If you’ve just picked up a GoPro HERO4 Silver or Black, you’re going to find out pretty quickly that GoPros don’t come with a memory card as standard. Some retailers put together bundles that include a memory card with the camera, but unless you buy one of those you’ll most likely have to pick up an SD card separately.
Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s a catch. Not every card will work well in the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions.
When these cameras were originally released, there were relatively few memory cards that worked well. Since then, memory card manufacturers have been coming out with newer and faster cards. So it’s now quite easy to find a good SD card for them, and you don’t have to pay and arm and a leg for it. That still doesn’t mean you can just throw any old microSD card in the HERO4 Silver or Black, though.
The biggest issue is the speed of the card. And, more specifically, the write speed of the card. That’s how quickly the card can record the stream of data that’s being thrown at it as the camera films video. The GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions can both shoot 4K and high-framerate video. Those video modes use high bitrates of up to 60 megabits per second (In the Silver, it’s a maximum of 45 megabits per second). So to be able to use the full range of video modes on these cameras you’ll need a card that can keep up.
If you use a card that’s too slow, the most common thing you’ll run into is the video recording stopping unexpectedly. That’s usually because the card simply can’t handle the data that’s being thrown at it. If that happens, you can get some unexpected and unwanted behavior, such as the recording stopping unexpectedly, the camera overheating, or the camera shutting down.
So I’ve put together some practical recommendations on which SD cards work best in the HERO4 Black and Silver. I’m focusing here on cards that are fast enough for these cameras, readily available at major retailers, reliable, and cost-effective. I make a point to speed test as many models of microSD cards as I can get hold of, including all of the ones here. So I’ve had the chance to try these out myself in addition to consulting GoPro’s official recommendations.
I also have a more general guide to the best SD card for GoPro cameras.
Quick Recommendations on the Best SD Cards for GoPro HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver
If you just want to cut to the chase, here are some quick recommendations for the best SD cards to use in GoPro HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver. These are fast and reliable, cost-effective, and readily available. Any of these make a good choice.
If you’d like more detailed recommendations or other brands and models, you can find them below.
Best SD Cards for the GoPro HERO4 Black & Silver | Detailed Recommendations
SanDisk Extreme V30 UHS-I
Fast, cost-effective, reliable, and widely available, the SanDisk Extreme cards are safe bets for a wide range of uses, including the GoPro Black editions. Extreme cards are the ones that GoPro themselves often bundle with their cameras and sell on GoPro.com, and it's one of the ones they've officially recommend in their "Works with GoPro" certification program.
From my tests, it is plenty fast enough for GoPros' 4K60 and 1080p240 video, but it also has the virtue of being cost-effective.
The latest version of the SanDisk Extreme comes in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 400GB, 512GB, and 1TB versions.
As with most of its product names, SanDisk recycles them with newer, faster cards. So you can find "Extreme" cards that are actually several years old. It's therefore worth checking the model number, although in practice even some of the older versions of the Extreme cards will also work well in GoPro cameras.
SanDisk uses a three-part model numbering system in the format SDSQXA1-064G-AN6MA. In this example, SDSQXA1 is the model number, 064G refers to the amount of memory, and the last 5 characters are used by the marketing departmenht for different parts of the world but the cards are otherwise the same. So the first part is the crucial part if you're looking to see which model the card is, and you don't have to take much notice of the last 5 characters.
Samsung EVO Select U3 UHS-I
Samsung makes several excellent microSD cards--not surprising given how heavily they're into the mobile device market. They also have a confusing naming system that doesn't always make clear what the difference between the models is. The EVO Select is one of their better cards, but it's also very good value.
Like SanDisk, Samsung recycles the series names. The latest version of the EVO Select is available in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB sizes. Ut has a rated sequential write speed of up to 90MB/s and a read speed of up to 100MB/s. If you can't find the EVO Select line at your preferred retailer, the EVO Plus line also works well.
Buy at: Amazon.
Lexar 1000x U3 UHS-II
Lexar has long been one of the top makers of memory cards. During 2017, the company went through some ownership changes, with their initial owner saying they were retiring the brand and then another company coming in a buying the brand up and saving it. The upshot is that most of the Lexar cards are still on the market, including this one, although there seemed to be some impact on their supply chain and the cards aren't always as easy to find these days.
Lexar has always to put more emphasis on marketing the read speeds of their cards--in this case, 1000x or up to 150MB/s--but several of their cards have write speeds fast enough for GoPros shooting 4K video. This isn't the fastest microSD card they make--there's one rated at 1800x which is one of the fastest cards I've tested, but this 1000x card works well in GoPros and is rated for a write speed of up to 45MB/s. It comes in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB versions and includes a USB thumb drive card reader.
It's a UHS-II card, which you technically don't need with GoPro cameras (the cameras have UHS-I interfaces), but it's fully backward-compatible.
PNY is another memory card brand that isn't as well known as some of the others, but in my experience they make very good cards. They have a few different ranges, but the Elite-X strikes a good balance of being fast enough and good value.
They're UHS-I cards and carry a V30 rating. The 32GB card is a sahde slower than the larger capacities, but most users will probably prefer sizes more on the 128GB-256Gb end of the range anyway.
