What’s the Difference Between Sandisk Ultra vs Extreme?

If you're wondering whether to spend more on a SanDisk Extreme memory card or save your money and buy the Ultra, this guide has all the answers.

The main difference between SanDisk Ultra and SanDisk Extreme memory cards is how they record video.

More specifically, SanDisk Ultra is only suitable for 1080p HD video recording, while SanDisk Extreme can record 4K/UHD video at a constant speed.

This means that if you shoot video at 4K, you’ll need to buy SanDisk Extreme cards – ideally more than one, since they can only hold between 16-256GB.

(If you want higher capacity, you’ll need the SanDisk Extreme Pro which can hold from 32GB up to a whopping 1TB.)

As for photos, if you own a high megapixel camera or often shoot continuous bursts, you may benefit from the faster write speeds of the SanDisk Extreme.

However, there are a few other things you need to understand when comparing these two popular memory cards.

This guide will help you decide which one is right for you.

What is SanDisk Ultra?

  • Affordable
  • Up to 1TB capacity
  • Durable
  • Slower than SanDisk Extreme
  • No ‘V’ rating

SanDisk Ultra is a line of memory cards (SD cards) designed mainly for amateur and beginner photographers who work with smartphones or entry level cameras.

This is because the Ultra line is not fast enough to handle the resolution offered by professional cameras. Because of its target market, though, it’s widely compatible and very affordable.

There are also different formats. You can find SanDisk Ultra microSD, SanDisk Ultra SD, and SanDisk Ultra microSD with SD adapters.

The microSD cards with an SD adapter have the broadest range of capacities. In fact, they’re available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 200GB, 256GB, 400GB, 512GB, and 1TB. These cards support Full HD video and have transfer speeds of up to 120MB/s, and they are compatible with microSDHC and microSDXC devices.

  • The Ultra microSD UHS-I cards are available in 64GB, 128GB, and 512GB.
  • The Ultra microSD card for Chromebook is available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.
  • Then, you’ll find the Ultra SDHC/SDXC available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.
  • The Ultra SDHC UHS-I and SDXC UHS-I cards are available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB.

Whichever card you choose, if you want to transfer the photos and video files to your computer you’ll need a memory card reader.

What is SanDisk Extreme?

  • Durable
  • CompactFlash available
  • V30
  • UHS – I U3
  • Max 256GB capacity
  • More expensive

The SanDisk Extreme range is more powerful than the SanDisk Ultra range. These cards have faster reading and writing speeds to support video 4K and handle burst mode while shooting raw.

While the SanDisk Extreme is an upgrade from the SanDisk Ultra, it’s still just an intermediate step, because the top of the line in SanDisk’s memory cards is the Extreme PRO.

So, beware when you’re buying a SanDisk Extreme not to confuse it with the SanDisk Extreme PRO. While it wouldn’t be a problem – actually, you would be getting a product with higher performance – you would be spending more money, and it would probably be overkill for your needs.

Back to the SanDisk Extreme, it also comes in microSD and SD format – and unlike the SanDisk Ultra, it’s also available in CompactFlash.

There are also fewer capacities available, reaching a maximum of 256GB. You should check the SanDisk Extreme Pro if you need a bigger capacity for high-resolution photos and videos and/or a maximum write speed.

SanDisk Extreme SD UHS-I has a capability of 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.

SanDisk Extreme microSD for Mobile Gaming is available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.

SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash comes in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

Sandisk Ultra vs Extreme: How Do They Compare?

Here are the most important specs of each memory card so you can choose which is best for you.

1. Read/Write Speeds

One key difference between Sandisk Ultra and Extreme is the write speeds. A SanDisk Ultra card has a max write speed of 80MB/s, while the SanDisk Extreme cards reach up to 90MB/s. This refers to how fast a photo or video is saved to your memory card.

So, the SanDisk Extreme will have shorter buffering times. The read speed of the SanDisk Extreme is up to 160MB/s. This makes the Sandisk Ultra write speed objectively better.

UHS Class – Bus Speed

The UHS class is related to bus speed and the bus interface. In combination, they determine what the minimum write speed and the theoretical maximum transfer speed are.

The UHS speed class is marked with a ‘U’ followed by the class, which can be 1 or 3. U-1 has a minimum write speed of 10MB/s, and U-3 has a minimum write speed of 30MB/s.

The UHS bus interface is indicated with a Roman numeral – either I or II. The UHS-I has a theoretical transfer speed maximum of 104MB/s, and the UHS-II has a theoretical maximum of 312MB/s.

There’s no difference between SanDisk ultra vs Extreme regarding the UHS bus interface because they are both UHS -I, but the UHS speed class may be different. The SanDisk Ultra SD cards are all U1, while SanDisk Extreme cards are U3.

