Why Do We Love SD Cards So Much?

One word: convenience

Key Takeaways

  • 2021 MacBooks will have built-in SD card readers.
  • SD cards aren’t just for photographers.
  • You can expand the storage of your laptop with a cheap card.
Side view of a laptop computer showing an SD card slot along with other ports.
blocks / Unsplash

Back in 2016, Apple removed the SD card slot from the MacBook Pro. Now, in 2021, it’s set to make a glorious return.

According to reports from Bloomberg’s reliable rumormonger, Mark Gurman, Apple’s next-generation MacBook Pros will come with an SD card slot. Nerds are in rapture, and being able to plug your camera’s storage card directly into your laptop is very handy. But why do we love SD cards so much? And can they do anything else?

"I generally use the mini SD card formats, and have adapters in the form of USB sticks and full-sized SD cards," technology consultant Smythe Richbourg told Lifewire via Twitter. "That way, I can move data from a drone to a computer that has no SD card slot, or to a SLR camera that has the SLR slot for field viewing."

Down With Dongles

In part, it’s not only that we love SD cards. It’s that we hate dongles. Popping a little card out of your camera and slotting it into your Mac is just about as convenient as you can get. Plus, cards inserted into the computer seem to always just work.

Popping out the card, then tracking down your card reader, then finding a free USB slot, or even looking for a USB-C to USB-A adapter first, and then—finally—plugging in the card, only to find it is not recognized—that’s not convenient. Or even practical. 

A line of 32 GB SD cards on a white background.
Denise Jans / Unsplash

Photographers and video makers love the SD card. It’s cheap, robust, fast, lasts forever, and it’s easy. But it doesn’t stop there.

Flexible

SD cards are primarily known as removable storage for photos and videos. But you also can use them for audio. Many pro and semi-pro audio devices, including hand-held voice recorders, record directly to SD cards.

Consumer gadgets, like the Nintendo Switch, often use them too. And let’s not forget microSD cards. Drones, for instance, use microSD cards for photo storage.

One of the best uses for SD cards is for general storage. If all the computers around you have SD slots, you easily can move huge files between them. AirDrop and other wireless transfer systems are fine, but they require both parties to act simultaneously.

"It’s not only that we love SD cards. It’s that we hate dongles."

An SD card can be handed over, left on a desk, or even dropped in the mail. A mailed 128GB card might transfer data faster that uploading and downloading that much data. What about packing a vacation’s worth of movies onto a single sliver of plastic?

Another neat trick is to expand the storage of a laptop computer. This is especially good if the card sits flush inside the slot. If you only have a 128GB or 256GB internal SSD, you easily can augment it with another terabyte of SD (or microSD) storage.

It won’t be as fast as the built-in storage, but that’s no problem. You can use it as a backup drive, or just as slow storage, keeping things like photos or videos you’re editing, on your regular SSD. 

In fact, because it’s impossible to upgrade the storage of Apple’s MacBooks after purchase, an SD card slot really can stretch the usable life of your machine.

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