SanDisk Extreme PRO V30 UHS-I
The Extreme Pro line is SanDisk's top-of-the-range line. They're consistently among the fastest microSD cards in my tests. While it's faster and fancier than the camera technically needs, they do work very well. Extreme Pro cards are among my go-tos in all of the memory card formats because of their speed and reliability.
This latest version comes in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 400GB versions. The latest version of the packaging includes both V30 and A2 on them. It gets a little confusing because SanDisk is mixing and matching model numbers even amongst the current cards, but you're looking for model numbers that start with SDSQXCY (for 64GB and 128GB) and SDSQXCZ (for 256GB and 400GB versions).
The standard version of this includes a microSD-to-SD cartridge adapter. You can also find versions that include a USB thumb reader.
Buy at: Amazon.
Delkin Select V30 UHS-I
Delkin Devices have been making memory cards for a long time, and good ones at that. But it's only recently that they simplified and streamlined their product lines to make it clearer what the differences are between cards. The Select line isn't their fastest line--that is the Power V90 line--but the Select series are rated for V30 and are good combination of being fast enough for these cameras as well as being cost-effective.
This card is rated for V30 and has a UHS-I interface. It's available in sizes ranging from 16GB up through 512GB and it comes with an microSD-to-SD adapter.
About these Recommendations
This is not designed to be a comprehensive list of every card that works with the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver models, and there are plenty of others that will work well that aren’t listed here. There are also other fast cards that simply aren’t easy to find or aren’t cost-effective when you do. I’m most interested in ones that are readily available and reasonably priced. What I’m trying to do is present some options so you can choose a card and be confident that it’s compatible.
This list is a combination of GoPro’s official recommendations and my own real-world testing in the cameras, not on card manufacturers’ speed claims or the microSD benchmark testing I conduct separately (although it won’t come as a surprise that the ones that top my list of fastest microSD cards work well in these cameras).
What Size, Format, and Rating of SD Card Works Best in the HERO4 Black and Silver?
Both the Silver and Black models are fully compatible with both the microSDXC and microSDHC specifications (more on that below). This isn’t a performance rating. It refers to the formatting system used on the card. and I’ve been using 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 200GB cards in them. There are also some 256GB cards available now, but I haven’t yet tested any of those.
You want either UHS-I or UHS-II host specifications. This is marked with either a small I or II on the card. The cameras use the UHS-I host specification, so you won’t get added benefits if you put a UHS-II card in them, but it will still work but will roll back to UHS-I.
For the speed rating, the safest bet is to stick with one that’s rated with the new V30 category or U3, although there are also U1 cards that work just fine.
Why You Need an SD Card with a Fast Sequential Write Speed in the GoPro HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver
So why do you need a fast memory card in these models? Both of these cameras can create ultra-high definition video. The flagship Black edition is capable of up to 4K at 30fps and 2.7K at 60fps and 1080p at 120fps (you can find more details here). Even Silver edition can capture 4K video at 15fps, 1080p footage at 60fps, and 720p footage at 120fps. That’s going to make for some incredible video footage when you get to filming. But if you try to use a memory card that’s not fast enough, you’re going to run into trouble.
If you find that your video is stopping prematurely or that the camera is freezing while you’re trying to record video, the first thing to check is that your memory card is fast enough. (If it’s just breaking up the video file into smaller segments but keeps recording, that’s normal. Here’s an explanation of why.) You won’t see any error message that tells you what the problem is–it tends to just stop recording and lock up.
The GoPros’ high-resolution video modes require a lot of data to get written very quickly to the memory card. And not all memory cards are equal. You can’t just put any Class 10 microSD card in the new GoPros and expect it to work flawlessly. If the card is too slow, you’ll find that the camera stops recording as the memory card just can’t keep up. The newer cards use a newer transfer technology known as UHS-I that allows for speeds that far exceed the older Class 10 technology.
Aside from reliability–which is a big issue in itself–memory cards vary widely in their speed. The key is the write speed–or, technically, sustained write speed–which is how fast the camera can write to the memory card. All of the cards that GoPro recommends with the new high-resolution video modes on the new GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions are rated for writes speeds of 40MB/s or faster.
Card manufacturers don’t make it easy in other ways. They often advertise “transfer speed” or “read speed.” Neither of those is the same thing as “write speed.” When memory card manufacturers put the speed on their advertising, it’s usually the read speed (ie. the maximum speed you can get data off the card). It’s often a higher number and sounds more impressive. But for our purposes, we need to know who quickly we can get data onto the card–that is, write speed.
The speed at which data can be written also depends also on the file sizes of the data you’re writing. The speed ratings provided by manufacturers are sequential write speed. They don’t typically divulge for a different kind of writing: large-block random data. That figure is typically significantly slower than the sequential write speed, and it explains why, when the GoPro HERO4 Black maxes out at 60Mb/s (7.5MB/s) and the Silver at 45Mb/s (5.625MB/s), you need a card with a speed rating that’s much higher than 7.5MB/s or 5.6MB/s (ie. they’re measuring two different kinds of data writing).