Speed Class

The speed class of a memory card is relevant for two reasons. The first one is because it indicates the minimum write speed of the card. The second one is compatibility – specific devices are only compatible with certain speed class cards.

Speed class is denoted by a circular ‘C’ followed by a number that indicates the rating.

Comparing the SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme, there’s no advantage to the latter because they are both speed class C10. This is the industry standard as it’s the highest it goes, and it means that the minimum write speed is 10MB/s.

Video Speed Class

This refers to the sequential write speed, and it determines the video resolution that you can record in. It’s noted with a V followed by the number of the class.

The lowest one is V6, and the highest one is V90. However, UHS-I cards only support up until V30.

SanDisk Extreme is V30 which means that it has a sequential write speed of 30MB/s – this is enough to record 4K videos.

SanDisk Ultra cards don’t have a video speed class, so you should be able to record Full HD 1080p videos because the speed class (C10) allows for a write speed of 10MB/s.

2. Storage Capacity

The storage capacity refers to the amount of data you can save on your memory card. Both the SanDisk Ultra and the SanDisk Extreme are available with different storage capacities, depending on the type of memory card.

SanDisk Ultra has the advantage on micro SD cards because the storage capacity range is wider – you can buy a SanDisk Ultra microSD card with an SD adaptor from 16GB up to 1TB. The SanDisk Extreme MicroSD instead is only available from 64Gb up to 256GB.

When it comes to SD cards, the SanDisk Ultra also has more choices. In the SanDisk Ultra line, you have two options – the Ultra SDHC/SDXC which is available from 64GB up to 256GB, and the Ultra SDHC UHS-I and SDXC UHS-I cards, available from 16GB up to 512GB.

On the other hand, the SanDisk Extreme SD cards are available from 32GB up to 256GB.

Finally, CompactFlash cards are only available in SanDisk Extreme, and the available storage capacities are 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. The debate between Sandisk Extreme vs Ultra storage-wise depends entirely on your needs.

3. Storage Format

SanDisk cards can be SD, SD High Capacity (SDHC), and SD Extended Capacity (SDXC).

SD cards come with a default format of FAT16, and they are compatible with all devices that support SD, SDHC, and SDXC.

SDHC cards have a default format of FAT32. They are not compatible with devices that only accept an SD card format. Keep in mind that most devices built after 2008 are compatible with SDHC.

SDXC cards are formatted in exFAT, and they are only compatible with devices that support SDXC cards. This should apply to any device built after 2010 – but look for the SDXC inscription to make sure.

Both SanDisk Ultra and Extreme cards can be SDHC or SDXC according to their storage capacity – these are compatible with most photo files. The difference between FAT 32 and exFAT is that FAT32 limits your file sizes to 4GB, and it can be slower.

4. Durability

Both the SanDisk Extreme and Ultra cards are tested the same and should hold up to the same quality standards. As per SanDisk’s statement, their cards (up to 32GB) are capable of:

  • Withstanding up to 72 hrs in 1m salt or freshwater.
  • Withstanding temperatures from -13 to 185°F (-25 to 85°C).
  • Withstanding up to 500Gs of shock.
  • Withstanding drops up to 5 meters and being run over by a delivery truck.
  • Immunity to airport X-rays.
  • Immunity to magnetic field damage.

5. Cost

This is arguably the biggest point of contention of the Sandisk Ultra vs Sandisk Extreme saga. Comparing the price of a SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme card, the most affordable choice is the SanDisk Ultra. This is because of the higher capacity you get for your spend.

If you don’t have a need for high resolution and high speeds, a SanDisk Extreme SD card is probably overkill, and you can save some money by getting a SanDisk Ultra SD card.

Of course, if your camera uses CompactFlash cards then you’ll have to get a SanDisk Extreme card or a SanDisk Extreme Pro.

Recommended SanDisk Memory Cards

1. SanDisk Extreme Pro 170MB/S 256GB SD Card

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: V30 U3
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 90MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 170MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Storage Capacity: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

SanDisk Extreme Pro has a write speed of 90MB/s, making it perfect if you like to take action shots and use burst mode often.

It’s also the perfect option for videographers because it supports 4K video recording. Its 256GB capacity means that it can hold around 84 minutes. This size has become a standard because many cameras only support up to this capacity of memory card.

Speaking of compatibility, this card is SDXC – so make sure your device is compatible. The transfer speed is 170MB/s, allowing you a fast download to expedite your workflow.

You can use this card under hard conditions as it’s waterproof, x-ray proof, shock-proof, and it resists temperatures from -13 to 185°F (-25 to 85°C).

