for high speed and high capacity cards. There are many tiers of the SP cards, and not all have been tested, but the Superior branding is their recommendation for game storage--likely the best option. NOTE: some users have reported instances of receiving fake cards even from their website, so watch out.
- Moderately Fast
- Good price-to-performance
- Highly available
- Relatively cheap
- Up to 1TB
SanDisk is the brand most people think of when they think of an SD card given their wide availability, decent prices, and high market share--but they come with many caveats. The first issue is lifespan--SanDisk cards will degrade quickly over time, and this can even lead to eventual write-locks and other failures. Another big caveat with SanDisk cards is their lack of proper
ddr200support...despite being the vendor that produced the specification originally. See the comment in this commit for details. One last big SanDisk issue is branding--given their lack of year-specific branding and many SKUs, it can be hard to find a good SanDisk card. Our advice is to check for a recent listing (maybe check model number if available) and use only SanDisk Extreme cards as the Ultras and everything below are basically useless for Switchroot. Our real advice is to just buy a Samsung card and move on with life.
- In theory very reliable (more longevity testing needed)
- Very bad price-to-performance
- Very expensive
- Up to 1.5TB
Micron is a silicon manufacturer that sells some products, like microSD cards, directly. They produce industrial-grade cards generally meant for production devices. Likely their high cost would be less of an issue in bulk. They do sell cards in sizes of unrivald proportion (like the 1.5TB card) but they are prohibitively expensive, so should only be bought with that purpose in mind. That being said, they do seem to be fast, reliable cards from a reputable manufacturer.
More to come! The above is the most relevant, but we will add "reviews" for other vendors and newer models in the future.