Plenty of our favorite gadgets use storage in the form of small, removable cards, usually in some version of either Secure Digital (SD) or CompactFlash (CF). In order to work with the media saved on those cards, your PC or laptop requires a compatible reader, which is becoming harder to find as devices get slimmer and more compact. Luckily, external card readers are aplenty, and you shouldn't have an issue adding connectivity. Here are the best readers I could find for less than $30.
Unitek USB-C card reader
With the ability to read two cards at once, whether a form of SD, microSD, or CF, and USB-C connectivity for modern laptops, this reader from Unitek (about $17) checks pretty much all the boxes. The Wirecutter chose this reader as its top pick, stating:
The Unitek was fast and stable when we tested its SD, microSD, and CF speeds—many other readers gave us inconsistent results or didn't work at all. The Unitek can also read two cards simultaneously—although you lose some speed when transferring data from both cards at once.
The small silver box won't take up much room on your desk and it's compact enough to fit into a laptop bag or sleeve pocket. Setup? Just plug it in and get back to work. If you don't mind working with UHS-I speeds, this is the reader for you.
Transcend USB-A card reader
For those who'd rather not have a full accessory to tote around with them, this option from Transcend (about $9.20) looks more like a thumb drive than a dual-slot SD and microSD card reader. It uses USB-A 3.0 to plug directly into your laptop, and it offers transfer speeds for your UHS-I cards up to 90 MB/s (read) and 60 MB/s (write).
Though it's priced so cheap, this reader has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon with nearly 6,000 reviews, which should quiet most worries about quality. If you don't need a CF slot, this is no doubt a good choice that easily fits in your pocket.
Anker 8-in-1 USB-A card reader
Another pocket-sized option, this Anker USB-A card reader (about $10) works with UHS-I SD and microSD cards. It's even smaller than the Transcend reader, yet it can simultaneously read and write from both slots.
Worried about durability from something so small and affordable? This reader currently has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon with more than 2,500 reviews. Check it out if you absolutely need to use two cards at once.
Verbatim USB-C pocket card reader
If you have some UHS-II SD and microSD cards in your arsenal, you probably want a reader that can keep up. At about $23, this option from Verbatim is the most expensive on this list, but it's certainly worth it if you want those faster speeds. Macworld, in its review, stated:
You no longer need to pay a premium for UHS-II speed. Although the SanDisk reader will do the job a few seconds faster than the Verbatim reader, the latter is the better deal for the price.
Resembling a thumb drive, there's a hidden USB-C that pops out of the bottom to connect to your PC. Consider this option if you don't need a CF reader or the ability to use two cards simultaneously.
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