This card offers a great balance between pro performance, high storage capacity, and price. Upon purchase, you can register for Rescue PRO Deluxe 2, which is a data recovery software that can help you restore deleted images.

2. SanDisk Extreme 150MB/S 256GB SD Card

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: V30 U3
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 70MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 150MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Storage Capacity: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

If you don’t need the fastest transfer speeds on the market, but you still want to be able to record a 4K video, then an SD Extreme is the best choice for you.

You won’t be losing anything in terms of quality or durability because all SanDisk SD cards have the same standards. The difference is in the sequential writing speed and the transfer data speed rating – but 70MB/s in continuous shooting and 150MB/s transfer speed are already at a professional level.

We recommend this memory card because it’s the maximum storage capacity available on a SanDisk Extreme model.

3. SanDisk Ultra 120MB/S 256GB SD Card

  • Card Type: SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: U1
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Approx. 10MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 120MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: NO
  • Storage Capacity: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

Most entry-level DSLRs, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras don’t need the extra speed offered by an Extreme model.

If your digital camera doesn’t record 4K video and the burst rate of the continuous shooting mode is not that fast, all you need is a SanDisk Ultra SD card.

We recommend the 256GB storage capacity because it’s enough to hold Full HD videos and a significant number of photos – JPEG and RAW.

The only moment where you might feel the difference is when downloading your work onto your computer, because the data transfers at 120MB/s speed.

However, if you’re not a professional photographer, you might not have that many files to download, nor do you need to do it in a hurry – and a SanDisk Ultra SD card is more budget-friendly.

Keep in mind that it’s an SDXC format, which means it’s not compatible with all devices – so make sure you check before you buy. Although, most modern devices do support this format.

4. SanDisk Extreme 160MB/S 128GB Micro SD Card

  • Card Type: Micro SDXC UHS-1
  • Speed Class: Class 10 (C10)
  • Video Speed Class: V30 U3
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Approx. 70MB/S
  • Transfer Speed: 190MB/S
  • 4K Video Recording: YES
  • Storage Capacity: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

If you use a smartphone for your 4K video files instead of a camera, you’ll need a SanDisk Extreme micro SD card. It has all the benefits of a SanDisk Extreme card in a format that fits your smartphone.

Plus, the A2 icon you see on the label means that it’s optimised for cell phone apps.

Because it’s designed for mobile devices, the storage sweet spot is 128GB, so there’s no real need to spend more on the 256GB capacity.

What’s The Difference Between SanDisk Ultra Vs Extreme?

The main difference between SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme refers to the write speeds – both the bus speed and the sequential speed.

The SD Ultra has a minimum writing speed of 10MB/s because it’s U1, while the Extreme features a U3 bus, so its minimum bus speed is 30MB/s.

When you talk about sequential writing, the Ultra SanDisk card still refers to its 10MB/s speed, while the Extreme is ranked by video speed classes featuring a V30 – which means 30MB/s.

Another difference is the speed of data transfer. The 120MB/s of SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme at 190MB/s gives the latter quite an advantage.

However, remember that the Extreme SanDisk cards are more expensive – so you might want to weigh up how important the speed difference is to you. Usually, this is something appealing only to professionals that need to download and cull thousands of images – often on a tight deadline.

The other differences between the SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme aren’t really technical – they’re more related to the type of market they cater to.

For example, there isn’t an Ultra CompactFlash card – that’s because the Ultra line is aimed more at amateurs, and most entry-level cameras use SD cards. Ultimately, when picking sides between SanDisk Extreme Pro vs Ultra, the best criteria would be your use case.

Sandisk Ultra SD Card vs Extreme for Phone

For phone use, unless you’re trying to record in 4K, you can use the regular micro SC cards and save some money by not opting for Extreme.

Sandisk Ultra vs Extreme: Switch

The choice between sandisk extreme pro vs ultra The Nintendo Switch can only support read/transfer speeds of up to 95 MB per second, so we recommend using a SanDisk microSDXC Card or a SanDisk Extreme Card, which are both more affordable than the SanDisk Extreme Pro while offering the same performance for games on the Switch and Switch Lite.

SanDisk SD Card Summary

As you can see, the write speeds compared show that the Extreme is faster – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you. It all depends on what type of device you have and the kind of shooting that you do.

If you have an entry-level camera, it probably doesn’t record 4K video, and it might not have the fastest frame rates in burst mode – so you might not need the extra speed of an Extreme card.

When deciding between SanDisk Ultra vs Extreme, it’s important that you consider your specific needs instead of only looking at the cold data and specs.

I hope this article helped you to have a better understanding of which SanDisk SD card is best for you. If you have any doubts or comments, please leave them below.

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Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.



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