Video Bitrates of the HERO4 Black vs Silver
The Silver edition doesn’t have the top-end video modes of the Black; its maximum data stream is 45 Mbps. So technically it can handle a memory card that’s a little slower than the requirements of the Black.
Below are the write date speeds for all the video modes available on the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver editions. The Black’s top data rate is 60 Mbps, whereas the Silver’s is 45 Mbps. So any of the video modes that record at 60 Mbps are only available with the Black.1
Note that these data rates are in megabits per second (Mbps or Mb/s), whereas memory card speed ratings are typically measured in megabytes per second (MBps or MB/s). There are 8 megabits to one megabyte. But it’s not as simple as doing the conversion and then comparing that to the card speed because the card speeds are maximum speeds for writing small files of sequential data. Writing large files of random data is usually much slower.
But this chart will give you ideas on which video modes to try if your memory card is struggling to keep up.
|Mode||FPS||Bitrate (Megabits/s) - Protune / + Protune||Aspect Ratio||Resolution||HERO4 Black||HERO4 Silver|
Common Questions About the SD Cards for the HERO4 Black and Silver
Here are some quick answers for some of the common questions I get about the SD card for these models.
Is it Normal for the Card and Camera to Get Hot?
All of the cards I’ve tried get hot, along with the rest of the camera, when recording the top-end video modes that write at 60 Mbps on the Black (making anti-fog inserts a good idea in cold, wet, or humid shooting conditions).
Should I Get the SDHC or SDXC Versions?
SDHC and SDXC aren’t really direct versions. SDHC applies to cards that are between 4GB and 32GB. They use a filesystem known as FAT32. SDXC applies to cards 64GB and larger; they use a filesystem known as exFAT. You won’t find a 64GB card that’s SDHC or a 32GB card that’s SDXC. Both the HERO4 Black and Silver cameras work with both SDHC and SDXC cards.
What Size Memory Card is Best for a GoPro HERO4?
The short version is that any size will work. In terms of convenience, 32GB or larger make the most sense so that you’re not constantly filling it up. In terms of a good mix of convenience, price, and availability, cards in the 64GB to 128GB range probably make the most sense right now.
I’ve put together a more detailed post on this topic
Do 128GB and 256GB Cards Work in the GoPro HERO4 Black and Silver?
Yes. Or, more precisely, some do. So long as it meets the other speed requirements outlined on this page, it should work just fine. There are some cards, like those in SanDisk’s Ultra range, that don’t work as well.
But cards like the Lexar Professional 1000x 128GB SDXC card and I’ve not had any issues using ones in SanDisk’s Extreme, Extreme Plus, and Extreme Pro lines.
General Tips for Buying and Using microSD Cards
Here are some general tips about using SD cards in the HERO4 Silver and Black:
- If you’re going with SanDisk, I don’t recommend their “Ultra” or “Ultra Plus” range of cards for any of the recent GoPros. Despite being Class 10, many users have reported issues with the recording stopping prematurely (a problem I ran into myself). The faster cards in the Extreme range are not much more expensive and work much better.
- Test your memory card before using it on your once-in-a-lifetime footage. Memory cards are pretty reliable, but it is possible to get a faulty one. And here are some steps to try if you need to recover photos from a memory card.
- Before using it, format the memory card in the camera. It’s a safer option that formatting on your computer and can help prevent problems. And it’s a good idea to reformat in the camera fairly regularly as a way to prepare the card for use. I do it immediately after downloading all my footage/photos from the card to my computer so that it’s ready to go for next time. You can find the reformat function under Settings > Delete All.
- Buy from a reputable retailer. There are a lot of counterfeit memory cards out there being peddled by less-reputable dealers.
- Don’t use the memory card for long-term storage. Download it to a computer or similar as soon as practicable (and back that up!).
- There are also other brands that make very good memory cards, and they might work well in the GoPros. But GoPro doesn’t include them on their recommended list. If you go with another brand, there are some things to look for. Pay careful attention to the write speed of the card, not the misleading read speeds that are often used in advertising. If you’ve never heard of the brand and can’t find good reviews of it online, it’s probably a good idea to go with another that you do know. Some brands that have good reputations include PNY, Transcend, Samsung, Delkin, Sony, and Kingston. Not all cards from all of those manufacturers work well with the new GoPros–some are too slow, for example–but I have a separate roundup of the fastest microSD cards.
You can find GoPro’s official list of microSD card recommendations here.
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What to Do if Your GoPro Photos or Videos Go Missing From Your SD Card
There can be several reasons why photos and videos go missing from memory cards. But you can often recover at least some of them. I have a more detailed post on how to recover deleted GoPro videos and photos from SD cards, but here's the quick version:
- Stop using the SD card. This is important, because overwriting the data will make it harder to recover deleted files from it.
- Scan the memory card with the free trial versions of either Stellar Photo Recovery or Disk Drill. Both have Windows and Mac versions. The scan will show you whether any files can be found and recovered.
- Recover the files. If the apps can find the files, you can then decide whether to buy a full license to run the actual recovery process or to try one of the other options covered here.