With 128G MicroSD cards falling to near-identical prices, the choice becomes more about performance than cost.
The PNY 128G High Performance MicroSD card and the Patriot 128G LX Series MicroSD card were exactly the same price, so which one offers better read and write speeds? Do they live up to the promises made on the packaging? Are they compatible with Linux? With they work with the Kingston MicroSD reader?
Both cards are MicroSDXC Class 10 cards capable of high speeds when connected via USB 3. I tested them using the Plugable USB 3 adapter connected directly to a mother board running Windows 7 (for CyrstalDiskMark tests) and to Linux Mint 17.3 (for formatting to FAT32 and Linux compatibility tests).
Kingston USB MicroSD Reader
This is an adapter that allows you to plug a MicroSD card into it, and then plug the adapter into a USB port in order to read the MicroSD card.
This is a USB 2 device, not USB 3, so its speeds will be limited to USB 2 whether it is plugged into a USB 2 or a USB 3 port.
Even though the reader includes a nylon string for attachment to a keychain, I removed it since the tiny knot tends to make a snug installation more difficult, and I have seen pictures of the Kingston reader breaking apart at that point.
PNY 128G High Peformance MicroSD
The green and black color scheme set it apart from the other back color schemes, and the “High Performance” text screams, “Test me because I make disappointing claims like other manufacturers do!”
I have discovered that performance varies drastically among storage devices and cards, and the labeling is often more hype than realistic truth. Usually, the bigger the claim, the lower the real-world performance.
The package claimed “up to 60 MB/s” with a little asterisk meaning, “read the fine print on the back.”
Okay, let’s find out with CrystalDiskMark 4.0.3.
Wow. This is better than advertised on the package. Even writes were better than I expected.
The PNY exceeded the 60MB/s-read claim, and consistently hovered around 77 MB/s no matter how many times I ran the test. (These speeds were obtained with the Plugable USB 3 adapter.) When connected to a USB 3 via the Kingston USB 2 adapter, the speeds were lower.
Remember, the Kingston adapter is a USB 2 device, so the card is limited to the speed of the adapter.
Patriot LX Series 128G MicroSD
The Patriot was rather disappointing compared to the PNY. It worked, but nowhere near the speeds of the PNY.
Both reads and writes were significantly lower via USB 3. With the Kingston USB 2 adapter, the read/write speeds were close to the PNY, but the PNY was still faster with USB 2.
exFAT or FAT32?
The PNY and the Patriot are shipped pre-formatted with *cough* *sputter* *gag* exFAT. I found no performance difference between exFAT and FAT32, so there was no need to include exFAT results aside from the lone exFAT test shown in the graph.
FAT32 is far more compatible with non-Windows devices than exFAT. A default Linux installation usually has issues with exFAT, so I cannot recommend exFAT at all.
Windows 7 does not provide an easy way to format 128G MicroSD cards to FAT32. Only NTFS and exFAT options are given whether using the basic formatter or the Disk Administrator. Sure, there are ways, but it requires effort. Linux is much easier.
Linux is happy with many file systems, so I used gparted to format both cards to FAT32.
Once formatted, Linux recognized both MicroSD cards like any other. I have experienced no Linux compatibility issues. A 128G card formats to about 119G. If formatting with ext3/ext4, be sure to set the reserved blocks to 0.
sudo tune2fs -m 0 <card>
Replace <card> with something like /dev/sdd1 or whatever device file sudo fdisk -l sees your MicroSD card as. By default, ext3 and ext4 reserve 5% of the card space, but this is unnecessary for storage devices.
Both cards work fine in Linux and other devices as long as they are re-formatted to FAT32 or something more platform-friendly than the horrid exFAT. There is no bloatware to remove from either card, and 119G of formatted capacity offers plenty of room.
Given that both cards were exactly the same price at the time of purchase, the PNY is easily the winner and one of the fastest MicroSD cards I have ever used. The Patriot fails to meet the “70 MB/s” claim on the package, but the PNY exceeds its “60 MB/s” claim consistently. The PNY is the superior card.
During testing, the Kingston reader turned out to be an invaluable device. I have found it to be more useful than a dedicated USB stick since I can swap out MicroSd cards to effectively create a USB stick with whatever MicroSD card I have on hand. Have a spare MicroSD? Use this adapter, and, Presto! Instant USB stick. With adapters, MicroSD cards are more versatile than dedicated storage devices, and the 128G MicroSD cards offer plenty of space…that seems to fill up quickly.